It's already been a busy offseason for Chicago White Sox management, and it's just getting started.
They have basically revamped their entire coaching staff—minus a few holdovers—and are waiting to see what will happen with veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle, who is testing the free agent market.
As of now it doesn't look like Buehrle is going to be back for his 13th season on the South side.
This alone has many White Sox fans feeling as if the team has finally reached the dreaded "rebuilding" mode.
However, they may not be doing as much rebuilding as you might think.
Other than Buehrle, who is obviously significant, the Sox don't stand to lose many key players from last year's team.
Not to this point, anyway.
Obviously, much could change over the next three months with a few guys being eligible for arbitration and involved in trade talks, but right now the roster still looks pretty strong.
However, the AL Central will be tough again next year, so the Sox are going to need better seasons from several guys than they got this year in order to stay in contention.
Here is an early peak at how the White Sox roster may look come spring training. Keep in mind a few changes may take place before then.
Mark Buehrle may not be part of the White Sox rotation for the first time in a dozen years, and while he has certainly been their most dependable starter in that period, it doesn't mean they don't have other guys ready to contribute.
Believe me, I understand the importance of a guy like Buehrle on your staff, but it probably isn't in the cards.
As of now, the White Sox rotation will probably include John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Jake Peavy, Phil Humber, and Chris Sale—still not a bad five-man rotation.
However, Danks is arbitration-eligible and has been rumored in recent trade talks. As has Gavin Floyd, but they are both currently members of the White Sox rotation.
And important members of the rotation at that.
If Peavy is healthy and can pitch a full season—which for him is a big "if"—and Humber can pitch anywhere near how he did in the first half of 2011, the White Sox staff still looks pretty solid.
The wild card of the group would be Sale.
Sale was dominant out of the bullpen last season but will probably be called upon to become part of the rotation, should Buehrle not be back.
A former starter, Sale went 2-2 with a 2.79 ERA as a setup man last year. He has dominant stuff, and the key for him will be his ability to transition back into being a starter.
The bullpen may need some help, especially if Sale makes the jump into the starting rotation. But the back end still looks pretty good with Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain setting up Sergio Santos.
However, Thornton has been discussed in trade talks, so it remains to be seen whether he'll be there or not, but for now he is.
Also returning will be Jason Frasor after Kenny Williams curiously decided to pick up the $3.75 million dollar club option on his contract. Frasor was unspectacular in his short time in the pen, but his overall work with Toronto over the past few years was solid.
Will Ohman will also return and the remaining spot or two will probably come down to guys like Zach Stewart or Dylan Axelrod.
Those guys may also have a shot at the rotation, should guys like Danks and/or Floyd not come back.
The outfield is where most of the changes are expected to take place for next season.
It all starts at the top of the lineup.
With free agent Juan Pierre likely not returning, it would appear the top candidate to replace him in the leadoff spot—and in the outfield—is Alejandro De Aza.
De Aza was arguably the White Sox's best hitter down the stretch last season and is an electric player. He has above average speed, is a good defensive outfielder and has some pop in his bat.
He will no doubt be an upgrade from Pierre if he takes over the leadoff spot.
The much maligned Rios will probably be back in center next year, but he better be ready from the start or he may lose his spot quickly.
He was criticized not only for his poor hitting last year, but also for his defense as he sometimes seemed to be just going through the motions.
It remains to be seen what will happen with the arbitration-eligible Carlos Quentin, who has been discussed in trade talks, but with Dayan Viciedo on the roster I'm not so sure that it matters.
Quentin is currently the starter in right, but all indications are that he may be gone and Viciedo will be the starter come opening day.
Stay tuned to see what develops with that situation.
Barring some unexpected changes, the entire infield from last year will return and for the most part, that's a good thing.
Obviously, they are set at first base with Konerko and there's really no need to discuss that any further.
It's a different story at second base, where Gordon Beckham will be under pressure to improve on his poor hitting numbers from last year.
Beckham was superb defensively all year, but he has to be better at the plate and he knows it. The feeling was that he was going to improve last year and he didn't, so time may be running out for the former first round pick.
He needs to improve quickly or spark plug Brent Lillibridge may finally get a chance to play every day.
Alexei Ramirez will return at shortstop after another solid season last year. He put up similar numbers last year to his Silver Slugger season of the year before and was pretty good again defensively.
At third base, Brent Morel will return as the starter after finishing strong at the plate last year. Many believe Morel is a Joe Crede-type player that will play strong defense and eventually grow into a pretty good major league hitter.
The Sox are hoping that starts next season.
Off the bench, they will have Lillibride—who can also play the outfield—and more than likely a youngster such as the newly acquired Osvaldo Martinez or Eduardo Escobar.
A.J. Pierzynski will return for his eighth season behind the plate after a pretty strong season last year.
You know what you're going to get from A.J.—pretty good offense but not much defense. The key with A.J. is he is still a guy who knows how to hit in the clutch and the Sox need as many of those guys as they can get.
Backing him up will be Tyler Flowers, who played well at times last year and is ready to be on a major league roster.
There's no denying the White Sox struggled mightily to score runs at times last season.
Much of that was due to their inability to hit with runners in scoring position. The majority of the lack of production came from a few key guys, whom all White Sox fans are well aware of by now.
Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, and Gordon Beckham all struggled at the plate last season. For the White Sox to improve next year, they will definitely need more production from all three because they will all more than likely be in the opening day lineup.
This is especially true of Dunn.
Everybody is well aware of the historically bad season Dunn had at the plate, and he has vowed to not let it happen again this season.
If Dunn can correct himself and put up decent power numbers, it will obviously help the Sox tremendously. You would have to think that Dunn is going to improve on his numbers from last season.
If he can revert to his old form, the White Sox lineup becomes pretty dangerous.