Thursday, October 14, 2010

Offseason Preview: The White Sox

Today's excerpt from the 2010-11 TwinsCentric Offseason Handbook is a new feature this year. Each team in the AL Central will be examined to show what Twins fans can expect from their offseason. I like it because it provides me a little comfort: I don't expect any other division rival to improve much this year.


Chicago White Sox

2010 Record – 88-74 (2nd place in the AL Central)
Best Hitter: Paul Konerko (.312/.393/.584, 39 HR, 111 RBI 72 BB, 110 K)
Best Starting Pitcher: John Danks (3.72 ERA, 213 IP, 162 K 1.22 WHIP, 15-11)
Best Relief Pitcher: Chris Sale (1.27 ERA, 21.1 IP, 28 k, 10 BB, 1.27 WHIP, 3 saves)

State of the White Sox
The White Sox looked like they were starting to retool this offseason, so expectations for them this year were guarded. That became especially true after they floundered for the first two months of the season. By the beginning of June, the Sox were 9.5 games back in the division. It appeared the season was already over, and rumors flew that they were fielding offers for their impending free agents.

But feasting on a relatively soft interleague schedule, the Sox won eleven games in a row in June, jumping to within 1.5 games of first place by the end of the month. They followed that with another nine-game winning streak in July, resulting in the division lead at the All-Star Break, a position until the middle of August. However, a hard-charging Twins team eventually overcame them, due in part to the Twins 13-5 record in head-to-head games against their rivals.

Biggest Needs in the 2010/11 Offseason
The White Sox tried all season to add power, but face an exponentially harder task this offseason: adding power exactly when they might be losing their best power hitter. Paul Konerko is becoming a free agent after a year in which he garnered MVP buzz. He’ll rightfully entice some big numbers on the free agent market, and the White Sox will need to pay dearly for his services.

And this offseason, that might be a problem. Payroll for the Sox has hovered around the $100 million mark for several years, and big salaries to Alex Rios, Jake Peavy, Mark Buehrle and Edwin Jackson are constricting how much there is to spend. Even if the Sox don’t tender a contract to closer Bobby Jenks, their payroll will come in around $90M – Either GM Kenny Williams is going to need to trade away some guaranteed salaries or owner Jerry Reinsdorf is going to need to commit more to payroll to afford Konerko.

And of course, just retaining Konerko isn’t going to make this a successful offseason. The Sox need to also find a way to replace catcher AJ Pierzynski, reshuffle the rotation after its late season meltdown, and add power at the designated hitter position. I wonder who they'll target? (Hint: Jim Thome’s family still lives in Chicago.) Plus, there is the ongoing saga on whether they will try and sign manager Ozzie Guillen to an extension prior to the final year of his contract.

All of which means this offseason might look a lot like the last one – more retooling, but maybe not a lot of improvement. And more guarded expectations for 2011.


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Anonymous said...

Just pre-ordered my copy. The least I can do to show a little support for all the great stuff you guys do.

One request: I've seen no evidence that suggests the Twins can't increase payroll. I don't think $100MM is necessarily the upper limit; the Twins have the revenue to push it beyond that. If there's evidence to suggest otherwise, please explain. All signs indicate that they could raise it, should they choose to.

None of that makes their off-season decisions any easier, but I don't think the payroll can be considered at its upper limit if the Twins are really serious about making a play for a WS title during Joe Mauer's tenure.

John said...


Actually, it would make the decisions a lot easier. We're projecting a payroll between $105-110M next year up from $95M this year. That's up 15% over last year. Our worksheet use the $110M number.

The natural question is whether it should increase more, and the natural response is "Where is the extra revenue coming from?" The ballpark has opened, and the gains from that have already been realized, except for possibly some increased ticket prices (but probably offset by decreased attendance, which usually happens in the 2nd year of a ballpark.) There are no new TV or radio revenues. MLB as a whole has held steady on payroll over the last two years, so there is no indication that they expect a huge bump in shared revenue. So why would payroll increase beyond a fairly aggressive level next year?