Chicago White Sox: An Action Plan for GM Kenny Williams

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IMay 19, 2009

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 06:  Manager Ozzie Guillen #13 of the Chicago White Sox walks out to the mound with his head down against the Tampa Bay Rays in Game Four of the ALDS during the 2008 MLB Playoffs at U.S. Cellular Field on October 6, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The Chicago White Sox are playing really bad baseball right now.

Their offense is as bad as it gets in the majors right now. As a team, they rank 26th in baseball in batting average (.246), on-base percentage (.315) and slugging (.391). They rank 27th in runs scored (136) and total hits (303). Through 37 games, they've been held to two or fewer runs 15 times. They have been shut out six times.

There is only one player on the entire roster, no matter the number of at bats, that is hitting over .300 (Paul Konerko, .316).

In fact, only five players have averages over .250 at this point (Konerko, Brian Anderson, Jermaine Dye, Scott Podsednik and AJ Pierzynski), and two of those players have fewer than 55 at bats (Podsednik and Anderson).

The offense is awful for the Sox.

But this was a team built around it's pitching staff. After all, it was the starting pitchers that made the historic run through the playoffs in 2005, and that has always been the model GM Kenny Williams has lived by.

So far, the only pitcher on the roster that's been good has been Mark Buehrle (5-1, 3.00 ERA). Last year's breakout starters Gavin Floyd and John Danks have yet to show consistency, as they have combined to win just four of their 15 combined starts entering Tuesday.

The bullpen in front of closer Bobby Jenks has been a revolving door as well. The team finally cut ties with Mike MacDougal after he started the season on another sour note, and Jose Contreras has been laughable, starting the season months before anticipated because of his Achilles injury to an 0-5 record.

So how does one fix this year's White Sox to make them competitive in a division that, despite strong starts from Detroit and Kansas City, remains wide open?

Here are a few thoughts.

1. Trade Jermaine Dye

How many World Series MVP's are on the market right now? Dye isn't having a bad season (.273-8-20), and is in the final year of his contract. With a reasonable salary and a strong recent history in October, there should be a nice list of teams looking to add quality at or before the deadline.

There are two schools of thought when unloading a veteran leader. One, where Kenny Williams has historically fallen, is to make a move that builds depth in the overall organization. The other is to bring in another veteran who is generally younger and more likely to be retained long term.

I would propose that Williams break from his personal history and make a move with Dye to improve both now and beyond this season. Players that may become available around the deadline like Matt Holliday and Jason Bay would be welcome additions in right field at US Cellular opposite Carlos Quentin.

While other players would be involved in either of those scenarios, Williams has developed enough depth in the system that moving a younger player wouldn't be a deal breaker.

2. Entertain offers for Alexei Ramirez

This is likely to be a controversial suggestion, but I think now is the time to see who likes the Cuban Missile and what he's worth in the trade market.

Ramirez had an incredible breakout season in 2008 and has a lot of versatility in the field (played second last year while center field is likely his second best natural position behind shortstop). He has shown flashes of power and speed to go with a great glove.

In fact, he was good enough last year that the organization decided to let Orlando Cabrera walk as a free agent and try kids like Chris Getz at second base to make room for Ramirez at short.

To start the year, Ramirez has been arguably the biggest disappointment for the Sox. He's hitting just .213 with 13 runs batted in so far and was the first player banished to the bench by Ozzie Guillen.

Meanwhile, last year's top draft pick, Gordan Beckham, is destroying Triple-A and playing a solid shortstop as well. All indications are that Beckham is the future of the White Sox infield, so why wait any longer?

If a team desperate for a shortstop (Boston perhaps, or another contender that has injury issues) is willing to move a pitcher to help fill the bullpen for Ramirez, it has to be something that, at this point, Williams at least entertains.

3. Put Jim Thome on the trade block

There are teams in the league (again, I'm staring at Boston) that like a left-handed hitting designated hitter. While David Ortiz did get some time off, there haven't been any indications that his wrist is completely healed. Thome would be a solid fit in Boston's batting order if Ortiz doesn't rebound.

There's also the potential for Thome to play some first base still. This would make him a strong candidate for a move with a team like the New York Mets, who are looking at being without Thome-esque Carlos Delgado for a large part of the rest of the season because of hip surgery. Thome would be a nice veteran addition in that young clubhouse as well as in their injury-plagued batting order.

The tricky issue for the Sox if they moved Thome would be mitigating the loss of a powerful designated hitter. If the team moved both Dye and Thome, a lot of leadership would be walking out the door as well.

In a scenario where Dye was dealt in a package for a replacement outfielder and Thome was moved for a pitcher, the overall impact wouldn't be enormous.

Furthermore, in a situation where Thome was dealt to the Mets, it's not unlikely that the Sox could actually improve their entire outfield by pressing for one of the many young outfielders that's underperforming in New York to come pack in a larger deal (Ryan Church maybe).

4. Call San Diego

It was the Chicago Cubs, not White Sox, that were the headliners all winter for their pursuit of Padres' ace Jake Peavy. While the Cubs made a number of moves in the offseason, most of them were actually detrimental to their ability to land the former Cy Young winner.

However, if the Padres want young pitchers and capable bats, the Sox might be the more likely player to make the deal. Aaron Poreda, Jeff Marquez and Clayton Richard are a few young pitchers the Sox could move in a package. Ramirez, Josh Field, Getz and Brent Lillibridge are some position players that might have value to San Diego in a deal as well.

If the Padres want a bounty of young players that are either major league-ready or will be within 12 months, the Sox have a laundry list from which they could choose to make a deal happen. Placing Peavy ahead of Buehrle, Danks and Floyd gives the Sox a rotation that reminds fans of 2005.

These are just four simple suggestions I would have for Williams if he wants to make some moves to not only make this team competitive, but keep it relevant in a young, athletic division for the next five years. If he pulled the trigger on any of these, the team would be better for his efforts.


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