Going into the 2010 White Sox season, the Chicago White Sox on paper appear to have the the best rotation in the American League, if not all in Baseball. A Rotation anchored by Mark Buehrle and Jake Peavy and fallowed by John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Freddy Garcia, who's 2010 option was just picked up. Three of those five starters had an ERA below four, are under 30 and still have contracts for at least 4 season. The White Sox also finished first in the American League with quality starts. Having the best rotation in the American League central certnly can't hurt Chicago's chances at making the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. However the White Sox offense and defense can. Despite having the most quality starts and being second in the AL in pitching with a 4.14 ERA, the team still batted .258, the worst in the American League, and Chicago had the worst fielding team in all of the American League.
Kenny Williams has a lot to do this off season.
First off the White Sox bullpen needs to be sharpened up. The Sox pen blew 18 one run games. Had the White Sox bullpen of been able to hold on to 10 of those 18, the White Sox win 89 games and clinched the AL Central sometime last week. Sox relievers Octavio Dotel, Randy Williams and Bobby Jenks are all able to walk in the off season. The White Sox could use Thornton as the closer but that creates another hole in the pen. In all likely hood I would expect Bobby Jenks to come back and close for 2010. Also look for DJ Carsco to return for another stint in long relief, Linebrinkg to return as a set up man for Jenks (because of his contract), Pena to come back to be a right handed man out of the pen. This leaves either a LOOGY or a left handed set up man to be desired for the Sox pen. Bringing back Linebrink and Pena should be a reason for pessimism for Sox fans, but remember that bullpens fluxes from year to year.
Second, the White Sox need work in the line up. Whomever it is they find, they need to be able to play the field as well. On an unrelated topic, Kenny Williams has stated that he wants a designated hitter by committee and a team OBP around .350. The first thing needed to balance out the line up is a left handed bat in the middle of the order that's able to be consistent and drive in runs. The most appealing to this would be Bobby Abreu. He hit .293, hit 15 home runs and drove in 103 while posting a .390 OBP. He could be a great piece to slide into the line up between Carlos Quentin and Paul Konerko.
The second need for the White Sox line up is a lead off man, the reason I didn't put it as the main piece is because if worse came to worse they could always bring back fan favorite and speedy outfielder Scott Podsednik. Chone Figgins, look to be able to fit the mold well in Chicago. He can play third which would allow rookie Gordon Beckham to move to second base. Figgins hit .292 while driving in 54, stealing 42 bases and an OBP of .395. Another possibility for Williams could be a speedy outfielder where nowhere to play, in Los Angeles a speedster by the name of Juan Pierre could find some work in the south side. Pierre batted .308 for the Dodgers, stole 30 bases and posted a OBP of .365. He's LA's fourth outfielder and has a hefty contract. I would gamble that if Williams sent the Dodgers a prospect and the Dodgers pay for some of the contract, that he would take Pierre of his hands. Both are good options in my mind, Figgins bats switch and Pierre bats left. Both of which the White Sox line up lacks.
Next, If the White Sox however, are keen at keeping Rookie Beckham at the hot corner, I wouldn't put it past them to go out and sign Orlando Hudson to be Ramirez's partner in the middle infield. Hudson like the previous two players, had a good year batting .283, driving in 62 and having a .357 OBP. And finally Conor Jackson in Arizona has been rumored to Chicago in the past. Jackson was reduced to 30 games this season with valley fever. When healthy he can be a good piece to any puzzle. His stats from 2006 to 2008 are of the fallowing: A .292 average, a .371 OBP and knocked in an average of 71 runs.
If Chicago can balance out the line up, fix the pen, get a lead off man and a consistant, reliable left handed bat, I think Chicago can not only be the team to beat the AL Central, but the whole American League period. I know it doesn't seem like much to do, but its much harder than people think it is. And I for one, have confidence Williams can get this team in ship shape for opening day 2010. Its not often a team has a rotation that grand to work with, and Kenny is always on the prowl to make his team better. Expect great things Sox fans.