This spring, we at Cubs Talk and White Sox Talk have decided to unify Chicago's two baseball teams into one in an effort to pick out the best players to grace each side of the city over the last 50 years. Each Wednesday during spring training, we'll roll out a different All-Chicago team, with the final version being the squad we'd put together if tasked with creating one team out of the Cubs and White Sox for 2012. Be sure to check out our 1960-1969, 1970-1979, 1980-1989, 1990-1999, 2000-2011 and 1960-2011 teams if you haven't already.
Tony: Here we go again. AJ vs. Soto. The only difference is we're discussing two catchers who are at completely different points in their career and this All-Chicago team is more of a look at the future as opposed to the past. AJ still has a lot of value, and teams need two catchers, so he would get a ton of playing time still if Chicago really were to merge their two teams for the 2012 season (maybe that's not such a bad idea...).
JJ: Given his age and up-and-down career, Soto has a much better chance to put together a big offensive year than Pierzynski, who's 35 -- right around the age when catchers begin to experience an offensive decline. So that's why Soto is starting over Pierzynski.
Tony: A lot of players were no-brainers, like Konerko, Garza, Danks, Sale, Wood, Ramirez and Castro. The only problem was trying to figure out which one of the latter two plays shortstop and which one goes elsewhere. Alexei's defense is far, far superior to Castro's right now, so he gets the nod at short. Conceivably, we could have moved Castro to third or second here, but his ineptitude with the glove so far in his brief career makes him a better fit to just do what he does best -- hit.
JJ: The more I look at this, the more I think Castro would be bumped to second or third to make room for Adam Dunn at DH -- but in the interest of playing it safe, I'm cool with Castro. Get back to me in about a month and the answer would be Dunn (if you can't tell, I'm confident in a Dunn rebound).
Tony: The lineup leaves something to be desired -- heck, the entire team does -- but there are some really good defensive players in there and they all kind of complement each other in the order. There's speed and on-base ability at the top of the order in De Aza and DeJesus and then four good hitters in a row with Castro, Konerko, Soriano and Ramirez. Could you imagine a 3-4 punch of Castro and Konerko for 150 games? Man, that'd be awesome. At the bottom of the order, Barney fits perfectly as the No. 9 hitter. That's probably where he should be. He doesn't walk much and doesn't provide much power, but he's a fantastic defender and can hit for a high average. In the nine-hole, he would see a lot of fastballs and have almost no pressure on him, so he would just be able to relax and hit.
JJ: The lineup would lack some power, but there's decent on-base skills at the top and that would, hopefully, help generate plenty of runs. And as Tony said, having a Castro-Konerko middle would be excellent.
Tony: The rotation isn't flashy, but it's very solid. The bullpen is very good and if Marmol were to have a resurgence at closer, it may very well be the best bullpen in the MLB. Too bad it took merging two teams to get to that point.
JJ: Speak for yourself. The Sox make up most of this bullpen, which speaks to the South Siders' relief depth. And while Garza's the unquestioned ace here, Danks and Sale would make most three-game series difficult for opponents.
Tony: Obviously the Cubs and White Sox won't merge teams. It makes absolutely no sense. But it's still fun to think about. And hey, it would unite Chicago and give them one very solid team to cheer for instead of two mediocre-to-bad teams.
C: Geovany Soto
1B: Paul Konerko
2B: Darwin Barney
SS: Alexei Ramirez
3B: Ian Stewart
LF: Alfonso Soriano
CF: Alejandro De Aza
RF: David DeJesus
DH: Starlin Castro
Bench: Adam Dunn
Bench: Brent Lillibridge
Bench: Marlon ByrdBench: A.J. Pierzynski
SP: Matt Garza
SP: John Danks
SP: Chris SaleSP: Ryan Dempster
SP: Gavin Floyd
The final word
Chris Kamka: I actually agree with Soto over A.J. this time, with age and a higher offensive ceiling as my reasons. Can't agree with Barney over Beckham though. I believe Beckham will eventually unleash his potential whereas Barney is pretty much what he is. Can't have Castro as a DH, as he's a National League player. I'd swap him with Dunn, who actually is a DH. Also tempted to swap De Aza for Byrd, since the Sox centerfielder has yet to enjoy a full productive season. Can't argue with the rest of the lineup. James Russell on the roster doesn't sit well with me either, but I really can't bring myself to argue strongly in favor of Will Ohman, so I might as well leave it be.