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.
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.
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.
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.
Today the White Sox announced that they have signed seven players to minor league contracts. Catcher Bryan Anderson, third baseman Josh Bell, RHP’s Jeff Gray & Ramon Troncoso, LHP David Purcey, and outfielders Steve Tolleson and Stefan Gatrell are all expected to report to White Sox training camp at Camelback Ranch in one month.
The thinking behind these signings is to buy low on players who still have the potential to do above average, but have performed below average thus far in their career. Troncoso, a former Dodgers reliever had one decent year in his four years with the Dodgers, but never really seemed to settle in at the major league level. Josh Bell, a former Baltimore top prospect, is another player who was expected to be the future of his organization, but instead fizzled out once he reached the major league level.
While most of these players the Sox have signed have never seen big-league action, they were not signed for that purpose. Yes, bring on the rants, and calls for Rick Hahn’s head, but Hahn is building depth throughout the organization to leave margin for injury or underproduction by a current big-league player, and also giving himself the depth to be able to swing a potential trade. One thing that you learn in the big leagues is that you can never have enough arms and the signing of Gray, Purcey, and Troncoso, who despite not having much experience at the major league level, still have it, and can fill gaps in the Sox bullpen if necessary.
My favorite signing of the bunch is that of Josh Bell. The twenty-six year old was last seen with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2012. In his time with the Snakes Bell was able to get fifty-two at-bats but only managed to get nine hits and collect four walks. Bell’s years in Baltimore were not much prettier; you can check them out here. Despite this lack of production, Bell still provides competition for the third base job, which it seems, will go back to Brent Morel, a player who was absolutely miserable for the Sox at third base in 2012. A little competition never hurt anyone, and you never know this competition may bring out the best in one or the other.
Hopefully some of these signings can contribute to the big league roster in 2013. If not, they didn’t cost much anyway. At least not as much as some other players who didn’t pan out in their contracts.
Gavin Floyd is set to make $9.5 million dollars this upcoming season when the Rich Hahn and the Sox decided to exercise his club option for the 2013 season. Thing is, most speculate that the Sox did not exercise this option for the sake of using Floyd on their 2013 rotation, but instead to trade him. This claim has only been strengthened with the departure of long-time White Sox backstop AJ Pierzynski, and Robin Ventura’s need of a left-handed bat to balance out a right-handed heavy lineup. In this article I will explore trade options that would make since to both the White Sox and their trade partners involved.
One of the teams that has been linked to Floyd before has been the Boston Red Sox. With their ability to absorb unheard of amounts of salary they could deal any one of their players no matter how uneven the cash flow may be and still be sound financially. That being said the Red Sox are in sore need of starting pitching. Coming off of a second-to-last place finish in the AL East, the Red Sox will want to come back in 2013 with vengeance. With a vicious media and fan base in Boston calling for new players and massive improvement from the year before, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, needs to make a move. He could acquire Floyd from the White Sox by dipping into the Red Sox surplus of left-handed bats. Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is one option as the White Sox current starter Tyler Flowers has proven himself an inconsistent hitter in the limited action he has seen. Saltalamacchia would earn less money than Floyd in 2013, and with Saltalamacchia, as opposed to Flowers, you know what kind of production you are going to get; which is about twenty-five plus home runs, about seventy runs batted in, and around .300 on-base percentage. Unloading Saltalamacchia would clear up the current logjam the Red Sox have at catcher with new addition David Ross and prospect Ryan Lavarnway coming into the mix in 2013.
Assuming that manager Robin Ventura and current left-fielder Dayan Viciedo would be comfortable with a move to third base, Hahn and the White Sox could also take chance on soon-to-be thirty year old outfielder Daniel Nava. Nava, is a late bloomer who was able to get ample playing time last year when the Red Sox outfield was littered with injuries. Nava did well collecting walks in about 13% of his at-bats, compiling a .351 on-base percentage, and was a doubles machine. And though Nava is older, he is not free-agency eligible until age thirty-six which I presume is when he would start to decline, and would no longer be of use to the White Sox. Again, Nava would come at a cheaper cost than Floyd but would also provide a left-handed balance to the White Sox lineup.
Moving on from the boys from Beantown, we still find ourselves in the AL East and move on the Baltimore Orioles, who seemed like they would be the suitor for Gavin Floyd. Well time has gone and Floyd is still a member of the Pale Hose and the Orioles are still searching for depth at starting pitcher. Knowing that Gavin Floyd would probably not be able to bring back a top ten prospect, and not seeing any lefty bats at a position of need in the Orioles top twenty prospects I looked to their major-league outfield, and saw a very intriguing piece. Nate McLouth. McLouth is a reclamation project who came through down the stretch and into the playoffs for the O’s. McClouth can also hit for decent power, and moving into a potent lineup like the White Sox would also give him more chances for RBIs. I like this trade for the Sox as it would be an under the radar acquisition that could payoff big-time, and would allow them to have a more balance offense because McClouth isn’t the same type of hitter as Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, and Dayan Viciedo which is home run first, other hits later.
Heading over to the opposite league, and opposite coast, the Rockies are also a surprise contender to facilitate a trade for Floyd. The Rox are in dire need of veteran pitching with the likes of Drew Pomeranz, Christian Friedrich, and Juan Nicasio most likely taking starting spots in their rotation next year. Luckily for the Rox they also have a surplus of young, controllable lefty bats to offer Rick Hahn and the Sox. The desirable target of any trade involving Floyd would be former Cubs prospect Tyler Colvin who raked in Colorado last year, dropping eighteen bombs, driving in seventy-two runs, and maintaining a .327 on-base percentage. Quite the impressive showing by the for the twenty-seven year old who won’t be free agency eligible until 2017. The only downside would the transition period that almost every hitter going from the National League to the American League goes through. Colvin, according to trends will have a down year, and would need to make major adjustments to his new park which will not carry baseballs as well, and Colvin would need adjust to the tougher pitching and competition of the AL. There is no guarantee Colvin could duplicate those numbers in the AL, but the potential that he could would make this trade worth it.
However there is a chance that Colvin would be too steep of a price for Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd to pay, in that case I would hope the White Sox would ask for budding prospect Charlie Blackmon. Blackmon has seen very limited time in the major leagues, but his initial numbers are very promising as last year he accumulated a .283 batting average and also maintained a .325 on-base percentage in just a little over 100 at-bats. In addition, he showed power hitting two home runs and smashing 8 doubles. With some seasoning Blackmon could be a very good two-hole hitter for the Sox, who desperately need someone who can move current lead-off man Alejandro De Aza around the base paths.
General manager Rick Hahn has options to deal Gavin Floyd. Though he wants to be patient and wait until John Danks is for 100% healthy, the time is now to trade Floyd before he potentially hurts his value anymore. The above options are just a few of the many options that I thought of, others being Floyd for Kubel of the Diamondbacks and Floyd for the Blue Jays’ Maicer Izturis. The key to this season will be how well the White Sox bats can keep up with the juggernauts in Motown, so the Sox must try to make a trade for an impact bat or else this might be another heartbreaking season for our South Siders.
Wednesday afternoon Rick Hahn made the decision to retain outfielder DeWayne Wise for one more year at a price tag of $700,00 for the season. Last season, Wise had one of his best seasons as a major leaguer, belting eight home runs and driving 30 runs in a season that saw him play for the Yankees and end with the White Sox. It is also important to note, as every White Sox related entry about DeWayne Wise does, he saved Mark Buehrle’s perfect game. Already knew that? Well then… now that that is out of the way, let’s delve deeper into what Rick Hahn was possibly thinking when he pulled the trigger on this deal.
The White Sox starting outfield currently consists of Alex Rios, Alejandro De Aza (who is abitration eligible), and Dayan Viciedo. Alex Rios has just came off an outstanding year, which was a breath of fresh air compared to the numbers he had been putting up in season’s past. The question with him is whether or not he can replicate his production or not, and if he can, do the White Sox sell high and deal him or do they continue to pay his contract and keep him as a core member of the team. The uncertainty about what to do with Rios could have lead to Hahn signing Wise as insurance.
In left field, Dayan Viciedo seemed to figure it out last year. Right in front of our eyes he seemed to become more patient and let pitchers make bad pitches instead of making himself try to hit good ones. Viciedo is still very inconsistent and is also a liability defensively in left field, but his offensive numbers will allow manager Robin Ventura to continue running him out to left as long as he continues to hit. If Viciedo were the weak link, Hahn probably just wanted a suitable defensive replacement for late in the game.
To round out the starters in the outfield we have Alejandro De Aza, the center fielder. De Aza was a major factor in the success of the 2012 White Sox, and contigent upon the White Sox reaching an agreement with him during arbitration, he should continue to be a major table setter for the Sox for years to come. Last season, De Aza batted a respectable .281 while hammering nine home runs and 50 runs batted in. Now for a lead-off hitter, that is very impressive (excluding Mike Trout, that guy is something else). Let me also mention that De Aza also provided something that the White Sox often lack, a base-stealer. Former general manager Ken Williams often built his team to fit the small dimensions of U.S. Cellular Field: which meant loading up on power hitters and hoping that they all don’t go cold at the same time. This philosophy often lead to the team overlooking the importance of good base-stealer, but now that the Sox have De Aza, who they believe can take an extra base, and hopefully score a run we might not have scored had someone like Paul Konerko or Dunn been on base (sorry boys, no offense). This guy isn’t going anywhere.
Now that I have gone through and addressed our starting outfield, it seems that DeWayne Wise was not signed to be one of our starters (if you follow baseball or the White Sox and knew that all along I apologize). But Wise is still expected to be a contributing member of a big league club and thus would probably be a fit on the 2013 White Sox as a fourth outfielder. Thing about that is he isn’t guaranteed that job as Jordan Danks has been nipping at the fourth outfielder job’s heels for almost a year now. The question is-who should get it?
The case for DeWayne Wise retaining the fourth outfield spot follows: it would get Jordan Danks more time to polish himself in the minors, it would give us a veteran presence on the bench, and we know what we are getting with Wise. I do agree with most of the previous arguments… except for one. I feel as though Jordan Danks is as polished as he is going to get at this point. He can basically taste the majors, and is at a point in his career where he is tearing up the farm and then going up the majors and hitting setbacks. I feel as though with some patience and coaching Danks can work through his struggles and become one of our starters one day, but he needs major league at-bats and the retention of Wise is going to make winning a major league roster spot all the harder.
The case for Jordan Danks has already began to be made in the above paragraph, but if you didn’t really read that last paragraph, then I’ll sum it up with a word and a video. Potential. Danks is on the cusp of becoming a true major leaguer and we can’t let a late career surge by Wise jeopardize the development of Danks, who will have a much bigger role in the future-with the Sox. Not to mention that four of the Sox top ten prospects are outfielders and could really use the spot in Triple-A that either Wise or Danks will be using to develop faster so we can have them for the future or so we can display them as trade bait.
All in all, I see this move by Hahn as purely a depth issue. While it does give himself and Robin Ventura a lot of options in the outfield, I do hope that it doesn’t come back to bite them as far as Jordan Danks development goes.
Grade: C- (Not the splash we were expecting or hoping for)