SBN Chicago's baseball guy -- seriously, everyone else hates it -- Z.W. Martin, reviews Chicago's off-season moves, previews the 2012 season and predicts the future.
Last week, I previewed the 2012 Cubs. It would be wonderful if you could check that out as well. Today is a brand new day and I had the "pleasure" to do the same for the White Sox. It's fairly optimistic and hopeful -- at least for 2012 -- all things considered. I also coach high school, college and professional baseball players, so I may have a different angle than some of your normal reads (old white guys). Enjoy and thanks for reading.
Off-season in review: Kenny Williams -- officially the worst G.M. in Chicago (big shout out to one Phil Emery, y'all) -- had an interesting off-season. After stating the White Sox were not in rebuilding mode, he then decided they were, trading away his extremely controllable closer, Sergio Santos, to the Blue Jays for pitching prospect Nestor Molina, a top ten Toronto prospect (some had him ranked as high as two). Carlos Quentin -- and his $7 million salary -- was next to go, shipped to San Diego for a couple pairs of turf shoes -- RHP Simon Castro and LHP Pedro Hernandez. Both prospects were not ranked in the top 20 in the Padres highly-touted farm system.
Chicago also let fan favorite Mark Buehrle walk to join the recently "traded" Ozzie Guillen in South Beach. The Sox received Jhan Marinez and Ozzie Martinez in the deal for the other Ozzie. Ironically, both rank about the same to what Williams got for Quentin. Juan Pierre… He Gone! Also, Kosuke Fukudome is back in Chicago for a measly $1 million guaranteed (only $500,000 on the books for 2012).
Even if the off-season decisions by Kenny and Co. seemed somewhat odd, they made sense financially. The Sox were well over budget and had to drop cash fast. Furthermore, as you will see below, they had internal replacement options that may very well be upgrades (not really, though) from what they had before.
The season: On the bright side, the White Sox will not suck this year. Chicago's decent, actually. They will not suffer through another season of Juan Pierre receiving 711 plate appearance and OPSing .657 as a left fielder. Adam Dunn will not have the worst season* in the history of the live ball era (.159/.292/.277) again. Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham should progress to their median. Furthermore, the South Siders have viable replacements for what they lost during the 2012 off-season.
To replace Pierre and Quentin, the Sox simply moved Dayan Viciedo -- and his 25+ home run power potential -- to left field, shifted Rios to right and are giving Alejandro De Aza the job in center. The Sox lone uber-prospect -- and Northside sounding -- Addison Reed, will be given the keys to the closer job previously held by the departed Santos. Finally, Chris Sale will shift from setup-man to starter, his natural position, to replace Buehrle. Considering that De Aza will never again replicate the .329/.400/.520 line he posted in 171 plate appearances in 2011, it is fair to say the Sox's replacements are almost the same as their predecessors; predecessors I foolishly picked to run away with the AL Central in 2011.
PECOTA has picked Chicago to win 78 games in 2012 -- one game fewer than last season. I'm a little more optimistic and believe this team can win 80-85 games. I say that cautiously, however. I'm not sure Jake Peavy will ever be good again, am not sold on Brent Morel yet -- despite his monstrous September -- and believe Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski will finally start to regress. On the other hand, I do believe what I wrote above about Dunn, Beckham and Rios. The Sox 2012 season -- and the 80 game win plateau -- will fall largely on Peavy's health -- or lack thereof -- and Chicago's above-average bullpen, as the offense should be roughly the same, plus some more production out of Dunn.
One year removed from almost unanimously being picked to win the AL Central, the Sox still have interesting pieces to make a push, but ultimately appear to have too many holes to make up the large gap needed to compete with the Detroit Tigers.
*It's strange to think that Dunn was probably the most consistent offensive player in baseball until last year, hitting 38-40 home runs for seven straight seasons and OPSing between .889 and .928 for five of them (2006: .855 and 2007: .940). This is also completely ignoring the 46 home runs he hit in 2004, where he OPS'd a staggering .956.
Things that will happen: Dunn will hit at least 25 home runs. Konerko will not OPS over .900. De Aza will come back to earth. Viciedo will do something in left that will make you chuckle, then get angry, then chuckle again. Robin Ventura will kill a beat reporter with boredom. Fukudome will do something awesome, but then not do anything awesome for roughly two months. Alexei Ramirez will continue to look like an alien.
Things that may happen: Konerko will get hair plugs. Dunn will get hooked on Xanax, yet produce the greatest non-PED drug-infused season since Dwight Gooden and/or Darryl Strawberry. Peavy's shoulder magically recovers… I'm just gonna stop there. I may go to my first Sox game since 2008 (no promises).
The future: It's not bright. The White Sox have the worst farm system in baseball, maybe ever. Hugs.