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.


Tomorrow is the last day to pre-order the Handbook, and today is likely the last day to order it for the $4.95 discounted price we're offering to our blog readers. One last time, here is that link for credit cards:
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Pavano Dilemna

I'm going to run short excerpts from the upcoming TwinsCentric Offseason Handbook e-book all week. Why? Because you can pre-order it this week, and only this week. Pre-ordering has significant benefits, as you can see below...

Oooh, the plot thickens. Carl Pavano is a Type A free agent, and that adds a whole new level of intrigue.

One could make a decent argument that Pavano is the second best starting pitcher on the free agent market behind Cliff Lee, especially for a contending team. So, after years of rebuilding his reputation from the Bronx disaster, he should be in demand. He’s at least a ten million per year pitcher.

However, he’s 34 years old and turns 35 in January. Despite pitching 420 innings over the last two years, his time in New York has earned him a reputation as soft. His 3.75 ERA this year is totally out of line with anything he’s done since 2004. I’m not certain the market gives a player like that a three-year deal.

If the Twins offer him arbitration and he turns it down, things get even dicier for him. Is he significantly better than Javier Vazquez, Jon Garland, Ted Lilly or Bronson Arroyo? If not, why wouldn’t a team just sign one of those other guys and keep the first round draft pick they would need to surrender to the Twins?

So if the Twins offer him arbitration, there is a chance he takes it, just like last year. Last year, that was fine, as his arbitration value was around $7M and the Twins had $30M to spend. This year he would demand closer to $10M and the Twins might only have $18M to spend. Can they risk that much on Pavano when it might mean not getting back JJ Hardy or one of their closers?

In one way, this is good news for the Twins. After all, there are plenty of other teams that would love to sign Pavano to a one-year $10M contract, but his Type A status essentially gives the Twins the inside track on that. But if the Twins decide they can’t afford him, they’re likely going to lose their most consistent starting pitcher for nothing.

That's part of a 1500-word essay on the Twins free agents in the TwinsCentric Offseason Handbook e-book. If you're a regular reader, please take a look at pre-ordering it. I think you'll really like it, and in a couple of weeks, you're going to be reading all kinds of testimonies telling you how much you'll like it. But if you buy it this week, you get it a week early with bonus content AND (if you're one of the first 500 pre-orders) for just $4.95 instead of $9.95.

I'll even give you a guarantee. If you don't like it, let us know at and we'll refund your money. It's easy, too. Just use your credit card, by clicking:
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Thanks. We'll see you tomorrow.

The Party Is Over

Parties end.

It’s a sad truth, and you don’t need to be happy about it. But embrace it sooner, rather than later. Nobody wants to be THAT guy, stumbling around a fully-lit dining room, screaming at nobody in particular to “PUT THE MUSIC BACK ON!” So here it is again:

Parties end.

This party is going to end. The Twins Cities did not suddenly swell to the size of an east coast metropolis. The local TV contract has not been renegotiated. And the Twins aren’t going to open a newer, bigger, better ballpark again next year. The huge bump in revenue that the team expected has happened. It isn’t happening again.

That bump in revenue, and thus payroll, was significant. Payroll jumped up $30 million or about 50% over the previous year (according to USAToday). Comparatively, MLB payrolls actually decreased 2.5%.

Historically, MLB payrolls have generally increased 5-10% from year-to-year over the past decade. The Twins have exceeded that a little, another few percentage points, except when they lost particularly expensive guys.

So what does this have to do with parties? We’re about to cover the Twins payroll situation for next year, and when you see how bleak it is, your first reaction is going to be that that there MUST be more money available. If you want to decide that, go ahead. But deciding it doesn’t put any more beer into the keg.

On the left is the back-of-the-napkin sketch of your shell of a team:

Big Picture
Unless you dump some guaranteed salaries, you’ve got about $18 million to spend - and that’s if payroll increases 15% this year to $110 million. You need to completely reconstruct a bullpen, patch over a middle infield, possibly replace an ace starting pitcher, and decide if you want to keep fan favorite Jim Thome as he closes in on 600 home runs. (Good luck.) Let’s walk through each area.


That beautiful middle infield that produced offensively and shined defensively? It could be completely gone. You own the rights for JJ Hardy for one more year, so you get to decide if he stays or not. But he’ll make what an arbitrator says he is worth, and that’s likely to be about $7M. They aren’t included in the above tab. Orlando Hudson is a free agent, so even if you want to keep him, you might not be able to. If you do want to bid on him, plan on spending about $6M. Punto is also a free agent, but will likely command utility player money.

Cuddyer’s money is guaranteed, so you need to trade him or pay him. Same with Span, not that you would want to lose him. You get to choose on Delmon - that salary is an estimate of what the arbitrator will pay him – and Kubel, who has a one-year option on his existing contract. If you want to keep Jim Thome, you had better plan on spending $4M or so – and may need to find him fulltime at-bats.

Brendan Harris may not be on your team, but he’s on the books because he signed a multi-year deal last offseason, so you’re paying the $1.75M whether you want to or not. Repko is your choice and that salary is an estimate of what the arbitrator will rule.

Wanna bring back the ‘stache? You’re going to need to give the 34-year-old a three-year deal for around $30 million. The last two years he has signed “make good” deals, and he did. It’s only fair he get paid, and the market will ensure he will.

I’m listing the bullpen last, but you should probably attack it first. Nathan’s money is guaranteed and there won’t be any insurance to cover it this year, so don’t ask. You have your choice on Neshek, Mijares and Capps – but Capps is going to cost you $7-$9M in arbitration. You also have an option on Fuentes for $9M if you want, but you’re more likely to let him become a free agent – just like Guerrier, Crain, Rauch, Mahay, and Flores will be.

Whew. Roll up your sleeves. And leave us your comments....

The above is first draft of an essay you'll find in the 2010-11 TwinsCentric Offseason Handbook, an e-book that we'll be selling for $9.95 the day after the World Series ends. Last year it was 151 pages of analysis on all the free agents and trade targets that included identifying JJ Hardy as the #1 trade target of the Twins. This year it will be even better, plus, we're promising early delivery and extra content to anyone who pre-orders this week.

Now, the bigger news: because we want to reward our readers who stop by day-after-day, we're selling it at half price to the first 500 people who pre-order it. It couldn't be easier to order. Just swing by for all the details, including how you can download last year's version absolutely free so you can see what you're getting.

Finally, thank you for all your support this season. I'll be here throughout the offseason, obsessing about the Twins and baseball just like you, talking baseball almost as often as I wish I could. I hope you'll come and visit often.