Where the White Sox Go From Here – Part 1

The White Sox ended the 2012 season on a disappointing note. After being in first place for most of the last two months of the season they couldn’t hold on and ended up missing the playoffs. Now they find themselves in an interesting position. Stuck in between full-on rebuilding and making a run.

Returning On Offense

The Sox have almost everyone back on offense. Adam Dunn (2 yr, $30M left) and Alex Rios (2 yr, $16M) are almost certainly untradeable. Paul Konerko only has one year remaining, but seeing how he is arguably the second best hitter in White Sox history, and has a chance to be the franchise’s all-time home run leader he isn’t going anywhere. Alexei Razmirez has three years remaining on his deal, and even though he had a down 2012 on offense and remains in the top half amongst AL shortstops with the glove.

Alejandro De Aza will be eligible for arbitration for the first time, and there is a 100% chance the White Sox either offer him arbitration or sign him to a contract. That means five of the Sox nine position players are absolute locks to return.

Gordon Beckham is also elibigle for arbitration for the first time, and despite a very weird season, FanGraphs still had him as a 0.8 WAR player. Seeing as though he is a former first round pick of the White Sox, and just turned 26, it seems virtually unlikely they would non-tender him.

Dayan Viciedo will also definitely be back, but I don’t 100% understand how his situation works. He signed a 4 year, $10M contract in 2009, but didn’t earn enough service time to be arbitration eligible. So my understanding is that the Sox are only required to pay him the Major League minimum next year. If that is true, they still might offer him some other sort of contract. Regardless, I think it’s safe to assume he is back.

That leaves just two spots, third base and catcher.

Returning On the Mound

Chris Sale emerged as the ace the White Sox haven’t had since Jack McDowell1. There are major concerns about his skinny frame and awkward delivery resulting in injuries. If he stays healthy, Randy Johnson is a possible ceiling. For the time being he is penciled in as the #1 starter. John Danks got paid like one last winter then missed the entire season. His massive raise kicks in this year and he is supposedly going to be healthy for opening day. If he lives up to the contract this is a formidable 1-2.

Jose Quintana emerged from almost nowhere to be a shutdown starter in May and June. It seemed like his arm got tired and teams started figuring him out as the season went on and he didn’t finish all that strong. Barring anything major he is likely a lock for the starting rotation. But as a third left hander the rotation might be too lefty heavy.

Hector Santiago was the closer on opening day. After he lost that job he stayed in the bullpen for a while, got sent down, stretched out his arm and then started some games at the end of the season. He was very good in those four starts and will likely get a shot at a spot in the rotation in the spring, but of course that means four left handers in the rotation.

Rookie closer Addison Reed was pretty effective as the 9th inning option, but he wasn’t the second coming of Mariano Rivera. Still, it’s his job to lose. Matt Thornton has one year left on his contract and figures to be the primary setup man. Jesse Crain also has one year left on his contract and figures to be the other late inning setup man. Nate Jones was very good out of the pen and could be given a shot at the closer role if Reed loses it, but either way he is a 4th solid arm in the pen. Donnie Veal emerged as an excellent lefty one out guy (LOOGy) and probably gets that role again next year.

That probably leaves two open bullpen spots.

Tomorrow, we look at what their options are.

  1. Apologies to Mark Buerhle who was great and will have his number retired, he wasn’t an “ace”. []