Youth without youth

Youth without youth
In the distance, across a desert of frumpy white-male beat writers, two riders came into view // Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune

@pgammo Peter Gammons

Ken Williams says "we're going to let the kids play," will know what they have in mid-season, young culture coming

 

@keithlaw Keith Law

Great. Now they need kids worth playing. RT @pgammo: Ken Williams says "we're going to let the kids play," will know what they have in...

The thought of rebuilding is never truly fun.  It declares that the current outfit is unfit for battle, retreat is necessary, and multiple years of getting mercilessly flogged by division rivals while strength is slowly built back up can be expected.

Still, it shouldn't produce abject terror either.  The best young talent is being allowed to grow in these situations, and it's a process that other teams go through all the time.

Yet that  is what makes the quote from Kenny Williams so arresting; the White sox have no real young talent like other teams, and they hardly rebuild ever.  A full reconstruction for the Sox wouldn't just take a few years while the roster matures, it would take a few years to build the farm system into something that's not a waste of life, then the real process could begin.

Fortunately for White Sox fans pondering a future replete with 70-win teams, empty stadiums, and non-existent bathroom lines, the organization's shortcomings are also their saving grace!

They neither have the personnel to launch a full-scale, learning-on-the-job youth movement, nor the ability to move out veterans to make way for it.  The joys of being hamstrung!

Unless you're counting spare bullpen arms--the farm system's one reliable export--it's as J.J. termed it; "the kids will continue to play".  Kenny Williams has already indicated that there won't be any big acquisitions this off-season, so this is more of announcement that the roster will be cobbled together from currently available parts, the only question is how committed to any kind of youth movement the White Sox will be, and what role the talent acquired in any sell-offs will play.  Williams obviously isn't super-keen on prospect value, but there's really no way to speculate on the return at this point.

Assuming Major League talent remains static:

Viciedo continuing to play, Sale being moved to the rotation, Morel and Beckham keeping their jobs, and Eduardo Escobar sliding into the highly-coveted utility-infielder-who-barely-plays slot are all locks.

The infield would therefore be set, but everything else would have small questions.

-Buehrle, Peavy, Danks, Floyd, Sale, Humber, Stewart, Axelrod equals 8 starters, which is too many.  Even if Stewart and Axelrod are kicked out on the basis of not being legit, that still means a Floyd or Danks is traded to make room for a returning Buehrle, or September 27th was the last time for #56.  Or both could happen if the White Sox maintain their fascination with Stewart's luxurious curls and the graceful arcs of the home runs he allows.  But with the need for Peavy insurance, and some lingering uncertainty toward Philip Humber, there should be plenty of work for the AAAA starters without carving out space for them.

-The White Sox spent top-dollar for their bullpen for 2011, and could certainly try to trim payroll by dealing Matt Thornton, or cashing out on another above-peripherals year by Jesse Crain.  Gregory Infante and Josh Kinney are among a few cheap alternatives.  Since the Sox just duplicated Joakim Soria's contract for Sergio, maybe they could duplicate the old Royals set-up of a cruddy bullpen that can never deliver a lead to its elite closer.  At least it'd be cheap, and not throw too many innings.

-As for the outfield, if Dayan is an everyday player, Alejandro De Aza earned a leadoff role, and Alex Rios is the city of Chicago's shotgun bride, is Quentin shipped out of for the youth movement?  He'll have the largest trade return and is the most expensive, so he's probably gone if there's any emphasis on payroll reduction.  He's also only 20 months older than De Aza, and only 11 months older than entrenched super-sub Brent Lillibridge.  His shelf life as a regular contributor is just as long as almost any of his replacements.  Having an contingency plan in case Adam Dunn really is washed-up (hardly beyond the realm) wouldn't be the worst thing.

-Tyler Flowers struck out with reckless abandon in his 129 plate appearances.  A 29.5 K% is right up there with the league leaders in baseball, and there are some pretty significant flaws in his swing that will always threaten his viability.  Yet, he walked plenty (10.9%), hit the ball hard enough when he did (.200 ISO) that he was only a garden-variety below-average hitter (91 wRC+) coupled with not-bad defense.  That actually compares well to what A.J. Pierzynski finished with (92 wRC+) after his post-wrist injury swoon, and Tyler did it with only a .261 BABIP.

That said, if the White Sox go to the lengths of cajoling Pierzynski to waive his no-trade clause so they can hand the reigns to the perpetually iffy Flowers, there's probably no stone left unturned this off-season.  Seriously, how many #9 hitters can one lineup have?

 

The White Sox could certainly have everything click with their dormant talent; the 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks don't exist in a vacuum, after all.  But it'll take the right manager for this kind of job; mainly it will take a manager who is just happy to have a job.

 

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