This off-season promises to be quite interesting for the White Sox. While the management situation didn’t explode like some thought it would, the on field personnel could experience a large amount of turnover, including a couple of long time White Sox players.
1. Where does Quentin play?
The White Sox thought they found a diamond in the rough two years ago, when Quentin was probably the AL’s best player. After breaking his own wrist that September, Quentin hasn’t really returned to his 2008 form. Injuries, mental issues, and defensive struggles have no put Quentin’s White Sox future up in the air.
While Quentin’s bat is still productive, albeit a bit too streaky, but his inability to field his position is a real issue. By almost any measure, Quentin was one of (probably the) worst defensive outfielder in baseball last season. Much like when Adam Dunn was still playing the outfield, any production from Quentin’s bat is negated by his complete inability to move in the outfield.
Given Ozzie’s desire to have flexibility in the DH (though that might be a thing of the past), and Quentin’s fragile mental state, the White Sox might want to look into trading Quentin this winter.
2. Is Konerko coming back?
Paul Konerko is coming off one of his best seasons, and is now on the free agent market. What kind of contract he gets is anyone’s guess, but he probably would like a multi-year deal. The White Sox want to get younger, and they have Dayan Viciedo, and his $10 million contract, ready for more playing time in the big leagues.
I would expect that the White Sox and Konerko work something out, but anything more than a one year deal could be dangerous. Konerko is already immobile, and his back has been problematic in recent years. He might need to move to DH soon, just to keep his bat in the lineup.
3. Who will be the catcher?
The White Sox wasted little time getting Ramon Castro back, but nobody thinks he can play 110 games behind the plate. Castro is a fine backup, who happened to hit really well when he played last season.
The team still needs a starter though, and unlike the past six seasons, that might not be A.J. Pierzynski. A.J. is a free agent, and coming off a rocky season. His numbers evened out a bit in the end, but for most of the season A.J. wasn’t the hitter we’ve been used to seeing. The White Sox love to praise his handling of the pitching staff, but that doesn’t cover his other flaws.
Tyler Flowers was the next guy in line at AAA, but he struggled last season, and still isn’t ready to be a major league catcher. The free agent market for catchers is really thin as well, meaning that an upgrade probably isn’t out there. The best thing in my mind: bring back A.J. on a one year deal, hope Flowers figures it out in AAA, evaluate the position again next winter.
4. What happens with the bullpen?
For the first few months last season the White Sox had the best bullpen in baseball, then things sort of fell apart. Injuries, wear and tear, and a little regression to the mean combined to cost the White Sox a number of crucial games. Matt Thornton is back, so is Sergio Santos, but after that nobody knows.
JJ Putz is a free agent, and could be looking to close somewhere. That somewhere could be Chicago, since Bobby Jenks is probably not coming back next year. Jenks could be traded or even non-tendered, since his price tag is probably too high for the White Sox.
Even if Putz returns, there are holes to fill, and perhaps still an opening at closer. I wouldn’t mind seeing the White Sox use that Jenks money to try and lure Rafael Soriano, who dominated for Tampa Bay in 2010.
5. To get a DH, or to not get a DH
Last season the White Sox opted to not sign a traditional DH, and the plan backfired. Manny Ramirez had to be brought in after five months of Mark Kotsay finally drove Kenny Williams up a wall.
With Adam Dunn on the free agent market, Carlos Quentin unable to field, and Paul Konerko having a bad back, the White Sox have multiple options for a traditional DH. It seems like Kenny Williams would prefer to have a full time DH all season. If the White Sox have the money, signing Dunn is the best option out there, though his willingness to be a full time DH is a question.