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Chicago White Sox: Hot Stove Needs By Position

Jon FromiSenior Analyst INovember 10, 2010

Chicago White Sox: Hot Stove Needs By Position

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    Both Ramon Castro and Matt Thornton will be back with the Sox in 2011.Elsa/Getty Images

    The Chicago White Sox may have more to lose to free agency than they can afford to gain.

    With several contracts up at the close of the season, there are several directions the club can go as they prepare to build a contender in 2011.  General Manager Kenny Williams has had better success trading for big name (and big price) talent than he's had signing it in recent years. With a lot of salary locked into the starting rotation, coupled with a possible desire to bring back long time first-baseman Paul Konerko, I don't see a lot of big free agent signings.

    What kind of player will Williams be this winter? This is a look around the horn on the South Side, what we have at every position, and what positions need to be addressed.

Catcher

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Incumbent:  A.J. Pierzynski

    Status:  Free Agent

    The White Sox picked up Ramon Castro's option, but I doubt we'll see him as the team's primary catcher. Tyler Flowers is not the answer yet. For a purely offensive catcher, he didn't put up very good offensive numbers in Triple-A last season.

    How to address this position:  Sign Pierzynski. If that can't or doesn't happen, the White Sox should look to sign a free agent catcher like Miguel Olivo or possibly John Buck.

    Priority:  This should be done sooner rather than later in the free agency period. Once Pierzynski and Victor Martinez sign, the price will go up for a dependable backstop.

First Base

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Incumbent: Paul Konerko

    Status:  Free Agent

    I don't think I'm alone when I say that I want to see Konerko stay with the team. He may not erupt for numbers like 2010 again, but I think he has a couple of .280, 30 homer, 100 RBI seasons left in him. If a deal with Konerko can't be negotiated, I think Williams gets the biggest name corner infielder he can and fills the other positions from the farm system. If it's first base that needs to be filled, I think the White Sox see what Dayan Viciedo can do.

    Priority:  Konerko should not last long on the open market. We should know soon in what direction the White Sox are moving.

Second Base

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Incumbent:  Gordon Beckham

    Status:  Under Contract

    Beckham had an up and down season in 2010, but by no means should the White Sox give up on this talented youngster. Second base looks to be his home for the next few seasons. 

    Priority:  Look somewhere else. The Sox are set here.

Third Base

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Incumbent:  Mark Teahen

    Status:  Under Contract

    Teahen is a utility player masquerading as the White Sox third baseman.  His role in 2011 should be one that utilizes his versatility. If he's used correctly, he provides depth to the club. He is not the answer at third base.

    Hopefully, the Sox will fill one of their corner infield positions with a heavy bat. If that doesn't happen at third base, Chicago may give Brent Morel a long look at the hot corner and hope his bat comes around a la Joe Crede.

    Priority:  If Konerko or another first baseman is signed, it's likely the Sox will give a prospect a chance.

Shortstop

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Incumbent:  Alexei Ramirez

    Status:  Under contract.

    In my opinion, Ramirez became a top-ten shortstop over the course of this season. He became more consistent, which highlights the athletic plays he makes all the more impressive. He adds speed and a bit of pop in the bat.  Plus he gets to put in another year of the tutelage of Omar Visquel.

    Priority: Go address the corners. 

Left Field

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Incumbent:  Juan Pierre

    Status:  Under contract.

    Pierre's offensive arsenal is strictly Punch-and-Judy at this stage of his career, and his on base percentage may not satisfy some fans. However, he did draw more walks this season and adds speed at the top of the lineup. He led the team in runs scored and (unofficially) one-hoppers back to the pitcher. He came to play every day, though, and it seems that he will be in the Sox outfield barring a better option.

    Priority:  Unless Carl Crawford really wants to play here, pencil in Pierre on Opening Day.

Center Field

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Incumbent:  Alex Rios

    Status:  Under Contract

    Rios had a return to form in 2010, which was good because the Sox were on the hook for a big investment for the .199 hitter he was in the last part of 2009. Rios hit .284 and was a bright spot in a dreary April and May. Rios adds speed to the lineup and plays a solid center field.  Playing at or slightly above last year's numbers may make the 12 million dollars we'll pay him this season a bit easier to swallow. I doubt anyone is interested in trading for his contract, but if he can sustain his current level of play, I think it will be more positive than negative.

    Priority:  Low.

Right Field

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Incumbent:  Carlos Quentin

    Status:  Arbitration eligible.

    Quentin may or may not prove to achieve the potential superstar status he teased us with in 2008. He may go down as a player who couldn't overcome nagging injuries. It appears that the Sox are going to give him at least another year to try and figure it out. If a quality outfield bat could be found, Quentin might fill the DH role, but I'd expect him back in right field in 2010.

    Priority:  Back burner for now. Let's see who's available in the next month.

Designated Hitter

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    Incumbent:  A host of players, including Manny Ramirez and Mark Kotsay.

    Status:  Free Agents.

    The DH by committee was definitely short on power on 2010. What would be nice would be to pick up a big left-handed bat to take around 80 percent of the at bats in 2011. Like the guy Minnesota picked up last year. You know, the one who helped them win the Central last year.  For a song.

    Adam Dunn fits the bill, but has been pretty adamant about wanting to play the field, plus he's in line for a big payday. Johnny Damon might be a cheaper alternative, but obviously isn't the power threat Dunn would be.

    The Sox could also take a flier on a player like Aubrey Huff or Troy Glaus, or resign Andrew Jones for the job full time. With Konerko's possible departure looming, we need 30 homers and 100 RBI in the DH spot. In other words, we need a sure thing.  Vlad Guerrero?

    Priority:  Has Williams paid a visit to Jim Thome yet?  Make sure you have your hat in your hand. As long as you're in the neighborhood, why not drop a line and call Magglio Ordonez? 

Starting Rotation

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Incumbents:  Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Edwin Jackson, Freddy Garcia

    Status:  Garcia is a free agent.

    Jake Peavy will be back sometime in 2011 and will garner a spot in the rotation. Chris Sale, in my opinion, needs to start. If it has to be in AAA for part of or all of this season, so be it. We're shelling out plenty of dough in the starting pitching department. I don't see us seeking a free agent arm.

    Priority:  We're sellers, not buyers this winter.

Bullpen

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Incumbents:  Matt Thornton, Sergio Santos, Scott Linebrink, Chris Sale, Tony Pena, Bobby Jenks, J.J. Putz

    Status:  Jenks and Pena are arbitration eligible. Putz is a free agent.

    If Putz can be lured back into the fold in 2011, this is a start. I've stated my preference for having Sale start. I don't expect the Sox to tender Jenks an offer, Thornton's option was picked up, and we're just plain stuck with Linebrink.

    There are a lot of live relief arms available this winter. It's just a matter of finding the right guy. Jon Rauch,  Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit. Who will be this year's surprise? 

    Priority:  High, but who's not looking for relief help these days? Could be obtained in a trade...

Trade Bait

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Kenny Williams is not afraid to pull the trigger on trades, and he may improve the team by swinging a December deal. Who could be on the block?

    As I said, we have a glut of high priced pitching and seem to have a potential top line starter in Sale. So...

    What if we dealt Buehrle? I just slapped myself for suggesting it, but think of this...

    He might fetch you two or three players that could help us for the next few years. You can't trade Peavy. If we keep a lefty, wouldn't you rather keep Danks at this stage of their careers? It would pain me to see Buehrle go, but if the White Sox staff is healthy next summer, someone may have to go.

    If you're feeling sick right now, just imagine Jackson or Floyd's photo here.  But I think someone is going to be traded, if not this winter, then in July when we see if Peavy is in the rotation or not.

    Hey, if Williams can deal Teahen and that extension of his, more power to him. 

    Besides, if Paulie ends up in another uniform, we may be at the point where we blow it up and start building for the future. That's not how Williams thinks, of course. The key to all this is how the Sox handle Konerko. Once that gets done (or doesn't get done), the picture should become a bit clearer as to how Chicago plays the Hot Stove League.

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