The White Sox and GM Kenny Williams1 will have to make a decision about how to treat 2013. They came very close to winning the division in 2012, and with veterans Rios, Dunn and Konerko back for another season or two it would make sense to try to make one more run in 2013 before rebuilding. Kenny Williams hasn’t torn things down and completely started over since he has had the job and it would surprise me if he did that now. But let’s start with that scenario.
Option 1: Rebuild
The Sox should have seven of their nine position players back (Viciedo, De Aza, Rios, Ramirez, Beckham, Konerko and Dunn). Let’s start with the two literal holes, third base and catcher.
At third base, there don’t seem to be many options in the system. Rising prospect Carlos Sanchez doesn’t seem like a good fit at 3B, and it seems like he will be the 2B of the future. There is an outside chance that would open the door to move Beckham back to third, but that seems very unlikely unless Sanchez is hitting too good to keep off the team, and even then he might be an option at 3B. I remain convinced that Dayan Viciedo will ultimately land at 1B or DH, so if LF isn’t his long term home maybe moving him back to 3B for one more season wouldn’t be a horrible move. The White Sox have far more depth in the minors at OF so if they moved Viciedo that could give Jordan Danks or someone else a full time shot in LF. Regardless, it seems like they would have a lot of creative options if the moved people around.
At catcher, Tyler Flowers would be the natural option. He has shown some defensive prowess and has monster power but has major issues making contact and looks overmatched at the plate most of the time. Triple-A C Josh Phegley just won a minor league Gold Glove for his work behind the plate. He’s not a great hitter, but at least gives the Sox another option that is ready to go right now.
They could try to find someone to take Dunn and/or Rios. If they moved Dunn, they could play Konerko at DH and then use Viciedo at 1B and DH. Rios would open an outfield spot for some of their minor leaguers. They would likely have to pick up some of their salary but maybe it’s worth it if they are committing to rebuilding.
Pitching wise, the Sox would definitely try to trade Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain. They would likely try Dylan Axelrod in the rotation and be more likely to hand over bullpen spots to Brian Omogrosso and Leyton Septimo without much thought.
Option 2: All-In
The White Sox would definitely have some options to go for it in 2013. Kevin Youkilis’ option for 2013 isn’t super cheap, but it would give them a decent option for just one year without have to commit long term to someone. David Wright is the blue chip option for free agent 3B, and it seems unlikely they could find a one year option better than Youkilis.
Catcher is a bit trickier. AJ is a fan favorite and coming off a career season. Assuming Carlos Ruiz and Brian McCann don’t hit free agency (they both have options), AJ will be right there with Mike Napoli has a top free agent option. He seems happy hear and might be willing to sign a 3 year deal for around $20M, similar to what he signed in 2008. Three years is not optimal, but if they want him back that is likely what it’s going to take.
I don’t think the Sox try to upgrade any other offensive positions via free agency.
As far as the rotation goes, Sale, Danks and probably Quintana are there either way. Jake Peavy’s $22M option becomes very interesting though. If they buy him out it will cost them $4M, so essentially it’s an $18M decision. Peavy was probably one of the 20 or so best starters in baseball last year. There isn’t a better one year option for less than $18M. And again, the ability to limit the solution to just one year is huge.
Gavin Floyd was not very good last year. At best he was very unreliable, and trusting him with important starts while going for a playoff run is not the best option in the world. At $9.5M his option is not cheap either. Brett Myers is a similarly priced option ($7M net vs. buyout) that could also be had for just one season. With Peavy, Sale and Danks they might be looking for a #4 starter at best, so finding a veteran arm to take a one year flier on might not be that difficult.
Bullpen-wise, not a ton changes. Reed, Thornton, Crain, Jones and Veal still make up a bulk of the pen. If Myers wasn’t brought in as starter, he could be brought back as a reliever and closer insurance, although $7M is a whole lot for a reliever. A veteran like Tim Byrdak, Jeremy Affeldt, JC Romero, etc. could make sense too.
Which Way Will They Lean?
Bringing back AJ, Youk, Peavy and Myers will probably cost the Sox about $40M. That seems like a lot and more than I expect the White Sox to be willing to spend. But KW isn’t going to just close up shop. I expect him to make some moves, but not necessarily these. If they can’t win it in 2013, it might be a long road back.
- And/Or Rick Hahn if you believe the rumors [↩]