2012 Baseball Preview: Can the Chicago White Sox Contend?

Andrew PhillipsCorrespondent IFebruary 9, 2012

New White Sox skipper Robin Ventura
New White Sox skipper Robin VenturaJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

On December 6, 2011, Chicago White Sox GM Kenny Williams sent the Sox faithful a mixed message when he traded the team's closer Sergio Santos to the Toronto Blue Jays for a single prospect in Nestor Molina.

Immediately questions were asked if the team was rebuilding. After finishing the 2011 campaign 16 games out of first place in the American League Central, maybe rebuilding was justified. Maybe the team needed to change things.

Then why didn't they?

The opening-day roster will look nearly identical to that of a year ago. Without a question, the White Sox have the talent to compete at a superior level in 2012—although a few things need to improve.

With 79 wins in 2011, only 36 of those wins came at home—compared to 45 in 2010. In order to compete and ultimately win the division, their home record needs to vastly improve. That's a given.

In comparison, the division champion Twins went 53-28 at home in 2011. Another important piece of the puzzle that doomed the 2011 Sox was the curious case of Adam Dunn. Dunn, 32, hit far below the dreaded "Mendoza line" of .200. While providing the club with a .159 average, Dunn also managed to strike out 177 times—while only accumulating 66-base hits.

In comparison, teammate Paul Konerko had 63-base hits by the end of May. I'm fairly certain that both the organization and the fans were expecting much more from their $56 million man. Trading Santos was not the team's only step backwards; however, as they lost starting pitcher Mark Buehrle to free agency.

Buehrle, who will be 33 on opening day, helped guide the White Sox to their third World Series championship in 2005. He also was a member of the team for 11 years before moving to Miami. The ability to replace over 200 innings pitched since 2001 will not be an easy task to overcome.

There are however, bright spots in the South Side of Chicago. A stellar infield, featuring budding superstar Alexi Ramirez, the veteran Konerko and a slew of young, capable and talented players—including Gordon Beckham and Brent Morel. The 2012 White Sox should be able to contend in the division under new manager and fan favorite, Robin Ventura.

Do the White Sox have a Joe Mauer in AJ Pierzynski?


Do they have a Prince Fielder or Miguel Cabrera in Alexi Ramirez or Paul Konerko?

Not exactly. Do they have a legitimate power threat such as Travis Hafner of the Indians in Adam Dunn?

Who knows.

One thing is for certain though, if and only if they tighten up their play at home, figure out a rotation that can contend and compete without Buehrle and stay healthy—the White Sox can definitely win the Central.

Although that's what everyone on the South Side thought last year. April can't come soon enough to help wash away the sour taste that 2011 left behind in Chicago. Although North Siders probably have no sympathy.