This off-season should be…interesting.
The White Sox are coming off of a year where pretty much every member of their over-30 offensive core met, or improbably exceeded expectations (Jake Peavy even improbably made a bid for 220 innings), and they got all of 85 wins. My quick assessment would be that they’re due for the rebuild they’ve been putting off for some time.
But why preview a rebuild that won’t come?
There’s a new GM in the chair in Rick Hahn, and until the World Series ends, there’s an absence of information on how he goes about building rosters. His predecessor was generally adverse to them, and when he needed to shuffle the deck, he preferred to do it piecemeal.
That could be a lack of tolerance for the difficulties, the dead years, the empty stadiums, and the embittered and hopeless nights at the ballpark that a drawn-out, full-gut, Cubs & Astros style rebuild would bring. Or simply the organization does not feel such a process (heavily relying on minor league player development) plays to their strength, which is highly conceivable.
Either way, until Rick does the baseball equivalent of screaming “I AM NOT KENNY WILLIAMS”, any rundown of the major off-season decisions needs a strong consideration how starting positions on the major league roster will be filled.
Jake Peavy’s Impending Free Agency
Unless there’s a gas leak at 35th & Shields, there will be no change to the decision to decline Peavy’s $22 million option. Peavy could have won the Cy Young and singlehandedly won six playoff games, and they’d still probably have bought him out and renegotiated.
But the starting rotation is arguably one place where the Sox have already begun to turn things over. Just with what they already have on hand, the Sox could offer up a starting core of Chris Sale, John Danks, Jose Quintana, Hector Santiago, and Gavin Floyd, and fill-in the spot starts with qualified candidates from the Charlie Leesman/Simon Castro crowd.
Of course, Danks needs to prove he’ll throw again in life, and Quintana and Santiago might not be any good, but at least there’d be a reasonable hope of success, and free agent compensation to be had from Peavy.
That would be the cagey rebuilding move, whereas a more competitive-minded team would see who of the Peavy/James Shields/Brandon McCarthy crowd is the least unreasonably-priced, and fill up one of those question marks with something more reliable.
Kevin Youkilis and the 3rd base vacuum
There’s nothing to like about the direction Kevin Youkilis’ career is going. Two years ago he was an All-Star caliber 1st basemen–someone legitimately more deserving of the honor than Paul Konerko. Since then, it’s been more strikeouts, less power, and less health, and at a pretty steep rate, even if you write off his last months in Boston as poisoned.
Yet the standard for White Sox 3rd basemen has not changed since he was brought on in June. It’s still “be better than the worst player in baseball”. Any team trotting out Brent Morel after a lost season filled with troubling back problems and terrible performance in the minors, is rebuilding with a bullet, or planning to spend $300 million lining the rest of the diamond with superstars.
That leaves the Sox between a rock and a hard place. Or more specifically, between a bad contract and a suck vortex. Even in rebuilding years, teams like to play major leaguers, and unless the Mets botch the hell out of re-signing David Wright while simultaneously declining his option, there are no outside solutions.
They could do almost anything here–even load up Morel with 550 plate appearances–and I would do my best to understand. Unless it’s rush Carlos Sanchez up and push him to 3rd base. That movie was bad enough the first time.
A.J. Pierzynski & Tyler Flowers
A move to sign a 36 year-old catcher coming off of an out-of-nowhere career year would be ridiculed for its logic free of context. But like all things with the White Sox & A.J. Pierzynski, special consideration is given. Another all-in White Sox team would probably take Pierzynski up on his desire to return.
But any team built with an eye toward the future at all should try conserve resources by giving Tyler Flowers a chance to be an affordable starter for a few years. He’s responded well to what few stretches of concentrated playing time he’s gotten, and will at least be a capable receiver with plenty of power to enthusiastically punish mistakes.
$10 million seems like a curious price to pay for someone of Myers’ ability (and declining strikeout rate) unless he’s going to start, and he isn’t necessarily an attractive candidate to eat innings unless Gavin Floyd is used as a trade chip. Speaking of which…
Gavin Floyd’s $9.5 million option
Pick it up. Assets are not to be shirked.
Assuming the rest of the league is smart…
The idea that Alex Rios is “only good in even-numbered years” is at best one step above astrology, but there should be a healthy amount of skepticism about his ability to perform consistently. He has at least proven that comfort is important for his performance. However, it’ll be hard for Rios to ever have more trade value (big year, still only 31, two years of control left, healthy) than he has now. He’s also the most reliable White Sox hitter going forward, which gives a lot of value to his presence here, and it might make sense to wait till a Trayce Thompson replacement is actually ready.
If it required a saber-friendly team to appreciate how Adam Dunn was valuable in his prime, than surely no one is going to be distracted enough by his gaudy home run totals to ignore that his total batting line .204/.333/.468 was pretty uninspiring for a bat-only player with two years left on his deal.
Would Rick Hahn trade Paul Konerko for a prospect or two, and make way for Dan Johnson to fill space? It probably isn’t much use to ponder if someone’s completely merciless without having seen them kill first.
Alexei Ramirez is coming off of his worst season as a hitter. Besides the simple matter of reliable shortstops being impossible to find, the Sox would be smart to let him build back some of his value.
Admittedly, I recently bemoaned the state of the White Sox relief corps. But by rule, any reliever save for perhaps Reed that someone wants to give away something of significance for should be dealt.
This has already been enough of an enormous information/opinion dump without a wordy conclusion.