Few baseball teams entered the offseason with a murkier outlook than the Chicago White Sox. Their 2011 advertising slogan, “all in” was an apt description for the team. The remnants of playoff teams from 2005 and 2008 had been supplemented with veterans on big contracts, pitcher Jake Peavy, outfielder Alex Rios and designated hitter Adam Dunn. It was a team in win now mode.
But they didn’t win. The White Sox went 79-83. Their hitting failed miserably; the team scored only 654 runs despite playing in a hitter friendly ballpark, and Dunn struggled mightily, hitting .159 for the season and Rios sported an on base percentage of .265. Worse for the Sox, two division rivals, the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians finished ahead of them on the strength of younger, better rosters. With the Kansas City Royals boasting the major league’s most renown group of young talent, the White Sox went from looking eagerly at the top of the division to staring forlornly at the cellar.
So far this offseason, they have moved pitchers Sergio Santos and Jason Frasor, let longtime franchise icon Mark Buehrle depart via free agency, and this weekend they traded Carlos Quentin to San Diego for two minor league pitchers. OTOH, they re-signed pitcher John Danks. Is this a rebuilding or what?
Baseball fans have become familiar with the cycle of contention that plots teams from rebuilding to contending, but real life isn’t always so linear. The White Sox have talent that they won’t likely be able move, (Peavy, Dunn, and Rios, most notably), and they have some core players who are still in their 20s: pitchers Gavin Floyd, Danks, Phillip Humber and Chris Sale and infielders Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham. It looks like White Sox GM is moving the players he can get value for now, with an eye toward staying somewhat competitive in 2012 with his core group. He’d probably love to move Rios, Peavy or Dunn, but not for the pennies on the dollar he’d likely receive right now.
In baseball terms, it’s easy to see the 2012 White Sox as a 75-87 team with some light at the end of the tunnel if the recently acquired pitchers show some promise and Rios and Dunn bounce back. From a baseball perspective that’s a decent position, but I’m glad I don’t have to figure out how to market this team. A slogan of “with a little luck, we’ll be .500” won’t sell many tickets.