White Sox all business as Winter Meetings approach
Despite big signing of slugger Abreu, GM Hahn knows lots of work still to be done
CHICAGO -- There won't be any time for the White Sox to have fun in the Disney World area next week when they travel to the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for the Winter Meetings.
Arguably their biggest offseason move came before Halloween, when the White Sox agreed to a six-year, $68 million deal with free agent Jose Abreu. The Cuban first baseman's dynamic presence is expected to give a jolt to a White Sox offense that struggled mightily in '13.
General manager Rick Hahn admits plenty of work still needs to be done in the reshaping or retooling process of a 99-loss team. Whether those moves come in Florida or somewhere down the line will play out soon.
Here's a look at the White Sox wants and goals as they get ready for the annual get together.
Catcher: Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley are back in the fold after earning high marks from their pitchers but posting subpar offensive statistics. Even with the White Sox confidence in this tandem, it's highly unlikely they will go to Spring Training with the same two. Even Flowers expects another name added to the mix.
Bullpen: The White Sox have a solid quartet at the back end of their relief crew in Addison Reed, Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom and the addition of Ronald Belisario pending a physical. But they also traded away valuable arms in Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain, veterans who could step in to late-game situations. Left-handed relief is a little inexperienced via Donnie Veal and Charlie Leesman, unless Hector Santiago returns to a bullpen role. So, a southpaw becomes the top target.
Starting pitcher: How can the White Sox strong suit also become a need? With pitching standing out as the driving force behind possible '14 contention, there's always room to strengthen. The White Sox might look for a veteran innings-eater who could slot in somewhere around No. 3 in the rotation.
Offensive upgrade: Yes, it's a bit of a generic description. But when the '13 offense was the only one in the American League to score fewer than 600 runs, and that same offense checks in with an on-base percentage of .302, then the options for change become pretty wide open. The White Sox are set at first base/designated hitter with Abreu, Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn, but they are looking to become a little more athletic overall.
Third base: Conor Gillaspie has earned high marks from the White Sox organization for his swing and overall offensive approach. Jeff Keppinger, in the second of a three-year deal, is fully expected to have a better showing than his White Sox debut. And Marcus Semien is rising fast through the system as a challenge for the position. But the White Sox still could look to add here from the outside.
Who they can trade if necessary
Almost anybody: When a team loses 99 times, it sort of loses the right to have untouchables. Chris Sale, Abreu and Avisail Garcia stand as the only three who are pretty much off limits for potential suitors.
Starting pitcher: Four left-handed starters make Santiago, Jose Quintana and John Danks trade targets. The White Sox certainly aren't looking to deal from their strength, but they could do so if the right significant return is offered.
Dunn: There's no question as to the value of the veteran slugger, who is good for 30-40 homers, 80-100 RBIs and somewhere around 100 walks. He's also a pure home run hitter on a team that launched just 148 last year, and an important left-handed bat in a right-handed-heavy lineup. And with $15 million due in the finale of a four-year, $56 million deal, Dunn might be tough to move. But with Dunn, Konerko and Abreu all in the first base/DH mix, the White Sox would probably be open to exploring a deal for Dunn.
Keppinger: A strong bounce-back effort is being counted on for the career .282 hitter, who has two years and $8.5 million left on his contract. But with Semien in the mix, the White Sox could move Keppinger and use some form of Gillaspie and Semien at third.
Gordon Beckham: Beckham dealt with a plethora of injuries in '13 that truly limited what could have been a strong year with the bat. His defense already is considered one of the best in the AL at his position. But teams such as Toronto have had interest in Beckham, who could produce some sort of young talent haul in return. Semien and Micah Johnson have the ability to move in at second if Beckham is traded.
Alexei Ramirez: Again, pretty much anyone is available from this underachieving team. Despite a high error total in '13, Ramirez remains one of the more complete shortstops in the AL.
Alejandro De Aza: Some consider De Aza more of a fourth outfielder because his defense is not exactly steady in center and his baserunning was poor, especially in '13. He does have a potent left-handed bat and speed that could entice a contender, with the White Sox having a number of outfield prospects within their system.
Both Semien (No. 8) and Johnson (No. 15) are among the White Sox Top 20 prospects per MLB.com, and each skyrocketed through the system in '13 with gaudy Minor League numbers. Johnson, in fact, topped the Minors with 84 stolen bases. As has been mentioned above, they certainly look ready to contribute across the infield at the Major League level, but they could also benefit from another year of Minor League seasoning.
Starting pitcher Erik Johnson not only proved he's big league ready with his September showing, but MLB.com's No. 2 White Sox prospect is penciled in for the '14 rotation. Keep an eye on Brad Goldberg, who could be used as a starter next season at the Minor League level, but also could help the White Sox out of the bullpen. Other top-ranked prospects such as Courtney Hawkins, Tim Anderson, Trayce Thompson and Tyler Danish still aren't Major League-ready.
Rule 5 Draft
Angel Sanchez was selected by the White Sox in the first round of the 2012 Rule 5 Draft but injuries and ineffective play prevented him from panning out with the team. The White Sox will be at 40 on their 40-man roster once Belisario passes his physical, meaning they can't add anyone unless they open a spot for a Rule 5 selection.
Big contracts they might unload
Hahn already started this process last season when he traded Jake Peavy, added outfielder Garcia from the Tigers in a three-way deal and moved right fielder Alex Rios (along with Thornton and Crain). Danks stands as the lone truly big contract remaining, with three years and $42.75 million total still owed to the southpaw. Danks made 22 starts in 2013 after having season-ending shoulder surgery in '12 and could draw some interest in his first full healthy season since the procedure.
An exact total has not been provided as to what the White Sox payroll will be for '14, but it figures to be somewhere in the mid-to-high $80 million range. While it's a drop from the '13 operating total of roughly around $112 million, the White Sox definitely have room to operate. Then again, they won't make moves just to say they made moves. The deals have to make sense in the short term, but more importantly, in building a successful base for the future.