Paul Konerko returns to the White Sox, who seemed primed and ready to contend for the AL Central crown in 2011
With all of the hoopla surrounding the Boston Red Sox (Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Bobby Jenks), the Washington Nationals (Jayson Werth), the Philadelphia Phillies (Cliff Lee) and the Milwaukee Brewers (Zack Greinke), it seems that the Chicago White Sox have been dismissed as a contender for 2011.
But lost in the free agent frenzy this hot stove season, were the signings of Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko to multi-year contracts. Together, this duo has hit over 700 home runs during their careers, and with both of them in the fold, the White Sox have one scary lineup.
LF - Juan Pierre
SS - Alexi Ramirez
1B - Paul Konerko
DH - Adam Dunn
RF - Carlos Quentin
CF - Alex Rios
C - A.J. Pierzynski
Who will win the AL Central Division in 2011?
2B - Gordon Beckham
3B - Mark Teahen/Brent Morel
This lineup is balanced and full of power. It's unlikely that the ChiSox will be in on free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre, but Pedro Feliz could be a nice fit at the hot corner.
And as scary as this lineup is, the pitching staff has to be considered one of the best in the league.
Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Edwin Jackson comprise what is already a formidable staff. Jake Peavy is recovering from a detached latissimus dorsi in his right shoulder, which was sustained last July. Peavy is due back towards the end of May, at the latest and should provide this already stacked rotation with quite a boost.
While Peavy is out, rookie Chris Sale could be called upon to man the fifth spot in the rotation. Sale was drafted by the Sox in the first round of last year's draft. He played 11 games in the farm system for the South Siders, and made his MLB debut on August 6. In limited action in Chicago, Sale went 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA and a 3.20 K/BB ratio.
Once Peavy is back, Sale could very well become the team's new closer - a position vacated when Bobby Jenks signed with the Sox of a different color. And all that would do is fortify what is already a deep bullpen.
Despite going with a "closer-by-committee", the White Sox have a very solid relief core. They just inked righty Jesse Crain to a new three-year deal. He joins lefty Matt Thornton and hard-thrower Tony Pena as part of this strong back-end.
And who knows, there are still closers available on the market. Kevin Gregg, Octavio Dotel, Brian Fuentes, and of course Rafael Soriano all have extensive ninth inning experience under their belts.
This team is well balanced and well versed. They are solid defensively. They have a bunch of thump in their lineup. And their pitching staff is among the best in the game. And as unconventional as he is, Ozzie Guillen has proved that he knows how to manage a ball club. I see no reason why the Chicago White Sox should not win the AL Central crown in 2011.