If you've ever been to a political rally or protest, you're familiar with the the typical physical by-product: fliers. Leaflets are distributed en masse for a variety of loosely affiliated causes at every turn, and even though you have no interest in any of them and turn down plenty, your hands are full at the end of the night because, well, they're just handing them!
I wonder if that's how opposing pitching staffs feel when they come to U.S. Cellular Field. Sure, they come to the field with a specific purpose, but before long they're awash in more quality starts than they could have ever anticipated.
The Royals starters came into their recent series with the Sox the worst rotation in the league in terms of ERA, FIP, and xFIP. Did they even make room in their pockets for three quality starts?
Forgive me for obsessing over a cheap, marginal improvement the White Sox could make to their offense by adding Dayan Viciedo from Triple-A Charlotte, but as Jim Margalus pointed out earlier, it's been a fantastically feeble stretch. The Sox need some friggin' O, and Brent Lillibridge just donned an 0-4, 4K "I AM A PERFECTLY GOOD BENCH PLAYER, BUT AM NOT THE ANSWER" sandwich board on Tuesday night. Promoting your best Triple-A offensive prospect doesn't have to be about villainizing a particular under-performing veteran...it just happens to entail it.
Even though Juan Pierre is still a sub-replacement left-fielder in the last year of his contract with a .323 OBP since June 1st, his recent 15-39 stretch seems to have removed him from the discussion of being shipped out.
“It’s a lot of people struggling here,” [Ozzie Guillen] said. “Now, (media) can’t attack Juan Pierre anymore. It was Juan Pierre for two weeks, but now that nobody attacks him, now we change the subject."
So if Juan Pierre--the token Ozzieballer--is really untouchable, who else could be cleared to make way for Dayan and the slight improvement he brings?*
Brent Lillibridge - His offense certainly appears to be on the downslide, and ever since Beckham's eye returned to its original size, his utility as an infielder has disappeared. That said, he's still the fastest base-runner on the team, probably still the best outfielder on the squad, and has hit better than Rios and Pierre--slump included. He's almost certainly gone if he's designated for assignment, and his skills will only be replaced by the existence of a slightly less used Juan Pierre...who obviously hasn't matched his effectiveness in the field nor on the basepaths. Wouldn't cost us anything, though.
Mark Teahen - His skills are mostly replaceable. He's been a shade too feeble with the bat--.220/.312/.317 in minimal plate appearances--to register as a useful left-hander off of the bench, and his skill at 3rd base (notably improved) could be covered up by more time for Omar Vizquel. It doesn't seem like a stretch to say Viciedo could pitch in the outfield and at 1st base if needed. Only problem is the nearly $8 million owed to him for the rest of this season and 2012. That's a pretty big meatball for Reinsdorf to eat, and Mark's not doing the best job of selling tickets to The Teahen Experience right now for other teams. He could boost his value by playing more if another infielder was jettisoned.
Omar Vizquel - Talk about your sacred cows. Vizquel's power-starved bat hasn't been streaking since early in the season, his infield depth could be covered up by working every last inch out of Brent Lillibridge, and he'd be even cheaper than Juan Pierre to jettison, but if Juan is respected and valued for his clubhouse presence and work ethic, than what is Vizquel? Revered? Worshipped? Bronzed?
Ramon Castro - Who needs a backup catcher? AJ wants to catch all the games anyway....alright, this one is just a joke, I'll admit it.
Brent Morel - The one player who could be optioned to the minors and not be lost! Unfortunately, swapping out Morel means bailing out on the progress through the learning curve of one rookie for that of another. It also means getting rid of the best defensive option at 3rd base and a guy likely to improve from a fairly dreadful first-half offensively as he adjusts to his league, as well as tossing back a player expected to hang around for a while as a starter. It's cost-effective as hell, but Morel's promotion to the 2-slot in the order seems to indicate that Ozzie's become taken with Morel's ability to....bunt? I don't know what he's seeing half the time.
Alex Rios - If only. Well, maybe not. Even if the Sox found a way to get rid of the prohibitively expensive Rios, it would leave them with an outfield of Viciedo, Quentin, and aging Pierre in center. In other words, they'd need to score 10 runs a game.
For my money, Vizquel is the shrewdest move due to price and his relative lack of upside. While he's the backup shortstop, there's no shortage of players on the roster who have filled in there on occasion. I would guess the victim will be Lillibridge. He's set to oblige the Sox by slumping his way out of the job, there was never any commitment to him anyway, and the Sox loath to operate outside their personnel comfort zone. But really, there isn't an explicitly wrong decision. No one listed above is hitting well by any standard, and I can't argue the Sox would find themselves missing any of them.
It's been a bit of a Sox blogger symposium recently on how the team should add hitting to their lineup, with the general conclusion being that it's surprising to see the front office so unwilling to act when the solutions are cheap and in-house, and downright perplexing to see the management trumpet the intangibles of a team that doesn't have results.
There's a lot to be said for patience with personnel. Yet at the moment, half the roster is under .700 OPS and the team is piling up non-efforts versus journeymen starters during a critical divisional stretch. An MLB-ready power hitter and even a reasonable Pierre facsimile in Alejandro De Aza (just in case this rumor is real) are sitting in Triple-A, and it begs the question of whether 'All In' means a kitchen sink approach to winning a division, or going down with the ship.
*[ADDENDUM] As a reader (I'm not sure if he wants his real name used) pointed out quite rightly to me, while 'marginal improvement' is the conservative, guarded estimation for what bringing Viciedo will bring to the Sox offense, that's still just what his initial skill level would be. At 22, he can be expected to progress as the year goes on. For example, he drew 3 walks tonight. 3!!!
Tags: Alejandro De Aza, Alex Rios, Atlanta Braves, baseball, Brent Lillibridge, Brent Morel, Charlotte Knights, Dayan Viciedo, Juan Pierre, Kenny Williams, Mark Teahen, Omar Vizquel, Ozzie Guillen, Ramon Castro, U.S. Cellular Field, White Sox