Could the 2012 White Sox be competitive?

Could the 2012 White Sox be competitive?
Well, could they, Ozzie?: "Eh, it's not my job on the line, so I'll say 'Screw it, why not?'" // Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune

It seems silly now, but part of me fully expected Kenny Williams to trade absolutely every fungible asset in the organization over the course of the four-day Winter Meetings.  Four days, trade Danks, Quentin, Floyd, Thornton, and even Beckham, Santos, Pierzynski--including convincing him to waive his no-trade--all out for prospects.  Boom, done, rebuild over, roll credits.

Instead, concepts like "setting the market", "demand", and "leverage" have come into play, to the point where the only steps that have been taken are a surprise dealing of Sergio Santos, and allowing Mark Buehrle to walk in free agency.

The rest of the time has been spent bunkered, seemingly waiting for offers to develop.  The only hiccup is that during that time, Kenny has been saying things.

"You know, if we have some guys have some bounce-back years and go back to their career norms, yeah," said Williams of his team's chances to contend with Detroit in the American League Central as presently constructed. "Mostly, if a number of things happen offensively, continued growth at third base and second, [Alejandro] De Aza continues to play the way he ended the year, and along with the obvious bigger names."

"It's still a work in progress, but I wouldn't anticipate anything major unless the opportunity presents itself to add impact, young 0-3 [year]-type players. But if that doesn't manifest itself, this just isn't the time to make wholesale changes."

Of course, there's a word for what this comes off as.  There's only one word, and all other words are woefully inadequate.

That word is "malarkey".

Surely, surely, Williams is just continuing to play indifferent about rebuilding so as to not let every other team walk into negotiations seeking Going Out of Business prices.

I mean c'mon, the article also includes phrases like this:

"It also comes from an idea that the South Siders might find themselves somewhere between rebuilding and contending for 2012."

HOLY CRAP WHO THE HELL WOULD WANT TO BE THERE?!?!?!

Baseball limbo?  Baseball nothingness??!??!  Baseball negative space?!?!

If the White Sox were going to sign on for some sort of purposeless baseball existence, floating into the AL Central ocean on a piece of driftwood, surely they'd have retained Buehrle for the psychic benefits.

Since they didn't, one can assume the White Sox will drift toward one way or the other.  Also, because they did let their top-performing starter go, and traded a major league closer for a Double-A starter, surely 'contending for the division crown' isn't the way they're leaning.

Unless of course, the owner is under the notion his team can contend, and the manager is too.

So if Williams really is content to wait for the right deal, even if it never comes, does the 2012 roster have a fighting chance?  What follows is much more at-a-glance analysis than statistically coherent in any way.

C A.J. Pierzynski

C Tyler Flowers

Well, Pierzynski sure hasn't lost his ability to make contact with everything, since his strikeout rate in 2011 was his lowest as a White Sox.  His power has stayed consistent for the last three years, so there's no reason to expect a real change from his slightly below league average production.  In comparison with his career, his defense bottomed out last season, so perhaps a slight recovery could occur.

Flowers on the other hand, even with his amusing ability to mimic Pierzynski's OBP/SLG numbers with entirely different methods, can't hope to match Castro's production when specialized against lefties.

1B Paul Konerko

1B Adam Dunn

2B Gordon Beckham

SS Alexei Ramirez

3B Brent Morel

IF Eduardo Escobar

Dunn went the entire season without showing a pulse, so I'm not as optimistic as most for a bounce back, since I have no frame of reference for an effective Adam Dunn.  That, combined with Konerko turning 36 years-old, doesn't profile great for the heart of the order.

Alexei Ramirez has hovered around league-average hitting for his entire career, which probably represents Brent Morel's ceiling, and a dream scenario for Gordon Beckham.  They all figure to be plus defenders, with Ramirez continuing as elite unless aging strikes hard.

OF Alejandro De Aza

OF Alex Rios

OF Dayan Viciedo

OF Carlos Quentin

Quentin remains in his prime, and certainly can't be guaranteed for much more than his 2011 playing time.  However, the outfield will see poor-hitting and poor-defending Juan Pierre and Alex Rios swapped out for Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo...or at least, non-BABIP cursed Alex Rios.  This is clearly an ares where a lot of upgrade could happen with no effort at all.  If young Dayan and Alejandro De Aza can scrap together half-decent years, it's a 4-5 win upgrade over what Rios and Pierre offered.

A pessimist would offer that Rios probably still factors in, and pushes a better contributor aside, while an optimist would note that if Quentin is still around, he could DH when needed, and push Rios and Dunn into a horrible-player rotation.

BL Brent Lillibridge

Surely he can't keep this up.  Man, he can run, though!

SP Jake Peavy

SP John Danks

SP Gavin Floyd

SP Philip Humber

SP Chris Sale

The rotation that led the AL in fWAR can afford to slip a bit and still be an asset, and that's probably on the table since they just swapped out Mark Buehrle for Chris Sale, and a half-season of Edwin Jackson for more Jake Peavy.

That latter half doesn't seem so bad, seeing as Peavy isn't coming off of crazy surgery again and produced some damn fine peripherals when he wasn't running out of gas.  Expecting him to blow away his 100 inning total feels a little fantastical, but a surprise contention year probably doesn't exist without a surprise great year from Peavy.  Sale growing up really fast would help too.

Danks and Floyd both had down years in terms of their peripherals, and their careers norms, so slight recoveries all around, and Phil Humber K/BB rates were too positive in the 2nd half to call him a fluke.

There are reasons to be optimistic here.

RP Jesse Crain

RP Matt Thornton

RP Jason Frasor (inevitably)

RP Addison Reed

RP Will Ohman

RP Zach Stewart

RP Dylan Axelrod

Last season, the White Sox had 4 elite relievers to fall back on; Santos, Thornton, Crain, and Sale.  Santos is gone, Sale's to the rotation, and Addison Reed is up to fill the void.

Crain will probably be offered the first chance to close.  My first instinct is to say his peripherals don't project for him to continue at an elite level, but in 2005, Jesse Crain threw 79.2 innings at a 2.71 ERA, despite striking out only 25 batters.  He walked 29!  Now he's coming off a season with a 9.64 K/9!

I don't understand Jesse Crain.

Nothing occurred with Reed to suggest he shouldn't continue his fabulous success in the majors, besides the fact that he's young, and is bound to have random stretches of poor command or loss of feel, or all the things Sergio Santos wen through last year.  With no loss of velocity, someone as blatantly fastball-dependent as Matt Thornton doesn't seem as doomed as he's made out to be.

The rest is in flux.  Will Ohman could respond well to being more specialized as a LOOGY, but is still a small step down.  After which point, it'd really be nice if Frasor or Stewart, or whoever the hell will actually be the last guy in the bullpen besides Axelrod, would actually develop into an effective player.

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Because the pitching staff remains strong, and the outfield could drunkenly stumble into massive improvement, I understand where the optimism could come from.

However, to push them over the top, rebound years from several members of the Dunn, Rios, Peavy, Beckham, and even Thornton and Frasor crowd are neccessary.  While all these players are certainly talented, hence prompting the eager over-commitments the Sox are now suffer under, that's a lot to ask for, and even more to be reliant upon.

Being dependent on players reversing negative trends and having no minor league depth to call upon, makes standing pat lean closer to wishcasting than good old-fashioned aggression.

I can understand the hesitance.  Because of the dearth of minor league talent, a full-scale rebuild would take forever and make things really ugly for a while on the South Side, and it's not particularly fun to conceive of every useful player on the Major League roster in terms of trade value.

But it's getting harder to watch this franchise opt for the path of least resistance every single time, especially if the short-term rewards aren't even going to be there.

 

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  • The euphemism that bothers me the most is:

    "You know, if we have some guys have some bounce-back years and go back to their career norms, yeah," said Williams

    Weren't they saying about the same for Dunn for the second quarter, the second half, and until he didn't get enough ABs in Sept. to contend for the all time futility award?

    Is Dunn doing anything in the offseason to get out of his (Terry) funk?

    Frasor didn't show anything last year, and I still can't see why they extended him.

    Other than that, the Sox are going to have to count on some Cubs luck, as described in Saturday's Cubs Den, compared to Detroit and Cleveland.

  • In reply to jack:

    Frasor certainly didn't earn an extension, but at least boasts a strikeout rate where I could see someone saying "yeah, with some tweaks, he could be a productive player".

    Dunn hasn't shown any stretch of viability since coming to the team, and it seems the optimism, or the willingness to offer him more opportunities, is because the alternative is to concede unthinkable disaster.

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