Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010
By Brett Ballantini
With rumors, whispers, and team sources ever swirling through the offseason, turn to the BBQ to provide a bit of a reality check. Talk this week turned to Chicago White Sox GM Ken Williams supposedly looking into acquiring Tampa Rays free agent closer Rafael Soriano, so its time to toss this rumor on the barbie for a reality check:
Why would a bullpen full of power arms need a 10 million per year closer?
Funny, Foxs Ken Rosenthal who reported that the White Sox are looking into signing Soriano didnt ask himself that. On a team with closer possibilities including Matt Thornton, J.J. Putz, Bobby Jenks, Sergio Santos and Chris Sale and gaping holes at catcher, first base, and designated hitter, closer is the last thing Williams is kicking the tires on.
Wait a minute, bubJenks?
OK, OK, youre right. Rosenthal reported the White Sox interest in Soriano as further evidence that Jenks would be dealt or non-tendered, but the White Sox might well have batting practice pitcher Kevin Hickey as their top closer candidate and still wouldnt be planning on welcoming back Jenks.
How did Jenkss stock fall so fast?
Its been a gradual decline for the onetime wunderkind, but yeah, the door usually does hit you in the hiney after getting shoved out in the end. Mostly, the White Sox have some real questions about their closers motivation and dedication. Jenks has conditioning issues that would be easier to ignore if not contributing to an increasing amount of time injured and on the DL in his career.
Williams was generally sunny at least sunny from KWs hardscrabble perspective about all aspects of the White Sox in his final media address of 2010, with the exception of Jenks. You read it at CSNChicago.com first, and not long after his sweet swan song of a doubleheader save at the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 5: Jenks would not pitch for the White Sox again.
But Williams loves power arms, and Soriano was arguably the best closer in the majors last season, so wouldnt he be a fit?
Sure, and with a New York Yankees budget or even with merely the money they were burning across town at Wrigley over the past few years Williams would happily swap out Jenks for Soriano. But there are three additional, and monumental, reasons why Soriano is a bad fit for the White Sox, beyond the fact that there are an abundance of power arms in the Chicago bullpen:
1. Scott Boras is Sorianos agent.
2. The White Sox would be buying high on Soriano and Williams simply does not buy high on players, budget restrictions or no.
3. Soriano will probably sign north of five years and 50 million. Thats downright loco terms for a closer with less than two years of brilliance in his back pocket and one who will turn 31 next month.
We hear all the talk about the Chisoxs limited budget, but there is wiggle room to sign somebody, right?
Yes. But as much as Williams would like to make a big splash even simply in throwing seven figures at Konerko to re-sign him for the South Siders it could turn out that any player addition wont qualify as major. For example, reasonable inkings at catcher, first, outfield and the bullpen could greatly bolster the team (say A.J. Pierzynski, Derek Lee, Andruw Jones, and J.J. Putz) despite a decided absence of sexiness.
It could turn out that like the last offseason where the big moves were a salary - aided trade for Juan Pierre and the ill-fated Mark Teahen acquisition Williams work could be under the radar.
The Minnesota Twins are the defending AL Central champs, and the Detroit Tigers are talking about chasing not one but two major bats this offseason. Dont the White Sox have to spend to keep up?
Youd think so. But the one key advantage the White Sox have strength and depth in the starting rotation is crucial. Williams is counting on that as the team looks to 2011.
So then, whos the 2011 White Sox closer?
Of the four names listed up top, Putz wont close even if he comes back. Sale is ticketed for the rotation an arm like his cant be frittered away in the pen. That leaves Santos and Thornton, and it could well be that lefty-righty combination sharing setup and closing duties, matchup by matchup.
But you know what? Im not going to just nibble at the possibilities for the 2011 White Sox. On Monday, tune in for a look at my take on the ideal 2011 White Sox roster.
BBQ Verdict on the Soriano Rumor: Propane Fumes
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.