While shortstop and second base are next to each other on the diamond, the statuses of both positions for the Chicago White Sox couldn’t be further apart. One is emphatically decided for at least one more season, and the other has several options for manager Robin Ventura to pick from.
The locked in position is shortstop. 33-year old Alexei Ramirez came out of spring training last season on fire. March and April are traditionally Ramirez’s weakest months, but last season he figured out something early and hit a combined .329 in those months. In fact, he was so hot at times, longtime Sox announcer Ken “Hawk” Harrelson said that Ramirez was the same level shortstop and even better than Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
Not long after those proclamations were made Ramirez dropped off. He would go onto hit below .235 three out of the last four-plus months. A couple of categories that he was successful and an asset in to the club were with men on base and with runners in scoring position. He hit .295 and .305 respectively in those categories and was one of the reasons the Sox offense showed life at different times throughout the seasons.
While Ramirez is the guy now, one prospect to keep an eye on for the future at the position is Tim Anderson. The 21-year old hit a .301 batting average in rookie ball, high-A and double-A last season. WhiteSox.com rates Anderson as the number two prospect in the organization and number 81 overall amongst all prospects in the league. According to the site he grades at an above average level in his bat, arm and fielding while being well above average running.
Second base is a much different matter for the club. Carlos Sanchez at the position once they traded Gordon Beckham towards the end of August. Despite that chance last year, he currently resides in second place on the depth chart. The 23-year old got the chance to play in 28 games last season and hit for a .250 average. He also struck out 25 times in his 100 at-bats while supplying very little power.
Unless he blows the minds of the management with his play the likelihood of him making the roster as the starter is small, and since they are already deep with utility players he’ll probably be sent to the minors.
The top spot on the depth chart is currently held by the White Sox top prospect at the position and fourth overall in the organization, Micah Johnson. It appears that Johnson has the inside track for the starting role as long as he puts in the work and has a solid spring.
Johnson put together a solid campaign in 2014. He managed a .294 batting average while only striking out 69 times in 419 at-bats in both double-A and triple-A. His batting average was actually right on par with his career average of a .297.
He also provides a speed threat on the bases. In 2013 Johnson stole 87 bases in 114 attempts between low-A, high-A, double-A, and Arizona fall ball. His speed is something the Sox have been missing on the base paths for a while now.
For the last several years the Sox seemed content with a base to base approach to running or making mistakes on the base paths that runs the team out of the inning. So if he is able to break camp with the big club, he could provide a spark at the bottom of the order ahead of leadoff hitter Adam Eaton.
Another person in the competition for the position is the formerly departed, but now returning, Beckham. He was signed as a utility player who could play all over the infield and that’s how the Sox plan to use him. He currently sits third on the depth chart at third base and second behind Alexei Ramirez at shortstop. So unless Johnson and Sanchez blow their chance at the position this spring, Beckham should remain as the reserve across the majority of the infield positions.
A couple other players fighting for playing time this season are Emilio Bonifacio and Leury Garcia. Bonifacio is set to split time at third base with Conor Gillaspie so the amount of time he’d see at the other positions should be limited. He also could potentially be used as a back-up outfielder in center as well.
Garcia will be fighting to break camp with the Sox. The 23-year old spent time at a wide variety of positions last season, including an inning on the mound in extra innings. His dismal year last season could play a role into the Sox managements decision if he has a mediocre spring training.
The Sox are deep with players at both positions. As Cactus League games begin, keep an eye on the race for second base because it could be a tight one down the stretch between the young guys and the veteran players.
To say the 2014 Chicago White Sox team was disappointing would be a hefty understatement. The point of last season was to retool instead of rebuilding while trying to save money on payroll at the same time. The plan ended up being an ultimate failure and it showed in the fact the stadium looked 90 percent empty during most games. The message from the fans didn’t fall on deaf ears.
There were so many holes left on the White Sox roster heading into this offseason. General Manager Rick Hahn had to find out from Owner Jerry Reinsdorf exactly how much money he had to work with for payroll. Last season the White Sox hovered around $91 million dollars for payroll last season. Reinsdorf told Hahn he could raise the payroll to address the needs of the team.
Need #1 – Finding a designated hitter/back-up first baseman
When Hahn went to work on fixing the roster, one of the first signings he made was on a back-up first baseman and designated hitter. He hooked former Washington National’s first baseman Adam LaRoche to a 2-year, $25 million contract.
LaRoche was the arguably the best first baseman on the market, but he also gives the White Sox a left-handed hitter. The 35-year old brings a career .264 average to a lineup in desperate need of protection in the heart of the lineup for Jose Abreu. While he doesn’t bring a lot of power with him, only averaging 22 home runs a season, in such a hitter friendly ballpark like U.S. Cellular he should be able to reach 20-25 home runs pretty easily.
One concern fans might have with his signing could be that at his age there’s possibility of deterioration of skills. One argument against that mind set is that he improved his average .022 over the previous season and had his second highest WAR of his career with a 2.1.
Another concern that may face the club is the fact LaRoche has had very little experience hitting in the designated hitter position. He holds a career .190 average in 21 at-bats, and as Sox fans remember with Adam Dunn, it could be challenging for a career national league player to get used to being a designated hitter. It’ll be important for Manager Robin Ventura to try to use him as much as possible in that position during spring training to get a jump start on getting him used to not playing the field.
Grade on the move – B
Need #2 – Bullpen bridge work
What ended up actually being the first move of the free agency period for the White Sox, management snagged left-handed reliever Zach Duke with a 3-year, $15 million contract. Duke was a non-roster invitee last season for the Milwaukee Brewer and made the team out of spring training. He would go on to post his third best ERA in his 10-year career with a 2.45. Even though he may be used as a left-handed specialist, Duke did his best damage in the eighth inning of games where he carried a 1.10 ERA in 19 appearances last season during that inning. He showed up 35 times in the seventh inning and posted a 2.70 ERA. Either way, the most important thing is if he’s able to repeat or even come close to what he threw out there last season, he’ll be a huge improvement over pretty much anyone the White Sox rolled out of the pen last season.
The Sox has been busy since the signing of Zach Duke trying to bring in as many relievers they can to try to help improve the pen. At the end of the winter meetings in San Diego, the Sox pulled the string on a trade with Miami for 27-year old, left-handed reliever Dan Jennings.
Jennings is in his third year in the league and has a career 2.43 ERA in 100 innings pitched. An area that needs big improvement in his game is his WHIP. Last season he carried a 1.537 WHIP and for his career 1.460. On the bright side he held a 1.34 ERA last season even though he had such a high WHIP. So if he can manage to keep hitters off base, he could be a big plus in the pen for the next couple seasons since he doesn’t reach free agency until the 2020 season.
This month the Sox have also added former Sox players Jesse Crain and Scott Carroll to the non-roster invitees list for spring training in the hopes to find a spark.
Crain is coming off a biceps tendinitis surgery in 2013 and didn’t throw one pitch in the pros last season for the Astros. So to expect this move to come up aces for the Sox is taking a leap, but he did pitch relatively well for the Sox from 2011-2013. In his two and a half seasons with the south side club, Crain carried a 2.11 ERA for those seasons. If his stuff comes back to the level it was prior to his surgery, Crain could find himself in the setup role for the Sox allowing Duke and the others to be the specialists coming out of the pen.
Scott Carroll was mostly a starter for the team last season and didn’t fair very well in the 19 starts he had. However, he did come out of the pen seven times last season and was much better in the short term use. Out of the pen he carried a 1.99 ERA in 22 innings pitched and hitters’ averages dropped .095 compared to his starts. Carroll could be more successful in limited spurts from the pen. If they could use him as a specialist in the seventh or eighth innings, he could end up being more successful.
The Sox have also invited right-handers J.D. Martin, Nolan Sanburn, Chris Beck, Brad Penny, Shawn Haviland, and the organization’s 7th overall prospect Tyler Danish.
Danish was the organization’s second round pick in 2013, and could end up in the bullpen as a setup man or closer in the next couple seasons. He has a unique delivery that is in a side arm slot but he still is able to bring his hand more over the top. It’s an extreme angle that has a lot of people a little nervous about him having future arm troubles, but it’s the delivery that could make him a very successful reliever. He is expected to push through the minors quickly and could be up with the big club in 2016 or 2017.
They’ve also invited 2014’s number three overall draft pick Carlos Rodon to spring training. The left-handed pitcher has tons of hype surrounding him and is expected to see pro ball at some point throughout the coming season. The Sox could use him out of the pen in his first season or two like they did with Chris Sale. He jumped his way through the minors in his half season with the organization, but could be held back at the beginning of the year to help delay the clock starting on his service time in the league.
Grade on the moves – C
Need #3 – Fishing for a closer
Through the process of the winter meetings GM Rick Hahn had to keep checking in on how much he would be able to spend on payroll. Things fell in place for the Sox that Hahn was able to give Jerry Reinsdorf a plan that could work but it would require him to spend a little more than what was originally planned. Reinsdorf liked the plan so much that he approved the management team to spend more on payroll.
On the third day of the winter meetings, Hahn and the Sox were able to convince right-handed closer David Robertson to sign with the club. MLB.com quoted Robertson on a conference call talking about the signing with Rick Hahn and the Sox, “I like the moves he’s making with getting [Adam] LaRoche and Zach Duke and the trade for [Jeff] Samardzija. I feel like he’s building a good squad that’s really going to be a competitor next year, and I’m hoping we end up back in the playoffs.”
“Every time we played the White Sox, they were an incredibly tough team to beat. They just grinded it out against us. Obviously, they were on my radar from the beginning and I was glad that I was approached by them and once they – making those extra moves really helped solidify the direction I wanted to go, which was being a Chicago White Sox.”
Robertson put his name to a 4-year, $46 million contract to become the closer for the Sox.
The top player at his position on the market, Robertson brings a career 2.21 ERA in save situations to the club. He saved 39 games last season in 44 attempts for the Yankees last season. He will bring credibility to the position for the Sox which was searching all last season for someone to fill the role after they had traded their young closer Addison Reed to Arizona last offseason.
Grade on the move – A
Need #4 – A quality left fielder
To improve the lineup and the defense, Rick Hahn needed to find someone who could not only hit better and field better than Alejandro DeAza and Dayan Viciedo have in recent seasons. Hahn looked at who was available on the free agency market and was able to get former Yankee Melky Cabrera to ink to a 3-year, $42 million contract.
The switch hitting left fielder’s history says he’s going to be a player that gets on base and doesn’t strike out much. He’s a player that makes contact often and puts the ball in play which is an asset the Sox miss from the lineup year in and year out. Those skills in theory should make him a solid pick for the two holes in the lineup and would allow him to set up the heart of the lineup to have more opportunities to drive in runs. Also with his ability to switch hit he could allow Ventura to set up a left and right combo down the lineup through the heart of it.
The 30-year old also hasn’t had more than four errors in the field during any season, and is half of what the departed Dayan Viciedo put up in 2014 alone. 2015 could end up being one of the best fielding outfields the White Sox have fielded in a while. Cabrera and Eaton offer a wide fielding range, and with the weight loss Garcia has focused on this offseason, the outfield should have fewer gaps in it this season. Its skills the Sox have needed because they play in a division with teams that have massive outfields.
The only concern Sox fans might have is if Cabrera gets caught on PEDs again. If he does it again he would be out for a whole season’s worth of games. It’s a concern, but one would have to assume that Hahn looked into it and flat out asked Cabrera about it. He apparently heard what he needed and the Sox got a much better player than what they’ve had in left field the last several seasons.
Grade on the move – A
Need #5 – Quality starter
Last season the Sox’s fourth and fifth starters were highly questionable. In order to save on payroll the Sox used pitchers like Felipe Paulino, Erik Johnson, Andre Rienzo, and Scott Carroll in those spots and were pretty much complete failures.
In an unexpected move, Rick Hahn and Billy Bean were able to pull off a trade in which Hahn would send right-handed pitcher Chris Bassitt, catcher Josh Phegley, first baseman Rangel Ravelo and shortstop Marcus Semien to Oakland for right-handed pitcher Jeff Samardzija and prospect pitcher Michael Ynoa.
It’s a move that lured David Robertson to the club and showed that the White Sox were serious about retooling and were making a commitment to compete in 2015. It also has Sox fans buying tickets again according to Rick Hahn, and because of that they were able to spend more money on payroll for players like Melky Cabrera.
Samardzija grew up a Sox fan in the Valparasio, Indiana area and has said he’s excited about getting the chance to be “home.” The former Cubs ace had a 2.99 combined ERA last season pitching for both the Cubs and A’s. He’ll fit in nicely as the number two pitcher on the team and gives the Sox one of the best top of the rotation combinations in the majors.
According to WhiteSox.com, Samardzija’s agent, Mark Rodgers told MLB Network Radio’s “The Front Office” with Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette on Sunday that both he and his client would be open to listening to offers if the club would like to throw numbers at them.
“Obviously they really put in a lot of effort this offseason to make that club better,” Rogers said. “And so out of due respect to [White Sox chairman] Mr. [Jerry] Reinsdorf and to [general manager] Rick Hahn, who’s done a heck of a job, and [executive vice president] Kenny Williams, I told those guys, ‘Any time you want to talk, I’ll listen. Jeff and I will certainly talk.”
The Sox have both Chris Sale and Jose Quintana locked up till 2019 and 2020 so it’s possible that they would be able to sign Samardzija to a favorable contract on both sides. It would likely depend on the length of contract Samardzija would want, but until then, the Sox hope that he can continue his success and help carry the team to the playoffs.
Grade on the move – A
Need #6 – Utility players
The trade of Marcus Semien and designating Jordan Danks for assignment opens up holes at utility players for both the infield and outfield. So Rick Hahn needed to find players who were good defenders that would be able to give breaks to the starters but not lose a ton at the plate.
Journeyman Emilio Bonifacio was the perfect example of someone Hahn was looking for. He has the ability to play all infield positions except for first base and has played all the outfield field positions well. He has a .262 career batting average for seven different teams. Thoughts are he may platoon at third base with Conor Gillaspie but will more than likely see some time at shortstop and second base as well.
The Sox were also reached out to another former Cub, Tony Campana for their utility outfield position. The non-roster invitee has a career .249 batting average in 438 at-bats, and will be used as a defensive replacement player unless there’s an injury to the starters.
The latest player that will come to camp is former Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham. Sox management acquired him from free agency on a one-year, $2 million contract and is planning to use him as a utility infielder that will fill in at all the positions in the infield other than first base. He posted a .293 average last season versus left-handed pitchers which is the type of player the Sox were looking to lock in for this season. Unfortunately his history says he’s a career .244 average versus left-handed pitchers. It’ll be interesting to see how Beckham does in his second go around with the club.
Grade on the move – D/D-
This offseason has Sox fans energized again for baseball to start again for the first time in a while. As a fan it’s been fun hearing other fans, tv and radio personalities talking about the Sox making the playoffs. Even though Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections have the Sox falling into third place in the division, it hasn’t put out the flame of Sox fans expectations and excitement!
In the next couple of weeks leading up to the start of the season, we’ll look into each position individually, a preview of each division, and other topics to get you ready and informed for the 2015 season!
While the Chicago Cubs are getting a ton of attention for the way they’ve been rebuilding their roster over the past three seasons, the Chicago White Sox have been forced to use different tactics as they try to become competitive again in the AL Central.
The Cubs had to completely tear down and rebuild their MLB roster and farm system over the course of the past three years, and while their attendance and revenues have suffered as a result (not to mention the gallons of ink spilled by local scribes who simply refuse to believe that the process was necessary), they still are able to do this because they are a big-market team in a big-market town.
The White Sox, on the other hand, are forced to go about things differently. Instead of being able to just deal away high priced assets for younger talent, the Sox have to put up a façade every year that they are going to compete for a division title. Even with that statement being made every year by Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn, the Sox are still about to go through their fifth straight season of not making the playoffs.
Despite that obstacle of having to straddle the line between competing and rebuilding, the White Sox are still capable of making some shrewd moves. They signed Jose Abreu to a free agent contract in the offseason, and even though it was a gamble to give a Cuban player that kind of money, he has rewarded the team for their faith, slugging the ball and wowing fans with his explosive skillset.
The Sox also acquired Adam Eaton in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and even though the loss of Addison Reed had a cataclysmic effect on their bullpen (a large part of the reason they aren’t competitive this season), having a speed guy at the top of the lineup who can play solid defense is a good building block for a team looking to turn things around.
Those moves were really good, but a couple of moves that the Sox made over the past few days are further indication that Hahn is gearing up to make another big splash in the 2014 offseason. That’s because the team unloaded Alejandro De Aza to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Mark Blackmar and Miguel Chalas on Saturday, and then followed that up on Sunday by trading Adam Dunn to the Oakland Athletics for Nolan Sanburn.
The pitchers the White Sox got back in these trades are decent prospects, and while none of them are likely to have the kind of impact on the team’s future that experts predict Avisail Garcia (acquired in the Jake Peavy trade last season) will, the fact that the team was able to clear nearly $10 million off of their books for next season, while clearing roster space for youngsters to come up for MLB auditions this season, is a coup by Hahn.
For all of the attention that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have gotten for their rebuild of the Cubs, the amount of fortitude and intelligence it takes to work within the constraints that Hahn finds himself limited by has to be commended. No the Sox aren’t going to make the playoffs this year, and no they don’t exactly have a farm system flush with talent, but when push comes to shove, Hahn is playing his cards right no matter what hand he is dealt.
Today marks the week anniversary of the start of spring training games for the White Sox. After today’s win at the Cincinnati Reds, the Sox have 3 wins, 4 losses, and a tie for a record.
While the Sox are still trying to win games, even this early in spring training, getting ready for the regular season is most important. An example of that is pitchers that are working on pitch location, arm strength, or even learning a new pitch. John Danks is currently trying to hone in on creating a solid cut fastball.
“We actually worked on throwing it to both sides of the plate, and that was effective.” Dank’s told ChicagoWhiteSox.com. “It was around the zone, had a sharp break on it. That’s where I expected to be at this point. Keep on improving, but I’m really pleased with how it was so far.”
This is what spring training is all about. Danks had major issues last season controlling his pitches, especially with his cutter. His cutter last season lacked the snap that his cutter had before the surgery. He came to camp wanting to work on making his cutter more efficient and have more bite. He showed off his work in his game against the Mariners, where he went scoreless through three innings and had two strike outs.
Danks is trying to solidify his stuff as he’s vying for the second spot in the rotation against Jose Quintana. No matter which guy is second or third in the rotation, it gives the White Sox three left-handed people at the top of their rotation which is pretty rare throughout the league.
Jose Abreu is using his time in spring training to become accustomed to major league pitching. Abreu crushed his first home run of the spring Thursday against the Royals. He’s shown his natural power even in fly outs on pitches out of the zone when he muscles them to within feet of the warning track in the outfield. Abreu only has two hits in 10 at-bats in the spring, one home run and one double. The good news is that he’s making contact in every at-bat as he has no strike outs so far.
Another bright spot so far of the off-season is center fielder, Adam Eaton. The left-hander has had an excellent start to camp. In the four games he’s played in, Eaton has gone five for nine with a walk and a stolen base. If Eaton, who went one for one today in the game against Cincinnati, continues to have a hot bat through the spring, it may open up the possibility of the Sox trading Alejandro DeAza.
With Eaton’s emergence, there have been rumors that the White Sox would consider trading either Dayan Viciedo or Alejandro DeAza. Both players right now are going to be splitting playing time in left field throughout the season. Both also are at the end of the minor league options, but it’s DeAza that has only one more year of arbitration left of control. The Sox already have a back-up in the outfield, Jordan Danks. So it leaves Alejandro DeAza the odd man out.
In fact, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN in Minnesota, there are people in the Twins’ front office who are big fans of DeAza. It’d be a little odd for the Twins to go after DeAza since they have a plethora of young outfield talent in their organization. The Tigers may be a better fit for DeAza since they lost Andy Dirks for about three months. He’d be in another backup or platoon situation but would likely be Torii Hunter’s replacement if he leaves via free agency in 2015. According to MLB Trade Rumors, the Orioles, Mariners, and Pirates may also be a few teams that could use an upgrade in the outfield.
Tomorrow the Sox take on the Arizona Diamondbacks at Camelback Ranch. Jose Quintana’s first pitch will be at 1:05 pm MST as he faces off Brandon McCarthy.
Welcome to the start of the 2014 season! This season has several offensive story lines to keep an eye on, and most of them will have an impact on whether the Chicago White Sox can climb out of the basement of the American League Central.
One of the story lines that’s been hovering over the team this off-season is the pending retirement of Paul Konerko. Konerko, coming off one of his overall worst seasons, announced this off-season that he will retire at the end of the year. He also is going to have his role on the team reduced with the signing of Jose Abreu.
Almost every year that Konerko has had a rough season, he’s managed to recover and have solid seasons. In 2003, he hit .234 and turned his fortunes around the following year for a .277 average. Again in 2008, he could only manage a .240 average but spun it around the next year for another .277 average. He has shown the ability in the past to fight back the next year for a decent season.
What will the story lines read for Paul Konerko at the end of 2014? Did a cut in playing time affect his chances of bouncing back, and did the decision to publicize the fact that he’ll retire at the end of the season be a distraction?
Another story line walking into spring training is, “Will the in-season and off-season acquisitions help to bring the White Sox back to October?” Avisail Garcia, Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson all have the ability to make an impact on this year’s roster.
Avisail Garcia came on via trade at the end of July last season, and tried to create a spark in the team when he was called up a week and a half later. He hit a .304 average last season and had 4 doubles, 2 triples, and 5 home runs in the 42 games he played in for the Sox. He has yet to play in more than the 42 games in a season.
The “Next Miggy” (as people have named him, comparing him to Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers), Garcia will get the chance to prove the nickname true as he heads into his first full season. The 22-year-old will roam the field in right for the White Sox in 2014, and bring his solid defense with him (having only committed 3 errors in the 92 games he’s play in the majors). If he is still a beast defensively, can maintain the .300 average, and be a major extra base threat at the plate, he’ll be a major asset for the Sox as the season and his career go along.
The White Sox went on and signed Jose Abreu in October. The 6 foot, 3 inch, first baseman was sought after as the heir to Paul Konerko’s first base position. He is projected to be a .290 hitter with 30 plus home runs a season. The Sox are hoping that those projections start with his rookie season. The 27-year-old first baseman may have an adjustment period coming in to this season- especially being in a rotation at first base and designated hitter with Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko.
The first player traded for in December was Adam Eaton. The Sox were looking for a young center fielder that could be productive and under their control for a while. With Eaton, they receive a center fielder that’s hard-nosed like former Sox player, Aaron Rowand. He also gives them a 25-year-old that isn’t up for arbitration till 2016, and the earliest he can reach free agency is 2019.
In the 88 games he’s seen as a pro, Eaton has put up a .254 average, 24 extra base hits, and 31 walks. The White Sox are hoping that he brings with him some of his abilities in the minors. He probably won’t hit the .348 average like in the minors, but closer to a .280 avg. with a mid .300’s OBP (On Base Percentage). The Sox are going to be looking at the former Arizona Diamondback to get on base and cause some havoc.
The final acquisition from the Diamondbacks was third baseman, Matt Davidson. The 23-year-old, rookie was traded for less than a week after Eaton. He will compete with Jeff Keppinger and Connor Gillaspie, who combined for around a .230 average last season for the starter’s role at third base. Davidson’s projected as a 30 home run hitter but comes with a high strike out rate. If he can hit even .240 with 25-30 home runs in his first couple seasons, he’ll be a big improvement on offense compared to his competitors at third base.
These are the major story lines on the offensive side for the White Sox heading into a 2014 with unknown potential ahead of them. Could all these story lines mesh together to have a magical season, we’ll find out as the season moves along!
“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it!” Those words couldn’t possibly be the way any White Sox fan, player, coach or office guy thought of the team going into the off season. In fact, this has been one of the most efficient off-seasons the White Sox have had in a while.
The team signed an international player who has the potential to be a future star in first baseman Jose Abreu, who will be the heir to Paul Konerko’s spot at first base when he retires at the end of the season. They then proceeded to trade twice with the Arizona Diamondbacks in less than a week of each other. In those transactions they picked up a center fielder, Adam Eaton and a third baseman, Matt Davidson who will be under the team’s control for several years.
The Sox also signed right handed pitchers Ronald Belisario and Mitchell Boggs to contracts while letting Brent Morel go to Toronto on waivers. Catcher Adrian Nieto was also claimed off waivers but this time by the Sox from the Nationals.
In return for all this work General Manager Rick Hahn has done to retool, not rebuild the White Sox hasn’t gone unnoticed. In fact, Sports Illustrated has given the team an A minus for it’s off season work. They are tied for second with Kansas City and the San Francisco Giants to only the St. Louis Cardinals who received an A plus for the job they did.
White Sox fans will still have mixed feelings going into this season. They’ll especially feel that way when Baseball Prospectus has their PECOTA standings with the Sox finishing fourth behind the Tigers, Indians, and Royals at 76 wins and 86 losses. Will the offense come back? Can the young guys in the bullpen close out games for the starters, and who’s all going to be in the rotation behind Chris Sale and John Danks? Who’s going to be the everyday catcher and third baseman this season? Like the old adage says, “That’s why they play the games!”
The White Sox need a catcher to step up or find one. The White Sox played the 2013 season with three different catchers, two of which were rookies. It sounds like they weren’t content with what they saw. Who can really blame them though?
They started the season with Tyler Flowers, who tanked to a .195 average. Then Hector Gimenez stepped in as a backup and only came up with a .191 batting average. He was sent down to the minors by the All Star break. Josh Phegley stepped into the role next, took over the starting catcher position and proceeded to only manage a .206 average. So needless to say they need an upgrade at the position.
According to MLB Trade Rumors’ Steve Adams, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Times is reporting that the Tampa Rays are listening to offers for their catcher Jose Lobaton.
Lobaton, a switch hitting catcher, batted .249 last season as well as a .320 on base percentage. He had 7 homeruns in 277 at bats, plating 32 RBI. If he could match these numbers he’d be a definitely upgrade compared to who the Sox played with last year. It would also help with the lack of left handed hitters on a mostly right handed roster.
According to Adams, Lobaton has some defensive issues. He brings up the fact that he only threw out 16 percent of attempted base stealers and had a hard time blocking pitches in the dirt.
Catching around the league hasn’t been anything too special as of late especially when it comes to offense. The White Sox are going to have to look in a mirror and tell themselves we have three catchers that can’t bat higher than .210, and aren’t throwing runners out at a 50 percent average anyways. So depending what the Rays want in return, the Sox need to consider pulling the string on this trade.
It would give you a 29 year old catcher who can hit a middle of the road average, will be patient at the plate and isn’t going to hurt any worse than what they have defensive anyways. They could send Phegley and Gimenez back to the minors to get playing time, and use Tyler Flowers as the backup.
The Sox would have to consider this pretty quick because the Sox are not alone in the trade talks. According to Adams article, the Diamondbacks, Indians, Rockies, Mets and Nationals all are teams with interest or need at the catcher position. Also, Lobaton’s contract is controllable until the 2017-18 offense.