Sox Box: What's your (batting) order?

253648.jpg

Sox Box: What's your (batting) order?

Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011
3:10 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com
All right, its been long enough, time to dig through the mail for the inaugural CSNChicago.com White Sox mailbag. Feel free to e-mail me questions for future inclusion here at bballantini@ComcastSportsNet.com or on Twitter @CSNChi_Beatnik.

The lineup is set, with just third base to be decided in spring training. Has Ozzie given any thought to how his batting order will look? Michelle, Orland Park

Guillen was asked that question many times at SoxFest, and shared a humorous story about working on six or seven different lineup cards during a recent dinner with his wife, Ibiswho thought he was ignoring herand being advised on his best batting order by a nearby diner eavesdropping on his labor.

Guillens rough lineup, as outlined in January, went something like Juan PierreGordon BeckhamAdam Dunn at the top of the order, Paul KonerkoAlex RiosCarlos Quentin in the middle and A.J. PierzynskiAlexei RamirezBrent Morel or Mark Teahen at the bottom.

Its a tricky proposition, mixing three lefties (operating on the assumption that Morel will start at third base) well into what is expected to be a loaded offense. The assumption that Beckham will flourish in the No. 2 hole is almost entirely dependent on him picking up where he left off during an incendiary second half (pre-hand injury) in 2010, by no means a given. There simply isnt an ideal No. 2 hitter on the White Sox, other than reserve infielder Omar Vizquel.

Unless Bacon asserts himself right from the start of spring training, Id bump speed and on-base percentage up in the order, rolling out something like PierreRiosQuentin up top, DunnKonerkoPierzynski in the middle and RamirezBeckhamMorel at the bottom. Yes, Rios had a grand total of zero sacrifice hits last season, but tell me you didnt want to tear your hair out every time Guillen ordered a sacrifice with Pierre on firstisnt the point of having Pierre on base that you dont have to give away an out to get him to second? Rioss run-producing potential, heralded by Guillen, is hardly different than Ramirezsand the Missile isnt in the mix to hit third or fifth. Rios in the No. 2 spot gives you a second leadoff hitter and makes the best of an awkward situation.

Want a stealth candidate for the No. 2 hole? Its Morelprobably not anytime soon, but his production in the minors indicates a player who has the tools to sport a solid stroke in the second spot.

The White Sox are filled with closer options but no one is proven, like Bobby Jenks. Whos going to close this season? Ethan, Park Ridge

Jenks was a proven closer who manned the role for five entire seasons for the White Sox, making any of the potential closer controversy looming for the team during that time moot. And for all the peripheral stats that pointed to a career-worst season for Bad Bobby in 2010, his 87 save percentage was on par with his career average, and only in 2006 was his rate better than 90. Most significantly, that 87 rate was better than any other White Sox pitchersapparent closer favorite Matt Thornton was at 80, new Arizona Diamondbacks fireman J.J. Putz was at 43 and possible closer Sergio Santos converted just one of three saves. Newcomer Jesse Crain was a closer throughout his minor-league career and has fireman tools, but has produced a poor save percentage in his major-league career to date as well. Yes, Chris Sale was four-of-four in late-season save chances, but his role (starter vs. bullpen) is sketchy at the momentyou cant expect a 21-year-old to start for a month, then take over the closer role, at least without being forced to by anything short of an utter implosion at the back end of the bullpen.

It takes a certain mentality to flourish as the anchor man of a bullpen. Thornton by all appearances has the makeup to closewhile he did blow two of 10 save chances last season, none came after June 8, and he was a perfect three-of-three in September, as the default closer while Jenks was sidelined.

While Id prefer to have Thornton continue in the setupoccasional closing role where he has flourished for years in favor of inserting Sale as the closer for 2011, such a move will still create instability as the bullpen adjusts to losing Sale to the rotation in 2012 (if not sooner). So the best bet as of Groundhog Day pegs Thornton as the 2011 closer.
Why dont the White Sox and Cubs ever play on the same day? Id love to see a Chicago baseball doubleheader. Rich, Northbrook

It doesnt happen often, but there is always at least one game a year where the White Sox and Cubs cross paths within the city limits. This season, the teams overlap for an entire weekend series in August, as the White Sox host the AL pennant-winning Texas Rangers and the Cubs host the St. Louis Cardinals for another routine bloodbath. On Friday, the Cubs lead off at 1:30 p.m. and the White Sox follow at 7:10. On Saturday, the Cubs play at 3:10 and the White Sox have a postgame fireworks start of 6:10. And on Sunday, the White Sox finish their series at 1:10 while the Cubs are listed as TBD, indicating a probable Sunday night baseball game.

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

MLB players, owners reach tentative labor deal

MLB players, owners reach tentative labor deal

IRVING, Texas (AP) — Baseball players and owners reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labor contract Wednesday night, a deal that will extend the sport's industrial peace to 26 years since the ruinous fights in the first two decades of free agency.

After days of near round-the-clock talks, negotiators reached a verbal agreement about 3 1/2 hours before the expiration of the current pact. Then they worked to draft a memorandum of understanding, which must be ratified by both sides.

"It's great! Another five years of uninterrupted baseball," Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said in a text message.

In announcing the agreement, Major League Baseball and the players' association said they will make specific terms available when drafting is complete.

"Happy it's done, and baseball is back on," Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy said.

As part of the deal, the experiment of having the All-Star Game determine which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series will end after 14 years, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been signed.

Instead, the pennant winner with the better regular-season record will open the Series at home.

Another important change: The minimum time for a stint on the disabled list will be reduced from 15 days to 10.

The luxury tax threshold rises from $189 million to $195 million next year, $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $209 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021.

Tax rates increase from 17.5 percent to 20 percent for first offenders, remain at 30 percent for second offenders and rise from 40 percent to 50 percent for third offenders. There is a new surtax of 12 percent for teams $20 million to $40 million above the threshold, 42.5 percent for first offenders more than $40 million above the threshold and 45 percent for subsequent offenders more than $40 million above.

Union head Tony Clark, presiding over a negotiation for the first time, said in a statement the deal "will benefit all involved in the game and leaves the game better for those who follow."

Key changes involve the qualifying offers clubs can make to their former players after they become free agents — the figure was $17.2 million this year. If a player turns down the offer and signs elsewhere, his new team forfeits an amateur draft pick, which usually had been in the first round under the old deal.

Under the new rules, a player can receive a qualifying offer only once in his career and will have 10 days to consider it instead of seven. A club signing a player who declined a qualifying offer would lose its third-highest amateur draft pick if it is a revenue-sharing receiver, its second- and fifth-highest picks (plus a loss of $1 million in its international draft pool) if it pays luxury tax for the just-ended season, and its second-highest pick (plus $500,000 in the international draft pool) if it is any other team.

A club losing a free agent who passed up a qualifying offer would receive an extra selection after the first round of the next draft if the player signed a contract for $50 million or more and after competitive balance round B if under $50 million. However, if that team pays luxury tax, the extra draft pick would drop to after the fourth round.

Among other details:

—For a team $40 million or more in excess of the luxury tax threshold, its highest selection in the next amateur draft will drop 10 places.

—While management failed to obtain an international draft of amateurs residing outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, it did get a hard cap on each team's annual bonus pool for those players starting at $4.75 million for the signing period that begins next July 2.

—There is no change to limits on active rosters, which remain at 25 for most of the season and 40 from Sept. 1 on.

—Smokeless tobacco will be banned for all new players, those who currently do not have at least one day of major league service.

—The regular season will expand from 183 days to 187 starting in 2018, creating four more scheduled off days. There are additional limitations on the start times of night games on getaway days.

—The minimum salary rises from $507,500 to $535,000 next year, $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019, with cost-of-living increases the following two years; the minor league minimum for a player appearing on the 40-man roster for at least the second time goes up from $82,700 to $86,500 next year, $88,000 in 2018 and $89,500 in 2019, followed by cost-of-living raises.

—The drop-off in slot values in the first round of the amateur draft will be lessened.

—Oakland's revenue-sharing funds will be cut to 75 percent next year, 50 percent in 2018, 25 percent in 2019 and then phased out.

—As part of the drug agreement, there will be increased testing, players will not be credited with major league service time during suspensions, and biomarker testing for HGH will begin next year.

Negotiators met through most of Tuesday night in an effort to increase momentum in the talks, which began during spring training. This is the third straight time the sides reached a new agreement before the old contract expired, but a deal was struck eight weeks in advance in 2006 and three weeks ahead of expiration in 2011.

Talks took place at a hotel outside Dallas where the players' association held its annual executive board meeting.

Clark, the first former player to serve as executive director of the union, and others set up in a meeting room within earshot of a children's choir practicing Christmas carols. A man dressed as Santa Claus waited nearby.

Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the last a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years. The 2002 agreement was reached after players authorized a strike and about 3 1/2 hours before the first game that would have been impacted by a walkout.

The peace in baseball is in contrast to the recent labor histories of other major sports. The NFL had a preseason lockout in 2011, the NBA lost 240 games to a lockout that same year and the NHL lost 510 games to a lockout in 2012-13.

Stephen Hawkins, Ronald Blum and AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in Oakland, California, contributed to this report.

Rick Hahn: White Sox 'open to discussing trades with all 29 other clubs'

Rick Hahn: White Sox 'open to discussing trades with all 29 other clubs'

Rick Hahn cleared the air late Wednesday afternoon about who the White Sox would and wouldn’t consider a trade partner.

The general manager issued a brief statement about his team’s stance on trades after a recent ESPN report suggested the White Sox wouldn’t allow the Cubs to trade for five-time All-Star Chris Sale.

“To clarify any confusion regarding our stance on possible trading partners, we want to once again make it clear that our primary goal is to make our club better,” Hahn said in an email. “We will consider any trade, with any team, that improves the Chicago White Sox.

“As I have said many times over the years, we are always open to discussing trades with all 29 other clubs. We even have completed trades within our division, despite facing these teams 19 times a year, and while trades between the Cubs and White Sox will always draw heightened scrutiny and attention, it makes no sense for us to ever eliminate any potential trading partners.”

Though reports continue to roll in that they’re listening on players with less than four seasons of control, the White Sox haven’t said which direction they intend to head or if they’d trade Sale. Still, many signs point to the team starting anew after another disappointing season.

The White Sox have had a losing record in four straight seasons and haven’t reached the postseason since 2008.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Sale would likely cost a fortune to whatever team wants to acquire him as the White Sox need to rebuild a thin farm system that has proven incapable of providing replacement-level talent in the case of injuries in recent years.

Earlier Wednesday, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer discussed the difficulty of a potential trade between the two sides.

The last deal between the two sides was Nov. 16, 2006 when the White Sox acquired David Aardsma and Carlos Vasquez for Neal Cotts.