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With a full year under his belt, rookie surprise Alexei Ramirez moves over to short stop

With a full year under his belt, rookie surprise Alexei Ramirez moves over to shortstop

To say that the Chicago White Sox won the American League Central Pennant is a statement of fact. But to say that they were the best team in the division might be a stretch. The White Sox should have had that division in late August but a series of umm, unfortunate injuries to their veterans (and Carlos Quentin), as well as persistent pressure from a young Minnesota Twins ball club, pushed the pennant race to the very last day of the season.

Last season, the White Sox were simply old and slow. The team was 5th in runs, 9th in OBP, and second to last in stolen bases; and what’s more, they finished behind Minnesota in almost all offensive categories save for solo home runs.

This offseason, though the economy is forcing a lot of teams to cut or hold budget, White Sox GM Kenny Williams has been able to make some deals while “bumping up” against his financial ceiling.

First, he unloaded a couple of veterans in exchange for a handful of minor league talent that may actually compete for a starting job or two. In what was an arguably puzzling move, Williams traded Nick Swisher to the Yankees for Jeff Marquez and Wilson Betemit. Swisher, as UmpBump’s Paul argued back when the deal came through, is a bounce-back candidate, but it was clear towards the end of last season that he simply didn’t fit in manager Ozzie Guillen’s clubhouse.

For his next big trade, Williams sent veteran hurler Javier Vazquez to Atlanta for catching prospect Tyler Flowers (who was the best power hitter in the Arizona Fall league last year) and infielder Brent Lillibridge.

Out of those two trades, Marquez has a realistic shot of landing the 5th spot in the rotation, while Betemit and Lillibridge will duke it out with Chris Getz for second base now that Orlando Cabrera is out via the free agent door and Ramirez moves over to short (his natural position).

Joe Crede’s tenure in the South Side came to a sad end after he couldn’t shake a rash of back injuries that limited his playing time in the last two to three years, giving Josh Fields third base as his job to lose.

Flowers is the prospect with the most up-side, but he’ll have to endure a few seasons in the minors before A.J. Pierzynksi is ready to give up the starter role.

With Cabrera and Crede gone, the Chi Sox figure to field a much younger (and arguably more agile) infield. Meanwhile, Brian Anderson will get yet another shot to land the center field job, though he’ll have to beat out Jerry Owens (and his .324 OBP).

Much has been said about young Cuban defector Dayan Viciedo, but it's unlikely he'll earn a spot in the roster this year.

Much has been said about young Cuban defector Dayan Viciedo, but it's unlikely he'll earn a spot in the roster this year.

As far as the rotation is concerned, Jose Contreras has been making a steady and speedy recovery from an Achilles heel injury, and Vazquez’ departure via trade opens the fifth spot for which there are a few competing arms. Williams brought back Bartolo Colón and the hope is Marquez as well as Clayton Richard (who saw some starts last year) challenge the veteran former Cy-Young winner for the spot.

There have been other trade rumors circulating around veterans Jermaine Dye and even Bobby Jenks, (even some rumblings about Williams possibly signing Bobby Abreu before he joined the Angels), but as of now, Dye is headed to camp, as is Jenks (with whom the Sox avoided arbitration).

Of note is young Cuban defector an third baseman Dayan Viciedo, whom Guillen praised for shedding some weight since he was inked to a multi-million dollar deal, but he’s only 19 and it’s doubtful he’ll break camp with the big league squad. Instead, Fields will get start the season at the hot corner.

Notable acquisitions: Bartolo Colón, Ben Broussard, Tyler Flowers, Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez, Brent Lillibridge, Dayan Viciedo.

Notable losses: Juan Uribe, Joe Crede, Orlando Cabrera, Nick Swisher, Javier Vazquez.

Lineup, rotation and closer:

C A.J. Pierzynkski
1B Paul Konerko
2B Christ Getz/Brent Lillibridge
SS Alexei Ramirez
3B Josh Fields
LF Carlos Quentin
CF Jerry Owens/Brian Anderson
RF Jermaine Dye
DH Jim Thome

SP Mark Buehrle
SP Gavin Floyd
SP John Danks
SP Jose Contreras
SP Bartolo Colon / Jeff Marquez / Clayton Richard

CL Bobby Jenks

Offseason Grade: B

While Williams got hosed in the Swisher deal mainly because he was shedding a no-longer-welcomed player, I’d dare say the Sox got a decent deal in the Vazquez trade. He was also able to throw some money at his veterans (Jenks) while bringing in some outside help. The Colon signing was classic Kenny Williams (it can’t be a ChiSox offseason without a freshly inked vet), but in this case, it made sense to make sure the young’uns stepped up their game and earned that fifth spot in the rotation. The bullpen will return with Octavio Dotel, Scott Linebrink and Matt Thornton setting up Jenks. The only black eye is, again, center field. Neither Anderson or Owens has shown they deserve the everyday job. Maybe that will change this season.

- Hot Offseason Index -

10 Responses to “Hot Offseason Action: Chicago White Sox”

  1. “The only black eye is, again, center field.”
    That seems rather optimistic. Lead off is a huge question for this team that really wasn’t addressed in the off season. They are simply hoping that of the players they have one will step up even though they’ve failed to do so in the past. Center, second, third, the 4th and 5th spot in the rotation are all pretty big question marks for this team.
    How can you have any faith in Bartolo Colon? He’s penciled in as their 4th starter.
    You mention that the infield is more agile with Crede and Cabrera’s departures but it may actually be worse defensively. Fields has never demonstrated that he can even be an average defensive third baseman. Second base, is a toss up between Getz, Lillibridge and Nix, which shouldn’t be comforting. None of those players have shown they’re ready to play every day on the big league level. They should definitely consider picking up Orlando Hudson if he would sign a one year deal.

    I know it’s totally subjective but I really disagree with the B grade. I don’t think they’ve done much if anything to upgrade this team in the off season. They could surprise but I don’t think this team did a lot to get better in the off season. I’m not even sure they deserve a C. The B grade seems like an optimistic Sox fan hoping everything works out into a best case scenario.

  2. Alejandro A. Leal says:

    The leadoff question is a legitimate question, but I think it’s fair to assume that Jerry Owens will be the leadoff man. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen, but he hasn’t played one full season yet.

    And I actually think it’s rather harsh to write off a bunch of rookies simply because they haven’t had a chance to play one full season (or because they haven’t been hyped by the media and then they fall completely on their face).

    Williams tried the veteran upgrade in the infield based on defense with Cabrera, but his offensive contributions were very much average. It’s time to give the prospects a shot.

    Crede was a gold glove caliber third baseman… that’s when he was actually on the field, which was half of the time. Fields, again, has never had the chance to play one full season, and the White Sox don’t want Fields at third for his defense. He did hit 23 home runs in 100 games in 2007.

    Colón will not be the 4th starter. That’s Contrera’s spot to lose, and from the looks of it, he’s recovering well from his injury. I wouldn’t be surprised if Poreda or Richard make the team over Colón.

    So yea, I’m a bit optimistic and the B was actually a B but I couldn’t score the Sox higher simply because Williams was able to pull off a couple of trades. The grade is based on the fact that a lot of teams (a lot) were not able to make moves even though they knew they wanted to.

  3. Sarah Green says:

    I’m not quite sure about what the youngsters will bring to the table — from what I read this winter about Palehose prospects, the farm system is much improved but still pretty shallow. But only time will tell. At the very least, I think it’s promising that Chicago seems to be intent on at least starting a youth movement. They are moving in the right direction, and didn’t wait for total suckage to subsume them before doing so (a la the Orioles).

  4. Coley Ward says:

    I’m a little confused. How can it be fair to assume that Jerry Owens will be the leadoff man if it’s not a given that Owens will be the starting CF?

    Also, I wouldn’t crap on Cabrera too much. He’s no Hanley Ramirez, but his defense makes him a very valuable player.

  5. Coley Ward says:

    In response to Sarah, I think the White Sox traded Vazquez in part because he’s an injury waiting to happen. I know that sounds crazy to say about a guy who’s been a total horse for most of his career, but he’s been throwing a lot more breaking pitches lately, plus he’ll be pitching in the WBC this spring. I think Braves fans should be worried.

  6. Alejandro, I hope you’re joking when you said you couldn’t give them higher than a B. Their moves weren’t even C level. So they get a B because they actually wanted to do more but couldn’t? The Sox love to cry poor. They like to pretend they are a small market team even though they make the revenue of a big market team. If their fans buy into it then I guess it works. Why not try and move Dye instead of Swisher if you want to shed payroll?

    There is nothing wrong with youth if it is talented. None of the potential 2nd basemen have put up that good of numbers in the minors. Fields hasn’t shown that he’s capable of being an everyday player at third even if he can swing the bat. You’ve failed to acknowledge that their infield defense will probably be worse this season with your implication that getting rid of Cabrera is an upgrade.

    Coop, Ozzie and Kenny have said they believe Colon will be in the starting rotation with Poreda/Richard vying for the last spot as they have assumed Contreras won’t be ready to go. If Contreras is ready to go he will fill that last spot. How can you think that’s a good combination? I don’t care who is called the 4th or 5th starter, Colon and Contreras aren’t good options. The sad thing is this team is in a very winnable division if they had made a couple of moves to improve the team. The moves they did make don’t seem like upgrades from last season.

  7. Alejandro A. Leal says:

    lets be clear:

    » Cabrera was a defensive upgrade. But I don’t think the Sox will hurt themselves too much by not having him in the infield based on defense alone.

    » Ramirez at short plus a rookie at second could be a worse defensive set-up, but we don’t know that yet. For all we know, it can be the best infield combo in the league.

    » I’ll take Fields offense over his defense any day. Thanks.

    » If it were up to me, Coley, Owens would be at center field. I’d take his speed over Anderson’s defense any day. Last time I checked, it wasn’t up to me…

    » As far as Colón/Contreras, both of them are expected to face live pitching sometime in mid-March. Which is a bad thing yes. Remind me, did Vazquez win the Cy-Young?

    » The Sox defense won’t be better. There I acknowledged it. Will it be worse? I don’t think so either.

    The Twins almost won the division with a core group of young players. They didn’t have a ton of talented minor leaguers that blew up Triple A. Could the Sox have done more? Possibly, but shoring up the farm system with guys that may actually get a crack to play full time this season is something I feel optimistic about. For one I’m glad Williams isn’t trying to sign or trade for every washed up veteran out there.

  8. Kenny filled his quota of washed up vets when he inked Colon. Cy Young winner from days gone by isn’t going to be an upgrade over what Vazquez gave them. He and Contreras are old and bad.

    At 28, Jerry Owens has slim to no chance of being the answer at lead off.
    Getz and Lillibridge are 25 and Fields is 26, will they get much better? Maybe. It’s not like they are so young that they are going to improve a great deal. The Sox are just hoping they can stick in the big leagues at this point.

    My problem with what the Sox did is I don’t think they helped themselves for the present or the future.

  9. Alejandro A. Leal says:

    Well, since you put it that way, the Charlotte Knights have been fielding some decent teams in the past few years…

    Also, last time the ChiSox ledoff with a career minor leaguer they won something… correct me if im wrong but i thought teams were in this to win the world series… or divisions at the very least…

    oh and dont forget about Ben Broussard!

  10. Nick Kapur says:

    I still think the Sox should have blown up the team after the 2006 season. They’d be a lot better off now!

    I’d have given the Sox a C myself, but I can’t argue too much with Alejandro’s B. A lot depends on the choices they make from here on out.

    Nobody is mentioning Wilson Betemit, but I actually think he could be a decent starter if given a shot to play every day. In any case, he is a reasonable insurance policy at both 2B and 3B.

    I also think Lillibrige has a halfway decent chance to stick at 2B, although his bat profiles a lot better at short.

    Centerfield remains a black hole though, and I have no faith in Owens or Anderson. I’m not too concerned about the lack of a traditional lead-off man though. That type of thing is overrated.

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