by Jason Martinez
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CHICAGO WHITE SOX OFFSEASON PREVIEW
After holding a slight lead at the top of the AL Central over a superior Tigers team for most of the season, the season ended quietly after they finally relinquished that lead in late September. An 85-win season, however, exceeded the expectations of most. A lot went right and the pitching depth proved to be strong after it was put to the test due to injuries. A relatively quiet offseason followed a disappointing 2011 season but expect the Sox to be aggressive this time around as they try and plug holes at catcher, third base, and the starting rotation.
STARTING LINEUP ANALYSIS
Adam Dunn (41 HR, 96 RBI, 105 BB) and Alex Rios (.304-25-91; 23 SB) bounced back from awful 2011 seasons and catcher A.J. Pierzynski (.278-27-77) had what was maybe his best season at age 35. Paul Konerko (.857 OPS) continues to be one of the most consistent sluggers in the game. Alejandro De Aza (.760 OPS, 26 SB) and Dayan Viciedo (25 HR, 78 RBI) had successful first seasons as big league regulars.
The middle infield duo of Alexei Ramirez (9 HR, 73 RBI, 20 SB) and Gordon Beckham (16 HR, 60 RBI) had disappointing OBP's under .300 but still gave the team plenty of production at the bottom of the order. If third baseman Kevin Youkilis departs as a free agent -- and it's unlikely the team picks up his $13M club option for 2013 -- the team will need to find another #2 hitter. Beckham and Ramirez are better fits down in the order but could be moved up, if necessary. If they have to fill the third base void in-house, Brent Morel figures to be the guy. He spent more than two months on the DL with a back injury and failed to hit in the majors or Triple-A. Aside from one huge month in September 2011 (8 HR, 19 RBI, 15 BB), the 25 year-old hasn't shown he's capable of providing much offense in the majors.
Tyler Flowers spent the entire season in the majors as Pierzynski's backup, chipping in with 7 HR and 6 2B in 136 at-bats. The 26 year-old also had just 12 BB and 56 K. He's currently penciled in as the projected starter but re-signing Pierzynski will likely be a priority. A left-handed bat to balance out a right-handed heavy lineup is important and there are limited options available in free agency so I expect the Sox to do everything they can to keep Pierzynski in Chicago.
STARTING PITCHING ANALYSIS
Injuries to staring pitchers Gavin Floyd and John Danks could have been disastrous but Chris Sale developed into an ace and Jake Peavy made it through a full season injury-free for the first time since 2007. The Sox also received an unexpected contribution from Jose Quintana, who made jump from Double-A to post a 3.76 ERA in 136.1 innings. Floyd's $9.5M club option for 2013 is likely to be exercised but Peavy's $22 club option is too steep.
They have some depth with Hector Santiago and Dylan Axelrod but they'll likely be in the mix for some of the top free agent starters. Danks hopes to be ready for Spring Training after undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery in August, but it's important that they plan accordingly just in case he's not ready. If they can go with Sale, Floyd, Danks, Quintana or Santiago, and another top-of-the-rotation starter, they're in great shape heading into 2013.
RELIEF PITCHING ANALYSIS
Rookie closer Addison Reed, despite a rough finish to the season, saved 29 games in 33 attempts and gives the Sox a reliable pitcher in the 9th inning. Veterans Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain return to set up for Reed while Nate Jones (2.39 ERA in 65 appearances), Donnie Veal (1.39 ERA, 13 IP, 4 BB, 19 K), and Brian Omogrosso (2.57 ERA, 21 IP, 8 BB, 19 K) each have late-inning potential. Brett Myers, who pitched well in a setup role after being acquired from the Astros in July, will likely have his $10M club option declined. If he does return, it would likely be as a starter.
TOP OFFSEASON PRIORITIES
2 Starting Pitcher
2012 HITTING STATS
2012 PITCHING STATS