A year after nearly winning the AL Central, the wheels fell off for manager Robin Ventura and the Chicago White Sox.
Not only did the team finish in last place in the division in 2013, 36 games under .500, but GM Rick Hahn began moving some of the team's veteran assets, including outfielder Alex Rios along with veteran relievers Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton.
With the team trying to rebuild on the fly, the moves that Hahn makes this winter could have long-lasting ramifications for the club not only in 2014, but for years to come. According to a report from Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, GM Rick Hahn plans on being more active on the trade market than in free agency.
Keep it here for the most up-to-the-minute rumblings about the White Sox along with analysis and everything else that comes with it. While the post date will always show as November 1, simply click to the next slide to see the latest from the rumor mill as the White Sox put their roster for 2014 in place.
All the juicy rumors and analysis follow, but consider this your one-stop shop for all the comings and goings in Chicago this winter, including the status of the team's own free agents.
White Sox Free Agents
RHP Dylan Axelrod (Non-Tendered)
1B Paul Konerko (Dec. 4: Re-signed)
RHP Matt Lindstrom (Oct. 31: Team picked up $4 million option)
Oct. 29: Signed 1B Jose Dariel Abreu to a six-year, $68 million deal
Dec. 2: Avoid arbitration with C Tyler Flowers, agree on a one-year, $950,000 deal
Dec. 4: Re-signed 1B Paul Konerko to a one-year, $2.5 million deal
Dec. 5: Signed RHP Ronald Belisario to a one-year, $3 million deal
Dec. 9: Signed RHP Felipe Paulino to a one-year, $1.75 million deal
2013 Stats: 68 G, 4-4, 2.49 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 43.1 IP, 3.9 BB/9, 7.7 K/9
Contract Status: One year, $4 million with a $4 million vesting option for 2015
After spending much of the offseason focused on upgrading their lineup, the White Sox have shifted their attention to the bullpen, adding 12-year veteran Scott Downs to the mix.
He split time between the Angels and Braves in 2013, and while he had made a career out of dominating left-handed batters, holding them to a .219 batting average and .605 OPS, Downs suddenly became ineffective against them in 2013:
|Season||LHB BA||LHB OPS|
Clearly, the White Sox believe that Downs is capable of returning to his previous form—and that he will be able to serve as a quality left-handed option out of the bullpen for manager Robin Ventura.
2013 Stats: 31 G, .237/.333/.434, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 0-for-1 SB
Contract Status: Not yet arbitration eligible
The White Sox needed a third baseman and found their man in Matt Davidson, who was ranked as Arizona's fourth-best prospect—and the best power hitter in the organization—heading into the 2014 season by Baseball America,
Davidson has a long swing and struggles to make consistent contact, which will likely lead to a low batting average, but when he does connect, the ball tends to find it's way over the outfield fence.
The youngster has averaged 20 home runs and posted an OPS above .800 in each of his last three minor league seasons, and his raw power was evident in his brief stint with Arizona in 2013, with two of his three home runs travelling more than 410 feet.
He lacks speed and his defense is a work in progress—especially when it comes to his lateral movement—but as he continues to mature physically and adapt to the major league game, he should become an average defender at the hot corner.
With Jose Dariel Abreu manning first base, Davidson will be given every chance to win the third base job in spring training. Given Chicago's lack of quality options at the position, it would take a real collapse for him not to break camp as the team's everyday starter.
Update: Thursday, Dec. 12 at 7:41 p.m. ET
CSN Chicago's Dan Hayes spoke with a scout who said that Nieto's numbers improved last year because he was in better shape and believes that the Sox "might have something" with the youngster.
I've not seen enough of Nieto to have much of an opinion, and it's hard to imagine that a guy who has never played above High-A would break camp with the major league club.
That said, given Chicago's brutal options behind the plate right now, the White Sox might give Nieto every opportunity to do just that in spring training.
--End of Update--
The White Sox added 24-year-old catcher Adrian Nieto to their 40-man roster in the Rule 5 draft from the Nationals at a cost of $50,000.
A switch-hitter, Nieto spent all of 2013 at High-A Potomac, hitting .285 with 11 home runs, 53 RBI and an .821 OPS.
Scouts that saw Nieto play in the Carolina League told Baseball America's JJ Cooper that they thought Nieto had an "iffy" major league future, though he did have a solid showing in the Arizona Fall League.
Per Rule 5 Draft rules, if Nieto doesn't sped the entire season on Chicago's 25-man roster, he must be offered back to Washington at half-price ($25,000).
Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 10:34 p.m. ET
From the files of "things that will make White Sox fans happy comes this news from WSCR-AM's Bruce Levine, who tweets that the White Sox "are determined to get a catcher at these (Winter) meetings."
It's evident to anyone that has been paying attention that neither Tyler Flowers or Josh Phegley is a long-term answer behind the plate.
With the exception of somehow swinging a deal for Baltimore's Matt Wieters, who has been rumored to be available this winter, there doesn't appear to be a big-time backstop that Chicago will be able to get its hands on.
But that doesn't mean there aren't some upgrades to be had, with the best remaining free agent option being 30-year-old Kurt Suzuki,
Known as an excellent defensive catcher, Suzuki split the 2013 season between Washington and Oakland, hitting a combined .232 with five home runs and 32 RBI, though he hit .303 with two home runs and seven RBI over 35 plate appearances for the A's late in the season.
A career .253 hitter who offers some power, landing Suzuki on a multi-year deal would be the ideal scenario for the White Sox. Not only is Suzuki going to be somewhat affordable, but he's young enough to have a few quality seasons left behind the plate, giving the team some time to try and acquire their next "catcher of the future."
2013 Stats: 66 G, .252/.314/.360, 3 HR, 22 RBI, 5-for-7 SB
Contract Status: Not arbitration eligible until 2016, under team control through 2018
Set to be Arizona's Opening Day center fielder in 2013, Eaton was sidelined until early July by an elbow injury and struggled to get going upon his return.
Eaton is an exciting player who has pretty much everything a team would want aside from power. White Sox fans are going to love him.
He's got terrific speed, both on the basepaths and in the field, which allows him to cover a ton of ground in center field, where he flashes a solid glove and a cannon for a throwing arm.
At the plate, Eaton has tremendous plate discipline and knows how to make solid, consistent contact. In 2012, Eaton led all of minor league baseball in batting average (.375), hits (198) and doubles (47) and was named Pacific Coast League MVP.
The addition of Eaton likely means that the White Sox will look to move an outfielder, either Dayan Viciedo or, most likely, Alejandro De Aza, who plays the same position as Eaton.
Update: Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 8:11 p.m. ET
Trading Chris Sale was a longshot to begin with, one that became even longer with the team's trade of Hector Santiago to the Angels.
Were the team to move another starter, John Danks or Jose Quintana would likely be the next to go.
--End of Update--
Update: Monday, Dec. 9 at 12:59 p.m. ET
He goes on to say that the team would prefer to move John Danks, Hector Santiago or Jose Quintana before Sale, which makes perfect sense.
--End of Update--
Update: Monday, Dec. 9 at 10:40 a.m. ET
--End of Update--
Update: Monday, Dec. 9 at 10:01 a.m. ET
In what can only be called a stunning development, sources tell Fox Sports' Jon Morosi says that the White Sox are open to trading any of their three talented left-handed starters: Hector Santiago, Jose Quintana and Chris Sale.
While GM Rick Hahn is more willing to move Santiago over Quintana or Sale, that he is at least willing to listen to offers for the trio is a major change from a month ago, when he told CSN Chicago's Dan Hayes that Quintana and Sale, along with OF Avisail Garcia and 1B Jose Dariel Abreu, were off-limits.
Sale, especially, could bring back a massive package—likely more than Tampa Bay could get for 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner David Price, as Sale is younger and under team control—on a very team-friendly deal—through the 2019 season.
--End of Update--
When asked about potential trades at the GM meetings in Orlando, GM Rick Hahn would only name the ace of the team's pitching staff, Chris Sale, as someone who was off-limits, per CSN Chicago's Dan Hayes:
There’s a group of guys that we feel are part of our long-term success and having Chris at the front of our rotation we think is a big part of that potential for success. Obviously he’s signed for the next six years if we exercise both his options and we fully intend to win within that window. So while we have to not close off any avenues and have to hear other clubs when there is certain valuable commodities, moving him is not something we’re looking to do.
According to multiple executives that Hayes has spoken with, the rest of the group that Hahn mentions is comprised of OF Avisail Garcia, LHP Jose Quintana and newly-signed 1B Jose Dariel Abreu.
It's not surprising to see those three join Sale as the "untouchables" on Chicago's roster as all four comprise an excellent foundation for Hahn to build the a contender around.
While those four players would be the team's most valuable trade chips, Hahn has plenty of players, including 2B Gordon Beckham, LHPs John Danks and Hector Santiago and OFs Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo who are sure to garner interest from other teams as the offseason rolls along.
Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 10:29 a.m. ET
While things have been eerily quiet around the White Sox so far this winter, blame cannot be laid at the feet of owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who told CSN Chicago's Dan Hayes that GM Rick Hahn and vice president Kenny Williams have the freedom to add payroll:
“They’re well below the budgeted number that we can afford to spend this year. If they have a player that is going to increase the payroll as long as it fits within the budget they can do it.”
What that budgeted number is remains to be seen, and the White Sox are unlikely to make a run at the likes of Robinson Cano or Jacoby Ellsbury, free agents that are expected to command contracts well above the $100 million mark.
But whether it's via free agency or the trade market, adding legitimate major league talent appears to be something that is well within the team's ability—it may just be a matter of finding the right fit.
Beckham, 27, hit .267 with five home runs and 24 RBI in 103 games for Chicago last season, providing adequate defense up the middle.
Merkin and Chisholm go on to report that a potential deal could be expanded to include RHP Hector Santiago or LHP John Danks as well, with a package of prospects heading back to the White Sox, though at this point, who those prospects might be remain a mystery.
Making such a move would certainly signal that it's full speed ahead with GM Rick Hahn's rebuilding plan, with the Sox sacrificing the chance to win now for a shot at sustained success a few years down the road.