Yesterday the White Sox sent Brent Morel to minor league camp. I am surprised by this move, despite Morel having a terrible spring Rick Hahn seemed to indicate earlier in Spring Training that Morel was their starting third baseman. Unfortunately for Morel he has been dogged by a terrible spring audition which has seen he him hit for a .216 batting average with a .256 on-base percentage. In addition, he has only drawn one walk in thirty-seven plate appearances, while striking out in eight of them.
This is the right move by Hahn and the White Sox staff because Morel has shown that he is not ready to shoulder the load at third base from an offensive standpoint. Hahn also has players who seem like they can produce in Jeff Keppinger and Conor Gillaspie. Gillaspie, a left handed bat, has done very well this spring, hitting to a .278 average with a .357 on-base percentage. Gillaspie has been one of the best hitters on the Sox this spring and may very well be able to steal the starting third base job away from the veteran utility man Jeff Keppinger. Keppinger, like Gillaspie, also signed on to the Sox this offseason for three years, $12 million, and was supposed to take over the vacancy Kevin Youkilis left at third. Thus far Keppinger has shown the Sox no reason not to start him there opening day as he has hit an outstanding .500 in spring training and has reached base at a .576 clip. The Sox will have to choose who starts between the two when the season begins, but I believe Hahn likes his options.
Back to Morel, personally I am hoping this season will be a make or break year for Morel at Triple A. He will either accept that he is not cut out with the bat to compete for a major league level job, or he will find his confidence again and play like the reincarnation of Joe Crede, like he was supposed to. Meanwhile, the Sox will be comfortable enough at the Major League level to let Morel figure himself out.
1. Detroit Tigers
Notable Additions: OF Torii Hunter
Notables Losses: RP Jose Valverde, OF Delmon Young
This is very much the same team that came back and bit the White Sox in the butt at the end of last season. They lost one below-average outfielder and picked up a still above average one who should continue to succeed late in his career. The Tigers also let go of their erratic closer and will most likely have a closer by committee with candidates Bruce Rondon and Phil Coke among others vying for the job. Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera along with his partner in crime Prince Fielder will once again be counted on to lead the team’s run production, but they will also have Victor Martinez return to the lineup in 2013 and he will make this team that much more dangerous. Not to mention that if Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks build off their success in 2012 as well… Jesus the Tigers are scary. And Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Anibal Sanchez, too. I’ll just stop. They are going to win the division, they are too good.
Notable Additions: OF Michael Bourn, OF Drew Stubbs, OF Nick Swisher, SP Brett Myers, MGR Terry Francona, SS Mike Aviles, C/1B Yan Gomes, SP Trevor Bauer, 1B Mark Reynolds, SP Daisuke Matsuzaka, 1B/DH Jason Giambi
Notable Losses: OF Shin Soo-Choo, RP Tony Sipp, SS Jason Donald, RP Roberto Hernandez (Fausto Carmona), 1B/DH Travis Hafner, OF Grady Sizemore, 3B Jack Hanahan, UTIL Brent Lillibridge
The Indians are a highly improved team in 2013. They have men who can hit at every position, power, speed, and on-base percentage. In fact, I think their lineup rivals Detroit’s in terms of scariness; and it’s not because their players can take you deep at will, but instead because they can win in so many different ways. Mark Reynolds, Jason Kipnis, and Nick Swisher can take you deep. Michael Bourn, Michael Brantley, and Drew Stubbs can run wild on the base paths, and Asdrubal Cabrera can continue to dazzle with his glove. The main sticking point to this team is their starting rotation. Justin Masterson is their ace, which really says something about A.) how bad this staff is, and B) how badly Ubaldo Jimenez had regressed from his days with the Rockies. If Masterson can pitch like the ace he is supposed to be, allegedly and Jimenez can return to his glory days with Colorado the Indians should be in good shape. Brett Myers will eat innings, Trevor Bauer should be up in the majors by mid-season, and Scott Kazmir has really impressed in Spring Training. Not to mention the Tribe really doesn’t need that great of a starting staff because their bullpen is one of the best in the American League with Vinny Pestano being one of the best guys for holds in the league and Chris Perez being the best closer in the division.
3. Chicago White Sox
Notable Additions: RP Matt Lindstrom, UTIL Jeff Keppinger, 3B Conor Gillaspie
Notable Losses: 3B Kevin Youkilis, C AJ Pierzynski, UTIL Orlando Hudson, SP Francisco Liriano, RP Brett Myers, SP Philip Humber
The White Sox lost a lot of key players from the 2012 almost champion team. AJ Pierzynski clubbed a career high twenty-two home runs in 2012 and that will be sorely missed in the 2013 version of the White Sox. Tyler Flowers has been the named the anointed one to replace all-time favorite Pierzynski. He probably won’t come close to AJ’s numbers in his first year, but he can be expected to produce at least fifteen home runs and drive in at least seventy runs on a year to year basis. Kevin Youkilis also left the team for the “Evil Empire” New York Yankees, and the Sox will most likely fill that hole with a platoon of Brent Morel and Jeff Keppinger. Hopefully Morel can turn into the hitter he was projected to become in the minors so that the Sox can have a consistency at the position, which has been unstable since the great Joe Crede left. Overall, the Sox lineup is starting to age as slugger Paul Konerko begins to head down the road to retirement. Adam Dunn is still a good power hitter and should be able to contribute to the offense and Alex Rios is still a wild card as far as consistent production goes. The 2013 lineup wont be the most offensively potent, however if there is one thing the Sox have always been able to do, its pitch. Ace, Chris Sale, was extended to five year deal, and will hopefully continue his prior dominance. Jake Peavy extended his contract with the team for two more seasons and should continue his mad-dog attitude on the mound. John Danks is returning from injury and is expected to be a big contributor as well. Not to mention Gavin Floyd will be back on the mound, barring he doesn’t get flipped at the deadline; and in addition Jose Quintana is looking to rebound from a poor second half performance and pitch the Sox to playoff contention in 2013. The baby bullpen will begin their sophomore season this year as well. Veterans like Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain, and Matt Lindstrom will be expected to lead the group of talented relievers including Nate Jones, Addison Reed, and Dylan Axelrod. The young bullpen did well in 2012, and will hopefully continue to be consistent in 2013. The Sox don’t look that good on paper, but they didn’t look good last year either; and the best thing is that the front office has shown willingness to make moves if the Sox are in contention, as evidenced by the Youkilis and Myers moves. They will give the Tigers & Indians problems and may compete for a wild card spot.
4. Kansas City Royals
Notable Additions: SP James Shields, SP Ervin Santana, SP Wade Davis, INF Elliot Johnson
Notable Losses: RHP Jeremy Jeffress, RHP Vin Mazzaro, OF Wil Myers, RHP Jake Odorizzi, C Brayan Pena, RHP Joakim Soria, RHP Blake Wood
If you haven’t had the chance to as of lately please say good-bye to the days of the Royals being absolute pushovers in the AL Central. Though I have them finishing in fourth place, the Royals will be highly competitive in 2013. Their lineup will feature young fixtures Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, Bill Butler, and Salvador Perez. Those four players are part of the Royals core of players who will begin to reek havoc upon the Central for years to come. The Royals did well down the stretch last year, despite not having the best pitching out there. Well GM Dayton Moore did something about that this winter, trading for starters James Shields and Wade Davis from the Tampa Bay Rays, and signing Ervin Santana in free agency. Not to mention they have mainstays Bruce Chen and Jeremy Guthrie returning to the rotation as well. The Royals will also have a very good bullpen which will feature Greg Holland, Aaron Crow, Luke Hochevar, and Kelvin Herrera. The Royals look good this year, but I can see them putting everything together yet. They will battle with the White Sox for third place but ultimately lose out.
5. Minnesota Twins
Notable Additions: SP Rich Harden, SP Mike Pelfrey, SP Kevin Correia, SP Vance Worley
Notable Losses: OF Denard Span, OF Ben Revere, SP Scott Baker, INF Alexi Casilla, RP Matt Capps
The Twins will be your resident celler dweller this year. They traded away their best two outfielders this offseason, and have no offensive weapons aside from Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham (barring Justin Morneau has a great rebound season). The pitching staff is improved from last years as Scott Diamond will get some veteran help from the likes of Correia, Worley, and Pelfrey. There really isn’t much to say about this team as they seem to be drained of talent at the major league level. However Aaron Hicks is currently an exciting player to watch as he may win their center field job out of Spring Training without playing a game above AA. Also keep your eye on Miguel Sano, an exciting young shortstop with power, and Bryan Buxton who is a powerful outfielder. This team will finish last, but Terry Ryan is working to change that.
The White Sox have reached an agreement to sign Chris Sale to a 5 year, $60 million dollar contract Thursday afternoon. The contract will lock up Sale through his arbitration years beginning in 2014 and will also cover his first free agent year. The White Sox now have three pitchers locked up for at least the next two years who should be critical to the team’s success in Jake Peavy, John Danks, and Sale. This deal is an outstanding one for the Pale Hose as it locks up a young arm who pitched to sixth place in Cy Young voting in his first year as a starter, and also looks to be the team ace, for an annual value of $12 million a year. To put that in perspective, Justin Verlander will make $20 million in 2013, Jered Weaver will make $16 million, and Felix Hernandez will make $19 million. In fact, the only starting pitcher who finished above Sale in Cy Young balloting last year, the winner himself, David Price is the only one of the group who will make less than Sale in 2013 and it is the end of a team friendly 6 year deal he signed in 2007, and Price is in for a big raise this offseason.
Sale is a key piece for the future of the White Sox organization and I as well as every other White Sox fan should praise general manager Rick Hahn for taking the initiative to re-sign the pitcher who will attempt the carry the White Sox to a division crown for years to come.
Over the weekend at SoxFest, Rick Hahn had some interesting commentary in regards to the White Sox payroll. Hahn declared at the morning seminar at SoxFest that if the White Sox were in contention, fans could expect the team to add to payroll if necessary. “the money has always been there,” said Hahn. So that is the good news. Now stop drooling White Sox fans, the fact that Hahn said he would raise payroll does not mean the Sox will be splurging, but it does mean that if the White Sox are an impact player away from being a force to be reckoned with come July, Hahn will have the flexibility to swing a deal.
The undeniable bad news though is the biggest question mark in Hahn’s comments. If the money has always been there, then why not re-sign fan favorite A.J. Pierzynski? A man who had just come off of a career year at the plate. When asked about the departure of Pierzynski, Hahn said that the money that would have gone into a Pierzynski extension was instead reassigned to the contracts of starting pitcher Jake Peavy, utility man Jeff Keppinger, and reliever Matt Lindstrom.
Assuming Hahn would have re-signed Pierzynski on a one-year contract, Hahn was apparently about to dish out about $20 million on the thirty-six year old catcher. Now, I am being facetious, but if the White Sox are willing to spend on an impact bat later in the season, why wouldn’t they spend on a proven bat like Pierzynski’s now? There could be several reasons as to why the Sox passed on Pierzynski, but I am assuming Pierzynski wouldn’t have commanded as much as the $7 million dollar price tag he signed for in Texas from the White Sox.
Overall, I am pleased that the Sox see themselves in a win-now mode, despite the bleak outlook on the division. The Tigers are still an offensive juggernaut with a great complementary starting rotation. The Kansas City Royals have improved their weak rotation, which should combine with a solid bullpen and young, exciting lineup to be somewhat relevant in 2013, but yet Hahn and the Sox front office can still see themselves having a shot at this thing. Only time will tell.
The AL West just got a little tougher today when general manager Jack Zduriencik of the Seattle Mariners pulled the trigger on a three team deal that saw former Nationals outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse head to the Emerald City, also involved in the deal was Mariners catcher John Jaso who went to Oakland. Oakland then sent minor league pitchers AJ Cole and Blake Treinen to Washington, who will also receive a player to be named later from Oakland. Morse was being shopped after Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo re-signed first baseman Adam LaRoache to a two-year deal. With Morse’s first base position filled, and Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, and the newly-acquired Denard Span patrolling the oufield Morse was out of options. Though he could have played second base and been part of a stacked lineup, Rizzo saw more value in the talent that Morse could bring in than having the extra offense lying around in the lineup.
Michael Morse brought back former Nationals prospect AJ Cole, who was traded away in the Gio Gonzalez deal last year. The year he was traded to the A’s the Nats sold on him high with Cole being the fifty-seventh ranked prospect according to Baseball America. In 2011 at Single-A Hagerstown Cole pitched to a four win and seven loss record, a 4.04 ERA, and a WHIP around 1.2. Solid stats, but they could have been better. What most likely attracted the eye of A’s GM Billy Beane was Cole’s outstanding walk rate which was a relatively cool 2.4 and his high strikeout rate which was at 10.9. In comparison David Price’s career walk rate is 3.0 and his career strikeout rate is an 8.3.
Now more on Michael Morse, who will head to a smaller Safeco field, and be placed in the middle of a now formidable Mariners lineup. Before this offseason the Mariners need to address their offensive needs, and badly. Their best hitters were designated hitter Jesus Montero and third baseman Kyle Seager. However, GM Jack Zduriencik has vastly improved their anemic offense by adding former Angel Kendrys Morales and signing former Mariner great Raul Ibanez. Morse just seems to be the cherry on top. Yet there still lies a problem. As noted by MLB insider Jon Paul Morosi: Jesus Montero, though not the subject of the deal is the key player to making this trade work.
But why is Montero so key? Well that’s because Montero, though listed as a catcher, does not actually catch. Of the 135 games Montero played last year, he was the starting catcher for 55 of them, catching 40% of Seattle’s games. With the DH spot now being occupied by a revolving door of Morse, Morales, and Ibanez; Montero will have to find at-bats elsewhere. But the problem is, the elsewhere might not be catcher for the Mariners, it might be designated hitter elsewhere.
Montero’s fielding numbers at the catching position are not promising. Last year he let up 7 passed balls, in addition to not really being a brick wall behind the plate, Montero also only threw out 25% of base runners attempting to steal on him. In comparison, 35 year old catcher AJ Pierzynski only let up 8 passed balls in about 71 more games than Montero, and Pierzynski also threw out about the same percentage of base runners. Now don’t go saying “well, Pierzynski is one of the best catchers in the game and got by.” That is not the right logic here, Pierzynski is about 14 years older than Montero and had one more passed ball allowed than Montero, while being the backstop for 71 more games than the younger Montero. In order to get the same kind of at-bats a young power hitter like Montero will need, Jack Zduriencik will most likely need to look elsewhere. The good thing is that a player like Montero still holds significant value considering he won’t be arbitration eligable until 2015, and isn’t a free agent until 2018, which still gives the team receiving him about 5 years of cheap control on Montero.
Now we move on to the Moneyball A’s, who essentially gave up prospects AJ Cole, Blake Treinen, and a player to be named later for catcher John Jaso. Yes, the A’s did a three-for-one trade for John Jaso, That’s what I said when I first heard about the deal, and thought Billy Beane had gone mad. But upon further investigation I started to warm up to why Beane did this deal. Though Cole was an elite prospect upon coming to Oakland, he left under much worse circumstances.
Upon his arrival Cole was placed in Single-A ball with Oakland’s Burlington affiliate. Nothing had changed, Cole improved his whip to a 1.0, dropped his walk rate to a 1.8, and had a dazzling 9.6 strikeout rating, all while maintaining a 2.07 ERA. But then Stockton happened. Cole was promoted to A+ ball, and just fell apart. He was not the same pitcher that left Burlington. Though maintaining a 2.4 walk rate, Cole’s strikeout rate decreased to a 7.3 and his home run rate increased a full point to 1.7. Cole’s ERA also ballooned to a near an 8, and he lost all but one of his starts which was a no decision. Now this by no means indicates that Cole is done, considering his size of good work versus bad work is still about 38 starts to 7, but if Cole did continue to tank then Beane would have been SOL (so out of luck). Thus, it pained Beane to part with a promising prospect of Cole’s caliber, but he got someone who could help the big league club in Jaso.
Going into the 2013 season Beane had planned to have Derek Norris and George Kottaras battle it out for the starting catcher job. Norris who came over with Cole in the Gonzalez trade had had a decent year at AAA Sacremento, grinding out a slash line of .271/.329/.477 (avg./obp.%/slg% for those who aren’t familiar), Norris also tacked on 9 home runs and 38 RBI’s. Oh, and not to mention this was all done in less than 250 plate appearances.
Kottaras, the other man battling for the job, came over in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers. Though Kottaras doesn’t hit for a high average, he is known for getting on base, something that sources tell me Billy Beane really likes a lot. With Beane ready to let the two duke it out for the job, the opportunity to acquire Jaso came up. Beane had been chasing Jaso for months, and would only let Cole go for Jaso. Jaso was Beane’s man. Jaso is probably thought of so highly by Beane because of his insanely high on-base percentage, which flirted with .400 last year (.394). Having Jaso, who is staying in the same division he played in with the M’s is probably all the more insurance for Beane, as the adjustment period won’t be as long as if he had switched divisions or leagues. Not to mention that 2013 is the first year Jaso is arbitration eligible, and he won’t be a free agent until 2016 which gives Beane so time to think of a creative way to keep Jaso on the cheap.
All in all, I like the deal for all parties involved as the M’s improve their lineup, the A’s get their starting pitcher, and the Nationals stock their system after losing a draft pick from signing reliever Rafael Soriano. This trade was truly a masterpiece, and kudos to Beane, Rizzo, and Zduriencik for making the trade work and make sense for all parties involved.
White Sox News:
- In White Sox related news, second baseman Gordon Beckham and center fielder Alejandro De Aza filed for arbitration. mlbtraderumors.com anticipates a $3.1 million salary for Beckham and $1.7 million for De Aza.
- Javier Vazquez is also still on the market, the White Sox, Nationals, and Red Sox are considered front runners, with the Nats showing the most interest.
Thanks for reading another installment of the Next White Sox GM, if you have any thoughts on the trade or a question anything else in general please leave a comment.
5 years ago, Kenny Williams pulled the trigger on a shocking trade that would see Nick Swisher leave the Oakland A’s in exchange for White Sox prospects Gio Gonzalez, Fautino De Los Santos, and Ryan Sweeney. After a tumultuous 2007 season which saw the Sox finish fourth in the division, only ahead of the lowly Royals, Kenny Williams needed to make a splash for the team and for the fans; and Williams thought energetic, fan favorite, slugging outfielder Nick Swisher was the man for the job.
Nick Swisher was just coming off of a decent 2006 showing for the Oakland A’s, he hit twenty-two home runs, drove in 69 runners, and maintained a very, very good .381 on-base percentage. Swisher was what the Sox needed after a disastrous 2007 season, a guy who could get on base, and a guy who could drive in the runners who were on base before him. With the Sox in dire need of offense Williams dealt Gio Gonzalez (for the second time), one of the White Sox top pitching prospects, Ryan Sweeney, a promising outfielder, and RHP Fautino De Los Santos. Sox fans were elated to see their GM improve the big club on paper and make the team competitive again considering the team had won the World Series in 2005, and ninety games in 2006.
Swisher would join the Sox, and would embrace Chicago, even beginning a Nick Swisher brand for Chicago called “Dirty 30.” However, despite Swisher putting up improved numbers with the White Sox, he struggled with high expectations from the White Sox faithful and was put in the doghouse by then manager Ozzie Guillen. As he began to lose at-bats due to a sub-par average and expectations began to wear down on the usually happy-go-lucky Swisher, his performance suffered more. After making the playoffs in dramatic fashion in 2008, and being eliminated by the Cinderella Rays in four games, Williams decided that Nick Swisher was not a fit in Chicago, and promptly traded him to the New York Yankees in exchange for utility man Wilson Betemit, and minor-league relievers Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez.
Meanwhile in the Bay area Gio Gonzalez struggled as a starter until 2010 when he blossomed into a decent middle of the rotation starter for the A’s, and continued to improve into 2011. He would be valuable to the A’s rotation and to their future as in the 2011 offseason Gonzalez was dealt to the Washington Nationals for a slew of high-end prospects that were considered major league ready. Tommy Milone and Derek Norris currently contribute to the A’s major league team, with Norris slotted to be the everyday catcher and Milone starting to pitch like a top-end starter. The other two pitching prospects Cole and Peacock are expected to be major league ready very soon and will surely contribute the A’s quest to win the World Series based on a small budget and smart, thrifty personnel moves.
Ryan Sweeney also proved to be useful to the A’s. He proved to be a very capable fourth outfielder who could get on base. This allowed him to stick around the A’s big club for four years before also being dealt with closer Andrew Bailey for slugging Red Sox outfielder Josh Reddick and two Single-A prospects. In Reddick’s first season with the A’s he has proved his worth, hitting thirty-two bombs, bringing in eighty-five runners, and compiling a respectable .305 on-base percentage. In a couple of seasons Reddick could be the new face of the A’s, and it was partly because of Ryan Sweeney that made the deal that brought Reddick to Oakland possible.
Back to the White Sox, the Swisher deal that brought back Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez, and Jhonny Nunez did virtually nothing. In Betemit’s one season with the Sox, he saw the plate 45 times, enough said. Marquez, made it to the big leagues long enough to sign a baseball for me, but when he got in, in that one game…barf, two runs in one inning and he was gone again. He made it back to the Yankees in 2011 for three games and hasn’t tasted the bigs since. Nunez came up to the Sox in 2009 for five and two-thirds innings and gave up six runs, he was sent down as well and hasn’t seen major league action since. Case and point, neither Nunez nor Marquez are with the Sox anymore and when they were they were atrocious.
Ultimately this trade will go down as one of Kenny Williams biggest mistakes, and as one of Billy Beane’s biggest victories. Not only did he fleece Kenny Williams, but he later used the pieces he received in the Williams fleecing to also dupe Nats GM Mike Rizzo and rookie Red Sox GM Ben Cherington. This trade also goes to show you how bad the Chicago faithful is to their players, Nick Swisher, though having a subpar season for his standards, still did relatively well, after he was dealt to the Yankees he never had a season with an on-base percentage lower than .350 and had been a key piece to their 2009 World Series championship.
Catcher is the toughest position to play on the baseball field. The catcher controls the pitchers during the game, prevents runners from taking extra bases, blocks the plate from both balls trying to find their way to the backstop and runners attempting to score, and through all this he must still be a productive member of the lineup and hit. Finding a catcher who is just a right mix of all the above is very tough to do. There are maybe a hand full of catchers who I think fit this description closely: Buster Posey, Carlos Ruiz, Joe Mauer, and Yadier Molina, and they are all highly valued by their respective teams and will probably never see the free agent market due to their high value. But because finding that right man to play catcher is so difficult it is often challenging to transition from an established starting catcher to an inexperienced and unproven one. Unfortunately, this is the situation the South Siders find themselves in this offseason, they can bring the incumbent backstop AJ Pierzynski back but on a huge contract for 36 year-old-to-be or they can pass the gavel to Tyler Flowers who is ten years younger and has stated that he is ready for the starting job. Despite Flowers’ confidence in being able to take over the job, the White Sox have continued to explore other options such as shopping Flowers to the Mets and giving youngsters Josh Phegley and Hector Giminez looks behind the plate as well. Here I will breakdown the Hahn’s options for a starting backstop and tell you why or why he should not pursue the option. I have the likelihood of the move happening on a 1-to-5 scale, with 1 being the most likely option.
Free Agents: Rod Barajas, Henry Blanco, Russell Martin, Mike Napoli, Miguel Olivo, Ronny Paulino, Humberto Quintero, Brian Schneider, Kelly Shoppach, Yorvit Torrealba, and Matt Treanor
Well this is quite an unimpressive list of major league catching talent. Guys who would sing on for less than AJ Pierzynski’s asking price are old and have never had much consistent success at the plate, so Paulino, Quintero, Treanor, Blanco, Schneider, Barajas, and Torrealba all are out. The rest: Olivo, Martin, Napoli, and Shoppach would all most likely be out of Hahn’s price range, as the Sox still need to address the third base spot and hopefully some bullpen weaknesses; so it seems as though free agency will not be the way to go for Rick Hahn.
Trades: JP Arencebia & Jarrod Saltalamacchia
The Blue Jays have let it be known that they have a top prospect just itching to get out of Triple-A and they will deal all of their catching in order to get him in the clubhouse, thus making JP Arencebia available. In addition, the Red Sox have brought in veteran backstop David Ross and have prospect Ryan Lavarnway sandwiching slugger Jarrod Saltalamacchia out of the picture in Boston. While neither Salty or Arencebia are a picture of consistency, they do something the White Sox like when looking at potential players, they hit home runs. Saltalamacchia had 25 home runs last year while driving in 59 runs, and Arencebia crushed 18 home runs while driving in 59; while neither of their RBI totals are impressive, they could definitely improve with better lineup placement and better players around them. Considering both Salty and Arencebia would be coming from the 5th and 4th place team in their division respectively, it is a given that they will have a better supporting cast. As the GM in this situation I would rather pursue Saltalamacchia than Arencebia because Saltalamacchia has a higher on-base pecentage, slugging percentage, and on-base plus slugging percentage than Arencibia. The best thing is that both Arencebia and Saltalamacchia can probably both be had a for a mid-level prospect or two low-level prospects.
For most Sox fans this is the preferred route to take. We know AJ will provide a solid defensive presence, he is an average to above average hitting catcher, and he knows how to handle a pitching staff. On top of that all AJ is one of two remaining members of the core of our 2005 World Series team and is a popular figure with the fanbase. Unfortunately, the fans have to realize that AJ is going to be 36 years old this season, and he is not getting any younger. The only direction for a 35 year old catcher who just had a career to go is down, I can promise you that unless AJ signs for two years at $4 million or less a season, he will not live up to any contract the Sox will give him. History is not on his side. I don’t see any conceivable way — except for the hometown discount — that AJ stays on the South Side after this year. It’s a shame, but AJ has left on the franchise and when he returns someday all old and wrinkly he’ll still be embraced by the Chicago faithful for cementing a legacy, with the likes of Carlton Fisk and Ray Schalk, as one of the best backstops in franchise history.
Josh Phegley as of right now is a top ten prospect in the White Sox system. Although that isn’t saying much, it still means that he has a shot. With whispers of Hahn shopping Flowers around the league, specifically to the Mets, and the unlikelihood of AJ returning the Sox, Phegley has an outside shot to be the de facto winner of the starting catcher job. Now if you don’t know much about Phegley he has consistently possessed a .300 on-base percentage throughout his minor league career, he doesn’t strike out a lot, and he seems like a straight singles hitter by only having 20 doubles in 394 at-bats. This is not the best option as we have seen many a times a prospect fail because the Sox rushed him to the big leagues, examples being Danny Richar, Brian Anderson, and most recently Brent Morel.
Tyler Flowers has been the White Sox catcher of the future since we acquired him from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Javier Vasquez and reliever Boone Logan. However, Flowers has been unimpressive in the limited action he saw this past season. He hit for a .213 average with a .296 on-base percentage, while hammering seven home runs and driving in 13 RBI’s. But we can’t judge him in the limited action he has seen. As a backup catcher, it’s easy to pull him when he is struggling and not let him work through his struggles, this year, if given the starting job we will hopefully see Tyler do well, but when he struggles, it will be key to see how he fights through it. Resiliency is key. I wish we had the money to re-sign AJ, but his time is over and it is time for Tyler Flowers to take the reins and become the starter he thinks he is. This is the most likely option for Hahn as it is relatively no risk (as in making a trade, or gambling on signing an aging veteran) and we have an idea of what kind of player we are getting when we insert him into the lineup.
Ultimately, I believe Hahn should go with the cheap in house option because it will not cost us any prospects, it will be cheaper than re-signing AJ or going out and signing a free agent, and it will give Phegley a chance to develop in case Flowers doesn’t pan out. Thus, I predict that Tyler Flowers will win the starting catcher’s job for the Palehose, and that AJ Pierzynski will most likely sign elsewhere, most likely Tampa Bay or Texas. Here’s to AJ Pierzynski for all of his time on the South Side, and here’s to hoping that he has further success in the rest of his playing career except, against the Sox of course.