The White Sox showed fans they were serious about contending this offseason. They re-signed Paul Konerko and AJ Pierzynski. They signed big name free agent Adam Dunn, as well as Jesse Crain and Will Ohman to the bullpen. Then they announced their slogan for the season was “All In.” And Jerry Reinsdorf went as far as to basically say in so many words “fans need to show up or we won’t be able to cover our costs over the next couple of years.”
Fast forward a month into the season. The fans aren’t showing up and the team has the worst record in the majors. As bad as the bullpen was early on, the offense has been worse. Adam Dunn either hasn’t recovered from his appendectomy, can’t adjust to being a DH, can’t handle the cold, signed a big contract and wants to coast, or some combination of those. Either way, he has been abysmal. Carlos Quentin got off to a white hot start but hasn’t hit a home run since his 2 dinger outburst on April 22nd (some 40 at-bats ago). Paul Konerko is the only true bright spot, perhaps showing that last year’s career year wasn’t a fluke.
Matt Thornton has been a bit better the last couple of weeks but his four straight blown saves set the team back. Chris Sale hasn’t been playing well either. But Jesse Crain and Sergio Santos have both been spectacular. Overall the bullpen will be OK long term, because even if Crain and Santos regress, Thornton and Sale will (hopefully) get better.
The rotation has had its moments, John Danks has been pretty solid, Phillip Humber has exceed expectations, Edwin Jackson has been erratic, but great at times and Mark Buehrle hasn’t looked like his usual self. Gavin Floyd is the real mystery, with a huge improvement in his K/9 numbers but also a large rise in HR/91.
This rough start could mean big problems for the 2012 Chicago White Sox. The White Sox have eight guys either eligible for free agency or arbitration this winter, and $94 million committed to 12 players (when you factor in other non-arbitration players it’s probably another couple million to get it to 18 players2). That means if they keep payroll at the 2011 total, they have about $33M to replace/re-sign the eight guys below:
Mark Buerhle: A huge fan favorite and a 100% lock (along with Paul Konerko) to get his number retired by the team someday. Buehrle is a 10 and 5 player,3 but being the team player he is would likely allow a trade at the deadline if he thinks it would help the Sox. His value isn’t what it used to be but he will likely command a decent contract this winter. The Sox should match it and give him what he wants until he retires but ultimately I think he ends up elsewhere to finish his career if the Sox can’t turn it around.
John Danks: A tough position for the Sox. He is arbitration eligible for 3rd and final time and likely will earn close to $10 million for 2012. He has made it pretty clear that he will file for free agency after the 2012 season, where things would get interesting for the White Sox. They will still owe Konerko, Dunn and Rios a combined $41 million for 2013, and they will have a $4M buyout for Jake Peavy. The problem is that I don’t know if they will be able to afford nearly $10M for 2012, and if they aren’t confident they can re-sign him in 2013 they might not want to roll the dice. Bottom line: I won’t be shocked to see Danks moved at the deadline or in the winter.
Edwin Jackson: He is a free agent this winter and will test the market no matter what. I can’t see any way he is back with the Sox because they almost certainly would spend the money on Buehrle or Danks rather than Jackson.
Juan Pierre: No way Pierre is back unless it’s for less than half of the $8.5M he is making this year. I think Pierre will go back to the NL and be a PR/PH/4th OF kind of guy.
Ramon Castro: Could be back, but if Tyler Flower is going to get a shot it has to be soon. AJ can’t hit anymore and I think bringing up Flowers to start 3 out of 5 games next season should be the plan. Castro is cheap enough that he won’t matter much if they do bring him back.
Omar Vizquel: Vizquel wants 3000 hits. He will need 1-2 more seasons to do that. He has been affordable for the Sox and can still play. I don’t see why at this point they wouldn’t bring him back because I don’t know if you can get what he brings for much less and he seems happy here.
Tony Pena: It was kind of a head-scratcher to me that the White Sox brought this guy back for $1.6M this year. Based on his start this year they would be idiotic to do it again.
Carlos Quentin: The biggest question will be Carlos. He avoided arbitration with a $5M deal this winter and will likely demand more no matter how this season plays out. He doesn’t have Danks’ trade value so I don’t see him getting moved. I am guessing the Sox will try to bring him back if they think they can do it for a reasonable price.
The real issue is that if the White Sox opt to “rebuild” the only way to do it is to cut loose (or trade) all of the guys above. They have a bunch of untradeable contracts and the only silver lining is that Peavy can be bought out for the 2013 season. In the meantime, how are the 8 guys above replaced?
Rios could move to RF if he had to. The other in-house OF options are Jared Mitchell, Jordan Danks and Dayan Viciedo. Viciedo is likely the only one with a bat close to Major League ready, but who knows if he could play the OF. Brent Lillibridge although his fast start is likely an anomaly. Castro would likely be replaced by Flowers and Pena can be replaced by a junior high kid I’m sure. Vizquel is more valuable than it seems but he’s not the end of the world either.
The starting pitching gets real interesting though. Losing those three would leave Peavy, Floyd and Humber. Floyd is unreliable, but could have the most trade value of anyone left so him pitching well could lead to him leaving town. Humber has looked good but it’s way to early to jump to conclusions there. Chris Sale would almost certainly move to the rotation but so far there isn’t anyone in the minors close.
What does it all mean? If the season continues as is, and fans continue to not show up the White Sox will likely compensate for this accordingly. It will mean cutting ties with the guys above. It will mean trying to compete with a lot of holes and unproven players. It could mean that things only get worse from here. I guess someone forgot to tell Jerry that when you go “All In” you better be holding the nuts.
- And it hasn’t even warmed up in Chicago yet [↩]
- This includes Dayan Viciedo who in the minors [↩]
- Meaning he can’t be traded without his permission [↩]