Peavy deal can crush Sox; Sale is most irreplaceable

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Peavy deal can crush Sox; Sale is most irreplaceable

Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010
5:24 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

As the coals in the hot stove are just beginning to get stoked up, its time to rank the current Chicago White Sox, in order of importance for 2011 and beyond. Its not intended to be a strict list of merely the best players, or best values, on the White Sox. Rather, it takes into account team depth, the free agent market, or answering the question of which player would hurt the most not being on the team?

This is meant as a precursor to longer, individual profiles that will appear on CSNChicago.com between now and the end of the year. Thus the list could take different shape over the coming weeks, due to current players being cut loose or new ones acquired.

Perhaps in a nod to the ever-changing baseball world in which we live in or, more likely, his incendiary talent this years most important White Sox player wasnt even a blip on the radar for the teams fans a year ago.

1. Chris Sale, P

Sale is not the best White Sox player yet. But in just 21 games last season, he established himself as a potential superstar. Hes the most important White Sox player in 2011 because of his flexibility hes a potential starter, setup man, or closer. Talk about a Sale the 21-year-old lefty will fill a crucial slot on the team for peanuts, and for a guy who provided 2.6 million in value (estimated salary values all via FanGraphs) in just his short stint with the club last season, the value of this Sale is immeasurable.

2. Alexei Ramirez, SS

Many naysayers last spring barked and yelped about moving Ramirez back to second base and installing Gordon Beckham at short. Defensively, Ramirez shut those yakkers down with a 10.8 Ultimate Zone (Fielding) Rating (UZR), 14th in baseball and second among shortstops behind Brendan Ryan of the St. Louis Cardinals. Ramirez is arguably the best two-way shortstop in the majors, and sported the fourth-best WAR for shortstops (3.2 on FanGraphs, 3.8 at Baseball-Reference). For a team with a stretched budget, getting 15.2 million in value for 1.1 million (Ramirezs salary in 2010, as well as 2011) is extraordinary and puts Ramirez on the short list of great values in all of baseball.

3. John Danks, SP

Danks tied with fellow rotation mate Gavin Floyd as the 21st-best starter in all of baseball in 2010, giving the White Sox 17.4 million in value at a cost of just his 3.45 million salary. Danks led the White Sox in quality start percentage (66 percent, 13 percent higher than the league average) and pitched more innings (213) than any pitcher on the staff. Doubtlessly the White Sox will pray Danks signs an extension this offseason that buys out some arbitration years and gives them some cost certainty.

4. Gavin Floyd, SP

Floyd had nearly as good a season as Danks and forms the right side of a lefty-righty pairing that should carry the White Sox rotation into at least the middle of the decade. Being a good and righteous soldier, Floyd quickly signed a multiyear offer from the White Sox last March (Danks and Carlos Quentin were offered similar extensions, but refused them), and while the four-year deal escalates healthily, Floyds 17.4 million value well outpaced the 2.75 million he made in 2010.

5. Matt Thornton, RP

Thornton remains a godsend for the White Sox bullpen, and becomes harder and harder to take for granted with every terrific season he has. In 2011, Thornton will be ever more important to the team as its potential closer (the veteran was eight of 10 in save opportunities in 2010, a worse mark than the beleaguered Bobby Jenks, who converted 87 percent). Named an All-Star for the first time, Thornton provided 8.9 million in value (sixth-best among relief pitchers) off his 2.25 million contract and ranked fourth among all relievers with a 3.0 WAR.

6. Alex Rios, OF

Rios 2010 season didnt stack up to the 2007 and 2008 campaigns he put together with the Toronto Blue Jays, but his bounce-back campaign makes him a crucial cog in Chicagos future. Rios rewarded GM Ken Williams for his faith by giving the White Sox 14.8 million in value in 2010, well outperforming his 9.7 million contract.

7. Gordon Beckham, 2B

Continuing Chicagos adherence to the strength up the middle adage is the presence of Beckham, the first player listed here who didnt drastically outperform expectations in 2010. Beckham, in fact, was a bit of a disappointment, with a slow start offensively (he chased his .807 OPS with just a .695, for starters) and injury woes late in the year. He remains a consummate Chisox, with a humble and hard-nosed approach to the game. Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen would like nothing more than to pair Beckham with Ramirez as Chicagos keystone combination for another decade or so.

8. Mark Buehrle, SP

Talk about a guy whos easy to take for granted; this veteran lefty provided the White Sox 15.2 million in value, 32nd in baseball, and cant edge higher than No. 8 on this list. But it is Buehrles very reliability that qualifies him as less important than the other members of the White Sox core. Plus, with a 14 million salary, the lefty, like Beckham, didnt drastically outperform expectations.

9. Sergio Santos, RP

If Santos seems unnaturally high as the ninth-most important White Sox, you may be right. But the second-year fireballer will be counted on for an even more major role in 2011 the best guess being a split of the closer duties with Thornton. For all the hand-wringing over whether Santos can handle closing, the key read is this: He wants to close, and fearlessness plus 95-mph gas could carry him. Even in 2010s setup role, Santos outperformed his contract by some 3.5 million.
10. Jake Peavy, SP

Peavy takes the No. 10 spot as much for what he possibly wont contribute as what he will. With a 16 million salary in 2011, Peavy is almost assured to be Chicagos priciest player and the most expensive fifth starter in the majors. If he manages to continue healing quickly, not miss much of spring training and pick up where he left off in 2010, his excessive contract wont outperform him. But if Peavy is unable to perform, Chicagos hopes for a Central Division title could be crushed under the weight of his deal.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As he surveyed the landscape this offseason, Peter Bourjos thought he and the White Sox would make for a good fit.

Adam Eaton had been traded and Austin Jackson departed via free agency, leaving the White Sox with Melky Cabrera and several young players to man a thin outfield. Bourjos, who lived in Chicago until second grade, pursued the White Sox and last month agreed to terms on a minor-league deal in hopes of earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Last season, Bourjos, who was born in Chicago, hit .251/.292/.389 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 383 plate appearances for the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I always liked playing in Chicago,” Bourjos said. “It was a good fit and then spring training is here. I have two young kids. So packing them up and going to Florida wasn’t something I wanted to do either.

“We definitely look at all those options on paper. Evaluate what might be the best chance of making a team and this is definitely one of them. It seems like a good fit on paper.”

If he’s healthy enough, Charlie Tilson will get the first crack at the everyday job in center field. Tilson, who missed the final two months of last season with a torn hamstring, is currently sidelined for 10 days with foot problems. Beyond Tilson, the White Sox have prospects Adam Engel and Jacob May with Cabrera slated to start in left field and Avisail Garcia pegged for right. Leury Garcia is also in the mix.

But there still appears to be a good shot for Bourjos to make the club and manager Rick Renteria likes his veteran presence for the young group. Bourjos has accrued six seasons of service time between the Phillies, Los Angeles Angels and St. Louis Cardinals.

“Bourjy has been around,” Renteria said. “He knows what it takes. He understands the little nuances of major-league camp and how we have so many players and we want to give them all a look. We want to see Bourjos, we want to see him out there.”

Bourjos, who turns 30 in March, has an idea what he wants to do with his chance. A slick defensive outfielder, Bourjos wants to prove he’s a better hitter than his .243/.300/.382 slash line would suggest. He said it’s all about being relaxed.

“Offensively just slow everything down and not try to do too much,” Bourjos said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself and it hasn’t translated. I think last year I got in a spot where I just tried to relax in the batter’s box and let everything go and what happened happened. I had success with that.

“I now realize what that feels like and it doesn’t work. Just take a deep breath and be relaxed in the box and good things are going to happen.”

Gio, Geo and Gio: White Sox spring training has its own version of 'Who's on First?'

Gio, Geo and Gio: White Sox spring training has its own version of 'Who's on First?'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Giovanni Soto pitched to Geovany Soto at White Sox camp on Monday morning, and the Internet loved it.

The veteran catcher and rookie pitcher, who share similar names and have been friends for two years, worked together during live batting practice. The unrelated pair, who both hail from Puerto Rico, said they’ve been confused for each other several times since reporting to camp last week. Each has also heard the other’s name being called out and thought it was for them, which has led to more confusion. But those mix-ups haven’t limited their enjoyment of the situation, either.

“It’s kind of surreal that he has the same name, last name,” Geovany Soto said. “It’s kind of weird calling him Gio and he’s calling me Geo. It’s kind of weird.

“With the physicals, doctors, the people for the drug testing, we’ve been confused in all three of those. I’m expecting that to happen. Hopefully I can get a big check on his name and cash it.”

The social media world isn’t alone in its enjoyment of the topic as both players smiled while discussing it on Monday.

Giovanni Soto said the players met two seasons ago when he pitched for the Cleveland Indians and the catcher was in his first stint with the White Sox. They grew up about 20 minutes apart from each other in Puerto Rico and now spend time together in the offseason. But what has made the scenario even more confusing is that White Sox prospect Lucas Giolito is seated only a few stalls away from Giovanni Soto in the clubhouse.

“It’s kind of weird, especially in the clubhouse and on the field because when someone says Geo, we turn around to see if it’s for him or for me,” Giovanni Soto said. “And we also have Giolito, and people call him Gio. It’s weird, but it’s funny too.”

Both Sotos could make the team’s Opening Day roster.

Geovany Soto, who signed a minor league contract in January, is the most experienced catcher in camp and is favored to win a job. Giovanni Soto, who was claimed off waivers from the Cubs in November, is one of several relievers competing for a spot and could make the club if the White Sox decide to carry two left-handers in the bullpen. And while Giolito is expected to start the season at Triple-A, he could reach the majors at some point causing more pandemonium.

“There’s a lot of Geo going on with Giolito, Giovanni and then me,” Geovany Soto said. “And can get pretty hectic. But yeah, it’s fun for us.”