The smell of freshly mowed grass is beginning to accumulate in Glendale, Arizona. White Sox pitchers and catchers will report in two days and begin the grind to another AL Central title. However, the fate of the White Sox will be decided in Spring Training as the White Sox invite their 40-man roster along with non-roster invitees to see who will best fit the mold for Robin Ventura and his coaching staff. Spring camp is also a good way to evaluate the Sox at each position and how they did in the offseason trying to upgrade that position. This will only address the hitters as I will do the pitchers at a later date.
At catcher, barring a move before camp breaks, Sox fans will see Tyler Flowers handling the pitching staff. Flowers does not currently command the confidence of many White Sox fans but Rick Hahn has defended the catcher and says he has faith in his abilities. Flowers, in past seasons has shown flashes of Adam Dunn-like country power. Sox fans have seen him absolutely obliterate foul balls and if he can translate that power to hitting balls on the fair side of the foul poll then the Sox might be on to something. Backing up Flowers will be minor league journeyman Hector Gimenez. Gimenez has had 20 at-bats in his major league career, so I won’t even bother trying to project or predict what kind of major league player he will be. With the unknown of Gimenez however I would expect Flowers to get a lot of playing time similar to the way A.J. Pierzynski hogged the playing time at catcher when he was in his prime years. The Sox really didn’t make much of an effort to upgrade at catcher despite options being available and options that continue to be available.
The Sox infield continues to stay static with team Captain and face of the franchise Paul Konerko manning first base, youngster Gordan Beckham taking second, and the Cuban Missile, Alexei Ramirez, at shortstop. This infield has been the same since Beckham became a regular in 2010. So this is no surprise. However, third base is in flux. Rick Hahn intends to give Brent Morel every chance to win back the third base job after he lost it last season due to poor production at the plate, though Hahn will claim it was due to his back injury. Three different men occupied third base last year: Morel, Orlando Hudson, and Kevin Youkilis. In order to try to stabilize the position should Morel bust again, Hahn added utility-man Jeff Keppinger who can spell any infield position to backup both Morel and Beckham. Though I do not see Beckham having a breakout year, ever, I can see Morel significantly improving this year. Or at least one can hope. Fans should be glad that Hahn did address the third base issue in some way by adding Keppinger, so that is a plus as well. Let’s also not forget the Big Donkey, Adam Dunn, who should continue to build on his success from last year. I expect his numbers to stay relatively the same considering he is the epitome of an all-or-nothing hitter.
The White Sox outfield is full of familiar faces in 2013 as well, with all three starters returning to the lineup in 2013. Dayan Viciedo will man left, speedster Alejandro De Aza will be in centerfield, and Alex Rios will patrol right. Though this outfield isn’t exactly suited for its defensive abilities it will be a force to be reckoned with on offense. If Alex Rios can repeat last year’s success and Viciedo can learn some plate discipline, the White Sox lineup will continue to be one of the AL Central’s best. However, there is still a battle to be won in the Sox outfield. Who will be the fourth outfielder? Currently the battle looks to be between the veteran, DeWayne Wise, and the youngster, Jordan Danks. Wise seems to be the favorite as he has continued to fight for a major league job throughout his career, but the Sox should really look at giving Danks an opportunity this season because he has more of a future with the team than Wise when you consider age instead of production. The Sox really didn’t need to address this position in the offseason as it is fine where it is as of now.
As spring training comes nearer and nearer, we as baseball fans get more excited to see the position battles, the drama, and heroics of our favorite teams. The way the White Sox lineup looks now, I am not to worried about the team producing runs, I am more worried about the consistency of the run production as the players we have now are know to be streaky, however a new season brings new trends, and maybe that is a trend that won’t continue into this year. For now though, let’s all just look forward to that beautiful fresh-cut grass.
Rumors broke last yesterday evening that the White Sox have been in discussions with the Diamondbacks regarding one of their outfielders. The reason being the D-Backs now have a surplus of outfielders in the wake of their signing of former NLCS MVP Cody Ross. Initial discussions between the two sides apparently involved a swap of some sort involving Alexei Ramirez going to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Justin Upton. However, as talks progressed the Diamondbacks felt more comfortable dealing Kubel rather than Upton, so now the White Sox are presumably in talks with D-Backs GM Kevin Towers regarding Kubel.
Kubel will make $7.5 million dollars in 2013, and the team that possesses him would have a $7.5 million club option for him in 2014. Kubel ranked 4th last year among qualifying left fielders in bases on balls last season with 57; only Martin Prado, Ryan Braun, and Matt Holliday had better eyes than Kubel. Kubel was also a doubles machine last year with 30 two-baggers. In addition Kubel also pelted 30 home runs with 90 RBIs, while sustaining a .327 on-base percentage, which would have been the 7th highest on-base percentage had he been with the Sox, just behind slugger Adam Dunn. Kubel will also turn 31 this upcoming season, and would be 32 by the end of the life of the contract, just leaving his prime production years.
Kubel would most definitely be an upgrade for the Sox, and I belive they should pursue him as he would be essentially replacing recently signed former White Sox AJ Pierzynski’s numbers. But there lies an issue, the Sox already have their outfield set with Dayan Viciedo manning left, De Aza running center field, and Alex Rios patrolling right; there is also no room in the designated hitter role as Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko will be sharing time there this season. Assuming the Sox do not need to trade any major league talent for Kubel, which they shouldn’t, the Sox will probably resume the Viciedo experiment at third base and insert Kubel into left field. If the Sox do require major league talent to land Kubel I will assume that Viciedo would be the talent heading to Arizona, but Arizona would need to include prospects of their own or include money in the deal to offset the loss of a controllable young talent the Sox would giving up for an aging, already free-agent eligable outfielder.
The White Sox need to make a move, especially with the division around them getting better. As I type this article the Indians are finalizing a four year, $56 million contract with Nick Swisher. The Royals have a significantly better starting rotation, and assuming their young core of talent, including Butler, Moustakas, and Hosmer continue to progress, they will be scary. The Tigers signed Torii Hunter, and re-signed starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez. Both moves improved the team as Hunter is a consistent hitter and gold-glove winning outfielder, and Sanchez reinforces the back-end of an already very strong rotation that includes former MVP Justin Verlander, power pitcher Max Scherzer, and the lights-out Doug Fister. If the White Sox can add Kubel they can improve the middle of the order and hide their weaknesses more effectively (Tyler Flowers). The addition of Kubel would create a lineup that looks a lot like this:
1. CF De Aza
2. 2B Keppinger
3. DH/1B Dunn
4. 1B/DH Konerko
5. LF Kubel
6. RF Rios
7. 3B Viciedo
8. SS Ramirez
9. C Flowers
This type of lineup would put a lot less pressure on Flowers to produce considering he has a very talented Ramirez in front of him and a clutch Alejandro De Aza hitting behind him. Flowers could essentially just work on his hitting, and not worry about producing all the time.
Thanks for reading another report from the front office! Please leave feedback and other comments below! Happy Holidays readers!