Sox Drawer: White Sox predictions for 2011

249392.jpg

Sox Drawer: White Sox predictions for 2011

Monday, Oct. 4, 2010
6:12 PM

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

It's the day after the White Sox 2010 season came to an end. Paul Konerko is already back at his home in Arizona, hopefully just a pit stop before he re-signs with the Sox in the offseason. Bill Melton also lives in Arizona. He's returning home the old-fashioned way; in his car, driving the 1,700 miles by himself. He's probably somewhere around Joplin, Mo., by now, thinking about that home run he hit off Catfish Hunter in 1971.

Before he left, I asked him if he had any CDs to listen to for such an exhausting trip.

Nope. Just me and the road, he replied. So Melton.

As for me, I remain here in Chicago, with a couple days off before turning my attention to the Blackhawks, Bulls and Bears, and returning to the office and our brand new postgame set, which I almost burned to the ground. See the video above.

Kenny Williams will probably take a few days to recharge his batteries. Actually, if I know Kenny, it might only be a few minutes. The Sox general manager has some tough decisions to make in the months ahead. But for those of you who cant wait that long for the offseason to unfold, here are my predictions for 2011.

Please, no wagering.

Let's start with the four World Series heroes, and their chances of coming back:

Paul Konerko: 50 percent

The Sox first baseman, a free agent who was all-world in 2010, could command a two- or three-year deal worth 15 million a season. He averaged 12 million in his last contract signed in 2005. Williams spoke with Konerko at his locker for a few minutes before Sundays game. Jerry Reinsdorf did the same on Saturday. Both seem to be laying the foundation for the start of negotiations, but what the Sox canwill offer is anybodys guess.

"Jerry Reinsdorf, myself, and Ozzie Guillen, wed like to have him back," Williams said. "Lets be completely clear on that. Whether that happens or not because of all the variables, I have no clue right now."

Konerko is just as unclear. Sunday when I asked him if he was optimistic about re-signing, he replied, "I really have no opinion. I dont know what to think." And while hed prefer to stay with the White Sox, he is certainly open to the idea of playing elsewhere. "Pick a team out of a hat, and well see how it develops," Konerko said.

Say this. Paulies a good negotiator. In person, and in the press.

Williams doesnt know what his payroll will be for 2011. But it will likely be less than 2010. Asked Sunday if the economy and lower attendance will affect what he can spend, Williams said, How much? I dont know. Will it? Yes.

Konerko and Adam Dunn are the kings of this years free agent class at first base, and Dunn coincidentally fits in with what Williams is looking for: a lefty power hitter who can do damage.

That, along with the money situation, is part of the variables that Williams speaks of. But if the Sox pursue Dunn -- which they certainly will -- there will be plenty of competition, especially from the Cubs, where several players have already started campaigning for his services. Plus, Dunn has expressed his love for playing at Wrigley Field.

In the end, expect the White Sox to do everything in their power to bring Paulie back, at their price. Letting the heart and soul of the franchise leave after one of his best seasons would be a PR nightmare. But Reinsdorf has been down this road before. Remember Michael Jordan?

If all parties involved dont know where this is headed, how can I? Thats why its 50-50.

A.J. Pierzynski: 40 percent

This is a tough one. On the surface, it would seem the White Sox have very little choice but to bring him back. Hes one of the most durable catchers in the league, he calls a great game behind home plate, bats left-handed, is a fixture in the clubhouse and wants to come back. Furthermore, after batting .220 in Triple-A, Tyler Flowers, the Sox catcher of the future, doesnt seem ready for the starting job.

But Pierzynski heads into the offseason just hanging there, unlike the end of 2007 when he signed a two-year contract extension in late September, that paid him 6.25 million in 2009 and 2010.

Meanwhile, there are several cheaper alternatives heading to the market. Free agents like Josh Bard, John Buck, Ramon Hernandez and Gerald Laird will be available. Plus, there could be many non-tender candidates like Russell Martin, Ronny Paulino, Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis. Its definitely a fluid market.

Speaking with him at his locker after Sundays game, Pierzynski made it known that while he wants to return to the Sox and might even take a hometown discount, hell only come back if the money is fair.

Im not going to take the worst deal of all time to come back here, Pierzynski said. Everyone knows my feelings about this place, this team and the owner and everyone involved. I love the White Sox and the city of Chicago, but at the same time I need to do whats best for me and my family. But Im not just going to come crawling back. I hope there are other teams interested, and I get a fair price, get a deal done and well go from there.

This will be very interesting to see how it plays out. It sounds like Kenny wants to do some shopping. He might end up going back to A.J., but if he sees something shiny and new in the window, dont be surprised if he walks into the store and buys it.

Bobby Jenks: 1 percent

On Saturday, Id say that Bobby had some chance of staying with the Sox. But after Sundays comments from Williams, theres little-to-no chance he returns.

As I sit here right now, that is something that we really have to evaluate strongly, Williams said of Jenks. Ive been disappointed on a number of levels. And there are certain things that Im not going to talk about right now.

Ouch.

Jenks battled injuries in 2010 and proved to be unreliable in certain stretches, even losing his closer role for a few games. He is arbitration eligible, and would likely earn around 9 or 10 million next season. Expect the Sox to either non-tender Jenks, or sign him to a new contract and trade him.

What does Jenks think?

If Im here, thats great. If not, damndest game.

Yep.

Freddy Garcia: 25 percent

Right now, the Sox have six, and potentially seven starters for next season. Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Edwin Jackson are in (unless one of them gets dealt). Thats four. Add Jake Peavy, thats five. Williams has expressed the desire to have Chris Sale be a starter -- thats six. Where does that leave Garcia, a free agent? Likely out the door.

Its not how a pitcher should be treated after going 12-6, especially since Garcia won a total of five games in the previous three seasons combined. But the Sox pitching staff seems like its moving on without him.

Still, he proved to be one of the Sox biggest bargains, making just 1 million. Maybe he becomes the Sox new long relief man, or maybe he signs with the Yankees. Freddy likes the big games and the big stage. Theres nothing bigger than playing in the Bronx.

He definitely wont sign with the Royals or Indians.

Other predictions:

Williams will have the Padres on speed dial in his pursuit of Adrian Gonzalez. But is there room and enough money for Gonzalez and Konerko?

Carlos Quentin will come to spring training with a smile on his face. Hopefully it lasts until May. Probably not.

J.J. Putz will win a fantasy football league. Hes in six of them! Hes a free agent, and says he has no clue if hell be back with the Sox next season. I personally think he will. No way he parts with Matt Thornton, theyll be like lost puppies.

Omar Vizquel will continue to age backwards. The Sox will try to resign him, but by December hell be 8 years old and without a cell phone.

Sale will gain weight. About one pound.

Dayan Viciedo will draw a walk. He has to. He certainly doesnt during the season.

Manny Ramirez will stop speaking both English AND Spanish. Youll only be able to talk to him in German, and hell sign a minor-league contract with the Red Sox.

Jermaine Dye will be back in the majors. Likely in Seattle with the Mariners new manager, Joey Cora.

And with that, the Sox Drawer is closed for the 2010 season. But it will be open for business throughout the winter as the Sox prepare for 2011. Theres always something to write about it. Thanks for reading. Thanks for watching.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

 

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Quintana has been named the Opening Day starter — for the White Sox.

While many are surprised he still hasn't been traded, few should be shocked by the news manager Rick Renteria delivered on Friday, when he announced Quintana would pitch the April 3 opener.

With Chris Sale gone to Boston, Quintana, a first-time All-Star in 2016, has been the odds-on favorite to take over as the team's ace. The only question seemed to be whether or not he'd still be in a White Sox uniform when the season began. But the club made it clear Friday that Quintana is their guy and he'll face the Detroit Tigers in the first game of 2017. The only one who seemed a little taken aback about the news is Quintana.

"I was surprised," Quintana said. "I knew I may get the ball for that day, but they didn't say nothing, so you didn't know. I just kept going and doing my workouts and all my stuff. I'm really, really happy with this opportunity. It's huge for me. I can't wait for that day to come.

"I'm excited to have this opportunity. It's a huge honor for me to have the ball for Opening Day the first time in my life. And I think it's a once-in-a-life opportunity."

Asked about the announcement earlier in the week, Renteria said he needed more time. Many speculated that it meant the White Sox were continuing to listen to offers for Quintana, who has drawn constant interest since the team began its rebuild in December.

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Quintana, who went 13-12 with a 3.20 ERA and 181 strikeouts in 208 innings last season, has looked fantastic all spring. Pitching in front of more than a dozen scouts on Thursday, Quintana made his first Cactus League appearance in a month and allowed two hits over seven scoreless innings. The left-hander also put on a brilliant performance for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic on March 10 as he retired the first 17 Team USA hitters he faced before allowing a hit.

"He's very happy about it," Renteria said. "He has obviously earned it.

"I don't know if he was surprised as much as he was elated and proud to be given the opportunity to be the Opening Day starter. It's a privilege."

Quintana's resume of consistency made him a clear-cut choice for the nod. He heads into 2017 having pitched at least 200 innings in each of the past four seasons. In that span, he's produced a 3.32 ERA and 18.1 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. That figure represents the seventh-highest WAR total among all big league pitchers in that span.

Even though he's viewed as the staff ace, Quintana — who potentially has four years and $36.85 million left on his current contract — said he was surprised by the news because the club hadn't yet informed him of the honor.

"It means a lot for me, especially after last year when you make the All-Star team and this year the opportunity to play in the WBC and now you have the opportunity to pitch on Opening Day," Quintana said. "That's a lot of things happening for me now and I'm happy. And really blessed. You just try to do all my things every time.

"Maybe they don't know what it means for me, but it's a big thing."

Carlos Rodon slated for MRI, could start season on disabled list with bicep tightness

Carlos Rodon slated for MRI, could start season on disabled list with bicep tightness

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Carlos Rodon has been scratched from Friday’s start with tightness in his upper left bicep and it could land him on the disabled list to start the 2017 season.

Though the development came as a surprise, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said that the team’s initial exam of their third-year starter was “positive” because they don’t believe he has any structural damage. But the White Sox intend to be extremely cautious with Rodon, who was headed for an MRI on Friday instead of the mound and is also likely to receive a second opinion early next week.

Rodon had been scheduled to face the Oakland A’s at Mesa, Ariz.

“We’re going to err on the side of caution here, even if it winds up costing him his first couple starts because we’re slowing down the schedule now by scratching him,” Hahn said.

“It’s too early to speculate how long we’re going to be without Carlos. I hate to speculate, but since we are slowing down his schedule by having him miss the start today, the odds are probably that he starts the season on the DL. But again we’ll know more after he takes his further exams.”

Both Hahn and White Sox manager Rick Renteria admit they’ve been caught off-guard by the sequence of events. Rodon informed the White Sox he felt some tightness in his bicep on Thursday, which led to an internal examination. But it was only Wednesday when Rodon said he felt great following a Tuesday bullpen session and asked about the possibility of his first regular season start being moved up. Rodon, who had been online to make his first start on April 8, had also responded well in the aftermath of striking out five batters over four scoreless innings in his Cactus League debut at Tempe, Ariz. on Sunday.

“As far as we know right now he’s OK,” Renteria said. “From the physical, clinical tests it seems like he’s fine, but obviously he’s going to get checked up. He still wanted to pitch. I think that even talking to him yesterday or two days ago, he was feeling great. For all of us it’s a little bit of a surprise.”

Rodon requested to make his start against Oakland after the initial exam, but the team declined and opted for an MRI.

With the intent of helping him avoid the fatigue he experienced last summer and also reaching the 200-inning mark this season, the White Sox took a slow approach with Rodon this spring. Similar to how they handled Chris Sale last spring, much of Rodon’s work this February and March on back fields and in simulated games.

Rodon -- who went 9-10 with a 4.04 ERA in 28 starts last season, striking out 168 batters in 165 innings -- finally debuted in the Cactus League on Sunday and flourished. Though his slow start drew some suspicion along the way as to whether or not Rodon was healthy, Hahn said his bicep issue is a total coincidence.

“I don't know if ironic is the right word, but we obviously tried to come up with a plan to keep him healthy for the long term and toward the end of this plan he expressed this discomfort yesterday,” Hahn said. “Again, he was feeling great, he was saying, with how he was coming along, with the program we had set up. Sometimes you make plans and the baseball gods laugh.”

While it’s too early to know how the length of Rodon’s absence, the White Sox have begun to develop contingency plans. The team has a few days off in April that could help them navigate through the issue, primarily on April 4 and April 10. Rodon originally was scheduled to pitch in the team’s fifth game, an April 8 home contest against Minnesota.

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Hahn suggested that despite the uncertainty he knows one tactic he won’t use is call upon one of the team’s top prospects. Reynaldo Lopez is close to major league ready and Lucas Giolito and Carson Fulmer have also already each accrued service time. But Hahn wants to avoid a taxi situation with frequent trips back and forth to the minor leagues.

He listed Saturday’s starter Dylan Covey and minor leaguers David Holmberg and Tyler Danish as among the possible replacements for Rodon.

“Our intention is to not have any player in Chicago simply because there’s a need in Chicago,” Hahn said. “It’s because they’ve answered all the questions that they have to answer developmentally at the minor league level and are ready for further development in Chicago. This is particularly true in the situation where it could just be a spot start or a few starts. None of us are inclined to potentially derail anyone’s development by moving them up and down, up and down. Our young pitchers, when the time comes for them to come to Chicago, will be guaranteed to get the ball every fifth day. We don’t have a specific plan for where it goes with Carlos, we need further examination and studies. And we don’t have a plan for how we’ll fill the void if one is created.”