Part of the future? // Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

The White Sox pitch to fans and its curiosities

Given the way they approach roster-building, when the White Sox claim in a letter to season-ticker holders that the 99-loss campaign of 2013 was embarrassing and unacceptable, it carries some believable weight to it. Especially when VP of Marketing Brooks Boyer gives an honest assessment of how things got to this point.

“You have to pay the piper on having the attitude of going for it [every year], and sometimes that is your reality.”

This statement leaves out the international signing scandal and a self-defeating draft approach coming home to roost as well, but that could have been expected. Such problems have been addressed and will provide returns in slow motion, so it would have been an opportunity to cite help that’s on the way and preach patience, but criticizing the draft policy would involve criticizing people still employed (or still signing checks) and I doubt anyone working in White Sox public relations thinks bringing up David Wilder is a good idea.

But Boyer’s actual letter again trots out the same curious balance between promising immediate improvement while dismissing notions of a quick fix. Short-term and long-term improvement is a promise they can technically fulfill, since even a rebuilding club could do better than 63 wins, but to achieve in a way that the fans actually recognize will require meaningful production from their long-term pieces.

Scott Merkin identifies that group as Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia, Dayan Viciedo and Chris Sale. Since he’s being rumored as untouchable, it seems worth it to include Jose Quintana as well.

Abreu and Garcia are fun to dream on, but that’s where visions of leaps forward in production die. It is extremely likely that Sale and Quintana both hit their ceilings last season. Quintana, because he’s generally believed to have already exceeded any reasonable projections for his production, and Sale, because his performance level is already unfathomably high. He could get a few breaks and have a career-year better than a 3.07 ERA in a homer happy ballpark, but banking on it would be silly.

Then there’s Viciedo, who is an odd fit on this list even if I understand completely why Merkin would include him. If Viciedo, who will be just 25 by Opening Day, has a full-time role going into next season, it will be because the White Sox still believe he has potential to become an above-average hitter. But at this point, his offensive contribution has been below average through over 1200 career MLB plate appearances, and he takes runs off the table on defense. He’s less a cornerstone than a former prospect getting one last chance.

With that said, the hope for the remainder of the offseason would be for the Sox to carve out more places for long-term improvement in addition to Garcia and Abreu, whether that’s trading for more players in their arbitration period, trading for near-ready prospects, or clearing a path for someone seemingly ready like Marcus Semien to start, and at least offer the possibility of above-average production going forward. An offense consisting of Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez, Jeff Keppinger, Alejandro De Aza, Dayan Viciedo, Adam Dunn and yes, Paul Konerko, offers a lot of the same ingredients that have been in decline.

Those same dice can be rolled again and do better than 63-99, but it would be nicer to get through 2014 feeling like a page was turned, rather than just a few names crossed out.


Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan

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Tags: Chicago White Sox Dayan Viciedo Gordon Beckham

  • nick

    Don’t forget Viciedo in his age 23 season hit 25 homeruns with 78 RBI in 147 games in 2012. Last season he battled a strained oblique and only played in 124 games. Any former player will tell you how hard it is to play baseball with an oblique strain! He very well could be a .275 with 30 homerun player if the Sox stick with him.

    • Nick Schaefer

      There are a number of problems with that. For one, given his position and defense, Viciedo pretty much has to hit .275 with 30 home runs to be worth anything. Furthermore, if you’re JUST looking at batting average and RBIs it hides the fact that the guy never, ever, ever walks. So even if he bats .275 he’s going to maybe have an OBP in the .310-.320 range.

      Other quibble: His oblique as an excuse rings hollow to me. I did not notice any drops in his bat speed. It was the same old problem. His approach is atrocious, and he has zero pitch recognition from right-handed pitching.

      He still is really strong and has good batspeed, which are great things to have, it’s just that everything else about his game saps the value to the point where he’s more likely to be a net negative than positive unless something changes.