White Sox Baseball – Unique or Directionless?
For all we know, we’re a select few moments from Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler announcing their signing with the White Sox. While embracing Soler, as well as Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo, Cespedes will bellow “Of course we were willing to take a lesser offer for the psychic benefits of having someone to speak to without purging regional idioms and colloquialisms from our everyday speech.” in surprisingly perfect English that will seem to make his statement all the more curious.
But since that’s probably not happening, how the organization is now, is how the organization will be Opening Day. And what is that? Well, that’s a major league roster that has a puncher’s chance in the AL Central and the worst farm system in the sport…and the #13 draft pick.
“You can go all-in to compete, or all-in to rebuild, you fail when you try to do both,” pretty much every reputable national baseball writer has opined in some form when pressed about the White Sox off-seasons actions, which are all justifiable enough on their own, but don’t live up to that binary standard as a whole
Sure enough, the White Sox have done neither. No major league free agent signings and no trade returns that will fight for an Opening Day roster spot doesn’t signal a particularly earnest push for the crown. It’s more of of “Do what you can, fellas,” approach to winning the AL Central.
So how do they justify not “falling domino rebuilding“? John Danks was signed through his prime because the return for a one-year rental of him didn’t promise a return that could ever match his production, but it also seemed to indicate that the White Sox think they’ll be competitive within the life of that contract. Why else pay pretty much proper market value to a non-ace?
To pledge to competing within 5 years is not the loftiest statement, but take the same rationalization to the retention of Paul Konerko (who might waive his no-trade clause with proper urging), and Gavin Floyd–who was shopped around in a similar fashion to Danks. Both are under contract for the next two seasons (essentially, Floyd has an affordable 2013 option), both aren’t super useful to hang on to if the team isn’t competing. Floyd is a mid-rotation starter, and Konerko is friggin’ 36 years old.
If the White Sox intend to be relevant within the next two seasons, they’re very reliant on reclamation projects. Alex Rios and Adam Dunn not being corpses is an obvious need, and Gordon Beckham and his potential being realized is a better option than waiting on Tyler Saladino to come up and be competent in his stead.
Those are hopes, but the organization is revered for developing pitchers, not hitters. With their reduced trade leverage, they resolved themselves to dealing for arms they felt could develop into assets worth more than their current value. They’re banking on being able to turn Nestor Molina into an above-average starter when most see him as mid-rotation at best, they’re banking on being able to revive former top prospect Simon Castro after he washed out of Triple-A, and getting high-school draftee Myles Jaye to the big leagues is very much also going to be all on the development team.
Throw in Jake Petricka, Andre Rienzo, or any other flawed pitching prospect in the organization into this pile. The success of the White Sox for the next few years depends on having the ability to post an above-average success rates in developing pitching prospects, if for no other reason than to counteract the crippling lack of them.
Re-entering the Latin American market will help long-term, drafting competently would aid that as well, but barring a Kenny Williams fleecing (there have been less of those recently), the White Sox fence-straddling response to the disaster of the 2011 will only makes sense if they can provide immediate returns to justify the short-term assets they elected to retain.
The alternative is worse, where the White Sox staved off rebuilding more extensively because they were unwilling to stomach the cost of full fire sale and the unpleasantness involved, opting instead for acceptable mediocrity without enough minor league strength to improve.
That would be bad.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @ JRFegan. Also check out his full-time, daily blog, White Sox Observer