It was just Christmas time. Or it wasn’t not Christmas time at all. A thousand apologies if you don’t celebrate Christmas yet still had to be inundated with Christmasy crap oozing out of every orpheus of society, and figured “Maybe I’ll just get away from it all and read about some White Sox stuff–AW CRAP NOT YOU TOO, JAMES”
So more simply, for the sake of being optimistic for no reason, here’s a view of how the White Sox activities of this off-season could lead to something resembling a competitive team.
1. Doing Nothing
The White Sox have been doing nothing except getting super healthy. Paul Konerko had off-season wrist surgery to correct an issue that had nagged him since 2009. He brushed off it’s importance on multiple occasions, but the decisive action of having the procedure immediately after Game 162 offers hope that this was actually the reason a 36 year-old player slumped down the stretch, and the days of .300/.390/.540 in the 3-slot are to return soon.
John Danks has been learning to rotate his arm without pain again, and will be fortunate to make a healthy return to pitching after shoulder surgery, but what if he could return not only to deliver his career-averages of 160 or so inning with an ERA in the low-4.00′s, but his prime of 190-200 innings of ERA in the 3.70-range. That’d be quite the third starter to slate behind Chris Sale and Jake Peavy, whereas I’m pretty sure Jose Quintana was the de-facto third starter for much of last season. There’s room for improvement.
It’s featured strikeout binges of varying severity, some stretches of looking hopeless, and some fits and spurts of power, but Tyler Flowers over his short major league career has established himself as not terrible at the plate. In fact, before last year’s craziness, Flowers’ career 88 wRC+ would have fit nicely next to Pierzynski’s career line (which is jacked up all the way to 94 wRC+ now).
Between that, and the approximately 10-run swing DRS suggests would take place upon switching from Pierzynski’s porous defense to Flowers’ full-time, it’s not hard to see this switch as a non-disaster.
It sure was nice of Kevin Youkilis to come and fix the 3rd base situation for the White Sox last season. But even though he did, the Sox still got .201/.286/.314 from that slot in 2012. Keppinger can do better than that.
Even Youkilis himself only hit .236/.346/.425 in a White Sox uniform. Keppinger was better than that last season.
For all his faults–and they will present themselves on a fair share of grounders hit his way–Jeff Keppinger has a career .288/.337/.396 line, and I’m pretty sure if he only hit that for three seasons, and maybe even slightly worse, he’d be the best White Sox 3rd basemen since Joe Crede‘s back died.
3. Jason Kubel and other fictional additions
But as one half of a platoon with Dayan Viciedo that could potentially…scribble scribble…if we just took straight career averages and didn’t regress them for recency or park effects…scribble excel paste scribble…hit .297/.355/.529 over a full season, Kubel is interesting, provided he doesn’t require a heavy picking from the established core in a trade. However, even in this Holiday afterglow, that might be hard to fathom
Why, with that in place, along with the currently locked-in rotation, and Dunn-Konerko-Rios presumably not completely eroding away in age from being a functional heart of the order, one might start shopping around for veteran bullpen help like it was the last thing left to do. As if it were the last garnish for a dinner someone might pay $12.99 for. One might start searching for bullpen help like that second wild card was just there for the taking.
The White Sox have waited quite a while to figure out who they might slide in to pair with Jesse Crain as an above-average set-up man who can actually retire the occasional right-hander. Personal favorite Mike Adams is off the board, but luckily, there’s still…
Luckily you can probably grind whoever is available down to a one or two-year deal.
Brandon Lyon‘s pretty interesting if his massive one-year spike in strikeout rate at the age 33 is sustainable. Jon Rauch was a bit improved in 2012 and home runs are kind of objectively fun to watch no matter who hits them. Matt Lindstrom would be my selection, given his ability to do the opposite of what Jon Rauch tends to do (50.7% grounballs last season) and relative youth.
4. Why not?
If the White Sox aren’t going to gut the place, then they might as well go for the cup. With the way runaway favorites like the Tigers fluttered around last season, the East’s potential to cannibalize itself, and the flaws of the West (Angels pitching, Texas losing big parts of their offense), there’s reason to think a playoff spot will be hanging around for a team with a high-80′s win total.
If the Sox pitching staff can return to the top-3 status it regularly occupied over the previous five years, and cobble together a league-average offense, that’s there for them.
Probably. Don’t ask me again weeks from now.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan