Five years later, Kenny Williams has a center fielder.
In fact, Williams has several options for center field. Last year’s mid-season waiver move to pick-up Alex Rios was a risky, and costly, acquisition, but it plugged a hole in the outfield. But in case Rios doesn’t pan out – and there’s a good chance he’ll stink all year – there’s everyone’s favorite hot baseball wife’s husband, Mark Kotsay, plus newly signed Andruw Jones.
If you look at the list of players lost versus players added this offseason, there’s a sense the team moved laterally. Prominent losses are Jermaine Dye, Scott Podsednik, Josh Fields, Christ Getz and Octavio Dotel, while the more significant additions have been Jones, Mark Teahen, Omar Vizquel, J.J. Putz, Juan Pierre and Freddy Garcia.
Williams shuffled both infield and outfield, bringing in Pierre to patrol left in lieu of Podsendik. Rios will continue to play center and Carlos Quentin takes Dye’s place in right. Again, not sure if there’s an improvement there.
In the infield, the departure of Fields and Getz allows Gordon Beckham to take over second, while Teahen takes over the hot corner. Omar Vizquel will serve as a veteran back-up with prestige (and bad knees). Defensively, there’s a tangible improvement with Vizquel in the mix, but Teahen’s UZR isn’t any better than Fields’s third base UZR (actually, it’s the exact same: -4.7), and it’s worse than Beckham’s -2.0. The move is clearly an offensive one, as Teahen will provide more pop than Getz.
As far as the rest of the line-up, Guillen opted not to bring back hometown favorite Jim Thome, arguing he would not see the at-bats he deserves. Of course, Jones will probably get the most at-bats at DH, with Mark Kotsay possibly seeing a significant number as well. Needless to say, this one didn’t sit well with the ChiSox faithful, and they had a point.
Pitching is once again a strong facet for the South Siders, with Jake Peavy and Mark Buehrle topping the rotation. Add the promising arms of John Danks and Gavin Floyd, and the Sox have a solid one through four. World Series hero Freddy Garcia was brought back to contend for the 5th spot and he’s all but earned it.
In the bullpen, Bobby Jenks returns as closer, and even though he exchanged some words with his management through the media, hinting at possible clubhouse drama, all signs indicate he’s ready. The departure of Octavio Dotel, who pitched in later innings, was countered by the addition of former M’s closer and Mets cast-off J.J. Putz.
On paper, the ChiSox made some solid moves… to improve their bench. The fact that Thome eventually signed with division rival Minnesota has to dig the thorn of his departure into White Sox fans even deeper, and it makes both Williams (for deferring to Guillen) and Guillen (for deciding against signing) look bad. Rios is a big question mark, though he’s shown some signs of improvement this spring. Carlos Quentin needs to show his MVP-caliber season was not a fluke. Andruw Jones goes from a home-run friendly park in Arlington to another home-run friendly park in the South Side of Chicago. Will he hit? Will he be healthy? Can Pierre provide the lead-off spark Guillen seeks?
Too many questions. The bottom line is, however, the mediocrity of the AL Central. Can the White Sox pitching best the Twins’ or Tigers’ line-up? If you’re forced to make a prediction, as was one Ken Rosenthal, they’re gonna win it all! The rest of us shall wait and see.
Offseason grade: C
Notable additions: Mark Teahen, Omar Vizquel, Andruw Jones, J.J. Putz, Juan Pierre, Freddy Garcia
Notable subtractions: Scott Podsednik, Jermaine Dye, Josh Fields, Chris Getz, Octavio Dotel
Projected line-up, rotation and closer:
C A.J. Pierzynski
1B Paul Konerko
2B Gordon Beckham
SS Alexei Ramirez
3B Mark Teahen
LF Juan Pierre
CF Alex Rios
RF Carlos Quentin
DH Andruw Jones
SP – Mark Buehrle
SP – Jake Peavy
SP -John Danks
SP -Gavin Floyd
SP -Freddy Garcia
CL – Bobby Jenks