Though they won the World Series in 2005, for the past four seasons, the White Sox have been actually closer to hitting the rebuild button than repeating their championship feat. Kenny Williams’ quest to plug the hole in center field was finally accomplished this year by the acquisition of Alex Rios, but that may have been too little, too late, as an aging core of veterans have created a number of other question marks.
So far the Sox appear unlikely to bring back veteran slugger Jermaine Dye, creating a vacancy in right field.
Williams seems to be working from the bench out. He solidified his backups by signing Andruw Jones to an incentive laden deal and veteran shortstop Omar Vizquel to a one-year deal, and bringing back veteran journey man (and hot baseball wife king) Mark Kotsay.
With the emergence of outfield prospect Jordan Danks, there’s a possibility Rios will shift over to right. But Danks is unproven, and Williams would risk the ghost of center field past once again haunting the South Side of Chicago. The Sox have flirted with idea of bringing in Coco Crisp, who would serve as a lead-off type to replace Scott Podsendik if he doesn’t return (he did not get offered arbitration). Jones will possibly see some time in left field and DH, but don’t be surprised if Thome re-signs with the South Siders. Truth be told, the Sox need more outfield depth, preferably, with lead-off qualities.
As far as the infield goes, Gordon Beckham proved a strong offensive-minded rookie (.270, .357, .460), but his defense was spotty at third (14 errors in 102 games). He’ll shift over to second base for 2010, and so far the ChiSox don’t have a clear candidate to take over at the hot corner. Last year’s Cuban defector Dayan Viciedo has been less than stellar in the minors (prompting talk of a $10M bust), and though there’s promise in another prospect, Brent Morel, he won’t be ready for the majors this season. Williams did trade for Mark Teahen during the season, but he’ll mostly serve a back up role. Add to the list of needs: a starting third baseman who has good range.
On the pitching side of things, Williams finally got the big fish by trading for Jake Peavy during the season, and he’ll anchor the rotation with Gavin Floyd, John Danks, and Mark Buerhle, but unless Freddy Garcia turns back the biological clock, the Sox need a back-of-the-rotation starter.
The bullpen is essentially intact, even though the Sox have been in a row with closer Bobby Jenks over his work-out regimen (or lack there of) and his ability to remain healthy. The verbal spat has spurred trade rumors surrounding the chunky hurler, but Williams shot them down categorically. Matt Thornton is their only left-handed arm, so the addition of another south paw reliever would only help.
Looking at the big picture, it seems Williams has been subtly rebuilding his team without gutting it. Last year’s trades for Rios and Peavy brought two players theoretically entering their prime years. They bolstered a youngish core of Beckham, Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez, Floyd and Danks. This year, the two biggest salaries (Jenks and Paul Konerko) have been mentioned as trade possibilities. But even if Williams acquires talent via trade, money’s tight, and if the buying-out of Jermaine Dye’s contract is any indication, the Sox are undoubtedly going frugal. So there’s no question the Sox need to continue developing their farm system if they’re to upgrade from within.
Edit: Added line about Mark Teahen.