Let's face it, at this point many Chicago White Sox fans have turned their attention elsewhere as their team is just playing out the remainder of the 2013-14 season.
For many Chicago fans this means their attention has now turned to the Bears and the upcoming football season.
And who can blame them? After all, Chicago is still a Bears town and neither baseball team has done much to sway that opinion this season.
For those die-hard fans who are actually still paying attention, the rest of the baseball season gives them a chance to take a look at the future. It gives them the opportunity to see some of the young talent and hope for better things.
And there is reason for hope.
Contrary to popular belief, the White Sox are not that far from being a team that can compete for a division title once again.
They certainly have the starting pitching to get them there. It's possible that they may have the deepest rotation in the division in 2014 and possibly one of the deepest in the league.
However, there are obvious weaknesses with this team as evidenced by their play this season. The lineup just hasn't produced like they were expected to and they've been surprisingly bad defensively.
If they are going to turn things around in 2014, here are a few positions that may be in need of change.
Third Base continues to be an issue for the White Sox and really has been since Joe Crede left town after the 2008-09 season.
Conor Gillaspie has done an adequate job this season, but he is not the long term solution. And his counterpart, Jeff Keppinger, has been better at the plate lately, but still has been a disappointment overall.
Right now, third base just seems to be the recurring problem spot on the infield for the White Sox. With Alexei Ramirez at shortstop, Gordon Beckham at second and more than likely either Adam Dunn or Dayan Viciedo at first for next season, the White Sox need some stability at third base.
Gillaspie and Keppinger are both better suited for backup roles, but they have both been forced into bigger roles because there just aren't any other options.
Many have also speculated that Ramirez will be gone by the start of next season, which would leave a hole at shortstop as well, but that remains to be seen. Per baseball-reference.com, he has two years and 19.5 million left (with a 10 million option in 2016) on the four-year deal that he signed before the start of the 2011-12 campaign. They could probably shed some salary if they dealt him, which would be nice. Also, if Ramirez is moved, it would make room for a prospect like Marcus Semien, who looks like he may be ready to make the jump to the big leagues next season.
However, at this point third base is the more pressing issue. There isn't really anyone within the organization who is primed to take over at the position, which means the White Sox might once again have to look elsewhere.
And with a pretty thin list of free agent third basemen for the 2014-15 season, a trade may be the only way the way to find their man.
So the question then is, why not then deal Ramirez for a veteran third baseman and bring up Semien to play shortstop?
That's certainly possible, but the Ramirez deal would more than likely land the White Sox prospects.
And if that's the case, then you would end up with a rookie at shortstop and either Gillaspie or Keppinger at third—not an ideal situation to say the least.
Should be interesting to see how Hahn and company approach this problem.
One thing that is certain for the White Sox outfield next season is that newly acquired Avisail Garcia will be a part of it. After that, it's up in the air.
Alejandro De Aza has been up and down this year. He has seemingly been solid at the plate with a .271 batting average to go along with 14 home runs, 53 RBI and 74 runs from the lead off spot. However, his 122 strikeouts is an alarming number for a leadoff hitter. According to Fangraphs.com, his strikeout to walk percentage is almost three to one (21.4 percent to 7.4 percent). In addition, De Aza has been surprisingly bad on the base paths making all kinds of mental mistakes and has committed seven errors in the outfield.
He is arbitration eligible at the end of this season and it will be interesting to see what the team decides to do with him. The White Sox do have several outfielders in their minor league system with big league potential, but it's questionable whether any of them are ready to contribute at this point.
Another issue is that left fielder Dayan Viciedo may make the move to first base next season if Paul Konerko departs. If that's the case, then it's likely that Viciedo would split time at first base and DH with Adam Dunn. However, this would mean that there would be two openings in the White Sox outfield if De Aza isn't back.
Jordan Danks is one option for an outfield spot and, although he has played well as of late, it's still not clear whether he is ready to be an every day player. If it turns out that he is ready, that would be a big boost for the White Sox.
Other options include promoting one of the outfield prospects, such as Trayce Thompson or Brandon Jacobs, and/or making a deal to get a veteran. In his recent article that projects what the White Sox lineup will look like next season, fellow B/R writer Matthew Smith discusses the possibility of acquiring Shin-Soo Choo in the offseason to fill a hole in the outfield.
Smith does make a solid case for Choo citing the fact that he is a left-handed leadoff hitter (who could replace De Aza) that hits to all fields and has a career .386 OBP, which is much better than the .339 career OBP of De Aza. Choo is also a great defender and runs the bases well—two areas where De Aza has struggled this season.
However, as a free agent, Choo will more than likely be sought after by several other teams so it may not be something the White Sox can do financially unless there are some corresponding moves to free up more money (i.e. trading Alexei Ramirez). Again, that remains to be seen.
Whatever is done this offseason, it certainly appears that the outfield will look much different on opening day 2014 than it did when the 2013-14 season started.
And that's probably a good thing.
When the White Sox let A.J. Pierzynski walk away after last season, they knew it would be tough to replace him, but I don't think they realized just how tough.
The plan was for Tyler Flowers to take over, but that hasn't really panned out. He is currently hitting .190 with nine home runs and 23 RBI to go along with a .244 OBP and has struck out 92 times in just 252 at-bats. It doesn't matter how good of a defensive catcher you are when you hit like that. Clearly, Flowers isn't ready to hit at the major league level and may never be.
Flowers inability to produce prompted the White Sox to call up Josh Phegley from Triple-A Charlotte in early July. He couldn't have had a better start producing three home runs and 8 RBI through his first five games, but he has cooled off significantly since. Currently he is hitting .213 with four home runs, 17 RBI and a .223 OBP in 136 at-bats.
So it's pretty evident that the White Sox have gotten just about nothing offensively from the catcher position. The problem is that they don't have anyone else in their system who is ready, which means they either stick with Phegley and Flowers or make a move this offseason.
Much like third base, the free agent list for catchers isn't that impressive with the exception of Brian McCann of the Atlanta Braves. However, this again isn't likely something the Sox would explore unless they could free up more money.
As I stated earlier, the biggest trade asset for the White Sox at this point is probably Alexei Ramirez. If they do move him for prospects, then they could possibly explore a signing like this or for an outfielder as previously mentioned.
Lots of things to consider this offseason for Rick Hahn and his staff.