Before the recent holiday, the only clues given to the White Sox overriding direction were somewhat conflicting. The hyper burn-all-the-major-league-assets nature of the Sergio Santos for Nestor Molina trade was paired with the John Danks extension that seemed to ask "Hey, why obsess about prospects when there's this perfectly good pitcher here now?"
Really, these moves could say more about the pitcher trade market--where arms with multiple years of team control are desired, and rentals are not--than anything else, but fans were left to ponder the co-existence of one move that inherently weakened the 2012 roster, and one that was made with its immediate maintenance in mind
Well, with the New Year, there is a bit more clarity, with two trades that undeniably made the 2012 roster worse in a late attempt to resuscitate the minor league pitching depth of the organization. Yes, even Jason Frasor would probably have helped.
As much as I wasn't fond of the idea of the White Sox paying for Jason Frasor's shaky control into his mid-30's, if his 60 innings of 3.60 ERA from 2011 could be locked into next year, it would probably be equal or better than what will be scrounged up to replace him.
It would seem that the last two spots or so of the bullpen will be filled in by some collection of fringey live arms in the White Sox organization, and we can dare to dream of Brian Bruney on an Opening Day roster.
Of all the areas of a roster, the bullpen is the ideal section to actually have be determined by a Spring Training battle, but it underlines a theme that's certainly existent in other portions. With Chris Sale, Dayan Viciedo, Alejandro De Aza, the back of the bullpen, and even Brent Morel and Gordon Beckham; starter-quality production is being expected from numerous unproven sources. Sources that will absolutely not be provided any kind of safety net beyond the eternal wild card that is Brent Lillibridge.
As such, failure can expected in some spots. Hopefully not many, but certainly not none, and any depth was purged for the rebuild because the main pieces are unmovable. Yet, this is a roster that will still feature what should be the latter prime years of Jake Peavy, Adam Dunn, and Alex Rios, along with Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Alexei Ramirez, and whatever Paul Konerko's late-career adjustments have left.
There's enough dormant stardom there for plenty of high-minded talk about competing for the playoffs every Spring Training "if things break right" for a while, and should make for a team that's fairly watchable considering it's rebuilding wreck loaded with bad contracts. And I'd worry a lot more about the hindrance to long-term goals if this was a lower-budget franchise. The Sox are down to $97 million committed to 2012, with none of the remainder of the payroll headed to arbitration. Thanks to Konerko's deferred deal, that means they're under $70 million committed for 2013, with only four current players set to hit their first year of arbitration. (LATE NOTE: The <$70 mil total raises to ~$79mil if Floyd's option is picked up, which is almost a given unless he's traded)
Oh sure, the farm system is still good candidate for 30th in baseball even after this weekend, the kids on the big club are still in a fair bit of trouble, that $70 million is not particularly well spread around, and waiting out all the bad contracts could wind up being just as thoroughly unfun as 2011 was the whole way through. But the payroll commitments look a bit rosier after this weekend, and it may not be too long till relative payroll flexibility returns to the South Side. Especially if you don't consider 2014 as "too long".
Perhaps counting down till when the White Sox can spend their way out of the doldrums if rooting for heartbreak, but it beats considering how long a proper rebuild from the ground up would take. I'd just as soon not spend time pining for the Walker-Mitchell-Thompson outfield of 2018.
Tags: Adam Dunn, Alejandro De Aza, Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, baseball, Brent Lillibridge, Brent Morel, Chris Sale, Dayan Viciedo, Gordon Beckham, jared mitchell, jason frasor, John Danks, keenyn walker, nestor molina, Paul Konerko, Sergio Santos, trayce thompson, White Sox