The 2011 season has been a roller coaster ride for the Chicago White Sox and their fans. A team that seemed to be poised to make a run for the title in the AL Central was just never able to really get it going.
Their longest winning streak of the year was five games, which only came this past week. It ended with a 7-6 loss to the Twins, a game in which Jake Peavy gave up six runs in the first inning.
In typical Sox fashion, they followed up the winning streak with a four-game losing streak, highlighted by Saturday's 9-8 loss to the Tigers, a game which they led 8-1 in the fifth inning.
With this season all but over, the White Sox management can start looking ahead to what should be a busy offseason.
They have several questions to answer and decisions to make about what to do with their high-priced payroll.
One thing that seems fairly obvious though, due to the recent success of several of the Sox youngsters, is that next year's roster will have a lot of fresh, young faces.
With several players becoming free agents or arbitration eligible, what Sox fans may not see are some of the faces to which they've grown accustomed.
There are definitely some tough decisions to make, but if the Sox want to contend in the AL Central next season, here are a few things that they must do in the offseason.
It seems that at least one of these guys won’t be back next year. If I had to guess, it would be Ozzie who won’t be back. If I had my choice, Kenny Williams would leave town.
Williams and Ozzie Guillen have been going at each other off and on for the past few years but it has come to the point where it has become detrimental to the team.
Guillen said he wants a contract extension. It is set to expire after next season, which has caused some friction and may be his ticket out of town. I for one hope that’s not the case.
Williams is largely responsible for the underachieving White Sox this year because he put this team on the field. Many have said that this is the team that Guillen wanted, but that’s not really true.
I cannot remember Guillen asking for Adam Dunn or Alex Rios.
He has been big supporter of Juan Pierre, whom he took some heat for, but Pierre has turned his season around and has not been the problem on this White Sox team.
If someone has to go before next season, I think it should be Williams, but something tells me it may be Ozzie.
As was the case last offseason with Paul Konerko, the White Sox have a huge decision to make with free agent pitcher Mark Buehrle this offseason.
Simply put, the Sox need to make it their top priority to get him signed.
He has been far and away their best starter this season and, along with Paul Konerko, has been the most consistent presence on the team over the past decade.
Buehrle is 11-7 with a 3.34 ERA this year and is on pace to surpass 200 innings pitched for the 11th consecutive season.
He has also won 10 or more games for 11 consecutive years and, barring a disastrous finish to this year, will have had an ERA under 4.00 in eight of those 11 seasons.
Oh, I forgot to mention that he has also won consecutive gold gloves.
On top of everything he does on the field, Buehrle is an excellent teammate and a fan favorite.
He goes about his business the right way and is respected by his peers. If the Sox let him go, they may not find another one like Buehrle for a long time.
He needs to be back on the South side, period. Kenny Williams—or whomever is in that role—needs to find a way to get it done.
With Dayan Viciedo primed to take over in right field next year, the time has come to part ways with Carlos Quentin.
Quentin is arbitration eligible next year and the Sox cannot afford another big contract if they want to re-sign guys like Buehrle and possibly John Danks.
They are already committed to the much maligned duo of Adam Dunn and Alex Rios so there really is no room for Quentin.
Though he has had injury problems over his career, he is only 29. When healthy, he has the ability to put up big power numbers.
He is not great defensively but does an adequate job and should still have a fairly high trade value.
So in addition to freeing up money to sign other players, hopefully the Sox could get some solid prospects in return.
I have always liked Quentin since he came to the South side, but the fact is that he just doesn't fit into their plans anymore. It's time for him to go.
Floyd is another guy like Quentin who currently has a good trade value and who the Sox should trade in order to help free up money to sign others.
In his time in a Sox uniform, Floyd has been solid, but not spectacular. He is a middle of the rotation guy in whom several teams would be interested.
Floyd is set to make $7 million next season with a $9.5 million club option for 2013. Getting his salary off the books would be a step in the right direction.
With the emergence of Phillip Humber this year and Zach Stewart showing signs that he can pitch in the big leagues, Floyd is definitely expendable.
Obviously it would be nice to keep him, but the more important move is to try to retain Buehrle and/or Danks.
Juan Pierre is set to be a free agent in 2012. As much as I like and respect him, Pierre should not, and most likely, will not be back in a Sox uniform next season.
This leaves an opening in the leadoff spot for the Sox, for which they have no obvious replacement.
The most likely candidate is Alejandro De Aza, who will almost certainly take over for Pierre in left field, but isn't really a prototypical leadoff hitter.
De Aza has above average speed and has shown recently that he does have some pop in is bat. He is also an upgrade defensively over Pierre, who struggled at times this year.
It may be that De Aza becomes the leadoff man by default because the Sox do not have anybody else on the roster that fits the role.
Three of the biggest disappointments this season have been Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham.
Like it or not, there is a good chance that all three of them will be in the starting lineup next season.
Much has been made of the struggles of Dunn and Rios, but Beckham has not had the kind of year the Sox expected at the plate either.
Granted, he has been spectacular defensively but he is hitting only .232 with 9 home runs and 36 RBIs.
If the Sox are going to have a shot at contending next year, all three of these guys have to be better. Combined they have 28 home runs and 110 RBIs, which Dunn should have totaled alone.
All of them must go into the offseason with the goal of getting themselves back to where they should be offensively, no matter what it takes.