Sox Drawer: White Sox predictions for 2011

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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.

Much-needed face lift has vastly improved White Sox farm system overnight

Much-needed face lift has vastly improved White Sox farm system overnight

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Bolstered by a pair of franchise-altering trades, including the Adam Eaton deal on Wednesday, the White Sox totally revamped their farm system overnight.

In the span of 29 hours, the White Sox added seven high-caliber minor leaguers to a previously razor thin farm system, including baseball’s top position and pitching prospects. Headed by second baseman Yoan Moncada and right-handed pitcher Lucas Giolito, one of three pitchers acquired from the Washington Nationals on Wednesday in exchange for Eaton, all seven acquisitions are among the team’s top-10 MLB.com prospect list.

Wednesday’s additions also include right-handers Reynaldo Lopez, who MLB rates as the No. 38 overall prospect in baseball, and Dane Dunning, Washington’s 2016 first-round pick — a player the White Sox highly coveted at draft time. A day earlier, the White Sox received Moncada, hard-throwing righty Michael Kopech, outfielder Luis Basabe and right-hander Victor Diaz in exchange for five-time All-Star Chris Sale.

“We are ecstatic about the return we were able to secure for Adam's services,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “That's a result of hard work by our scouts, the amateur scouts, the background they have done on these players over the number of years, and our international scouts and pro scouts and everybody from the front office targeting what we feel are high-impact potential rotational pieces that will help further our goal of getting ourselves in a position for success.”

Last month, one MLB executive suggested the White Sox would have an almost unprecedented talent pool to deal away were they to rebuild. The group was similar to the 1976 Oakland A’s, who tried to sell off a number of stars, including Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and Rollie Fingers, before they hit free agency only to have most deals overturned.

With only two players dealt — arguably their first and third most valuable pieces — the White Sox have already positioned themselves extremely well for the future. Not only have they acquired the two headliners in Giolito and Moncada, they added potentially elite pitching depth to a system that has proven incapable of providing replacement-level talent whenever the White Sox were in need.

And their situation should only improve as the White Sox endure what they expect to be a painful, slow rebuild. In an attempt to self-sustain, the White Sox plan to dig deep and continue to trade away valuable major leaguers in an attempt to ensure they limit future instances where they don’t have the pieces to pull off a blockbuster trade or even simply fill a hole when one arises.

“The problem with our roster the last year or year before wasn’t the top third or so, certainly wasn’t Sale or Eaton,” Hahn said. “It was the matter of, in my opinion, a lack of 1-25 depth, or even 1-40 depth given some injury issues that every club encounters, and that’s what we’re trying to rectify over an extended period of time. We’re trying to get ourselves in a position where we not only have that high-end impact talent at the top of the roster that we’ve benefited from and that other teams are coveting, but that we also have the depth to survive when you have unfortunate underperformance or injury along the way.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

So far the White Sox couldn’t be much happier.

There was an audible gasp in the media room (and perhaps throughout the building) on Wednesday when it became clear what the White Sox received in exchange for Eaton and Eaton alone.

Even though the White Sox no longer have Eaton or Sale, they still have pitchers Jose Quintana and Nate Jones on team-friendly contracts, 2018 free agents Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera, slugger Jose Abreu and closer David Robertson to potentially trade. Given that pool, Hahn and the front office believe they can continue to further overhaul a farm system that has resided in the bottom third of baseball for much of the last decade.

“Expectations are high in these deals,” Hahn said. “We expect there to be strong returns for them. We were very pleased with how these first two have gone so far.”

Scouting reports on Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and newly acquired White Sox prospects

Scouting reports on Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and newly acquired White Sox prospects

The White Sox rebuild is in full effect.

Rick Hahn & Co. have traded Chris Sale and Adam Eaton in exchange for eight prospects in a span of two days.

Take a look at scouting reports for all eight players.

Yoan Moncada, 21, 2B — No. 1 prospect on MLB.com

(Acquired from Red Sox for Sale)

"Moncada brings a tantalizing blend of physicality, power, speed and athleticism as a switch-hitter with defensive versatility, making him one of the most dynamic prospects in the game. He projects as a plus offensive force, a plus defender at either second base or third base, and a plus runner capable of wreaking havoc on the basepaths. The one big area of his game that needs improvement is his plate discipline, which was exposed after he struck out 12 times in 20 plate appearances with the Red Sox. Despite that poor showing, he demonstrated patience throughout the minors and has shown a propensity for making quick adjustments before. He could start 2017 in Triple-A, but very well could break camp with the White Sox and solidify himself as a starter from day one in his new organization." — (Baseball America)

Lucas Giolito, 21, RHP — No. 3 prospect on MLB.com

(Acquired from Nationals for Eaton)

"The 2012 first-round pick and four-time BA Top 100 prospect made his long-awaited major league debut in 2016 but struggled, getting rocked for 26 hits and 16 earned runs in 21.1 innings, with more walks (12) than strikeouts (11). Giolito in the past sat in the upper 90s with his fastball and frequently reached triple-digits, but saw his stuff back up and sit in the 92-94 mph range and top out at 96 in 2016 with poor command. That fastball gave Giolito his biggest problems in 2016, with MLB opponents batting .349 against it with a .730 slugging percentage, per Statcast. While his fastball stalled, he still limited big league hitters to sub-.200 averages on his curveball (.167) and changeup (.143). The Tommy John survivor has seen his prospect stock fall in light of his recent struggles, but if he can rediscover his fastball velocity still projects as one of the most promising young righthanders in baseball. Scouts reported issues with his mechanics and pitchability this year, but both are correctable issues that should lead to improved command once they are solved." —​ (Baseball America)

Michael Kopech, 20, RHP — No. 30 prospect on MLB.com

(Acquired from Red Sox for Sale)

"Kopech is the latest in a long line of big, hard-throwing Texas righthanders, with a 98 mph fastball that routinely gets up to triple-digits and recently hit 102 in the Arizona Fall League. The 33rd overall pick in 2014 is more than just a thrower though, with an 87 mph power slider and 91 mph changeup that both made significant progress throughout the 2016 season and give him two quality offerings to confound batters even further. Taken on the surface, his raw stuff draws comparisons to Noah Syndergaard. Kopech does come with red flags, however. In 2015 he was suspended 50 games for amphetamine use and in spring training 2016 he broke his hand in an altercation with a teammate. If he can harness his talent without any more incidents, Kopech profiles as a possible No. 1 starter." —​ (Baseball America)

Reynaldo Lopez, 22, RHP — No. 38 prospect on MLB.com

(Acquired from Nationals for Eaton)

"Lopez entered 2016 as the Nationals’ second-best pitching prospect behind Giolito, but by the end of the year had surpassed him in the eyes of most evaluators. Lopez is just 6-foot, 185-pounds but possesses an electric 95-97 mph fastball that touched 100 in his major league debut in 2016, and backs it up with a low 80s curveball that grades plus, as well as an upper-80s changeup. Lopez’s biggest bugaboo is his command, which wavers at times and resulted in 4.5 walks per nine innings once he got to the majors. Still, the quality of his stuff allowed him to survive in both a relief and starting role once he got to Washington, and he gives the White Sox a young, major-league ready, power righthander to pair with lefties Jose Quintana—assuming he’s not traded—and Carlos Rodon." —​ (Baseball America)

Dane Dunning, 21, RHP

(Acquired from Nationals for Eaton)

"The Nationals drafted Dunning 29th overall this past June and signed him for $2 million after he was a core piece of Florida’s dominant pitching staff. Dunning bounced between starting and relieving in college but has the stuff to be a starter, with a low-90s fastball that gets up to 95 mph and a changeup and slider that both have a chance to be average. He demonstrated impeccable control at Florida and continued it with a 32-to-7 strikeout to walk mark over 33.2 innings in his pro debut. With strikeout stuff, plus control and a prime pedigree, Dunning has a chance to move quickly up the White Sox system and help sooner than later in Chicago." —​ (Baseball America)

Luis Alexander Basabe, 20, OF 

(Acquired from Red Sox for Sale)

"Basabe signed with the Red Sox along with his twin brother Luis Alejandro out of Venezuela when they were 16. They climbed the system together until this year, when Luis Alejandro was traded to the Diamondbacks midseason for Brad Ziegler. Now, Luis Alexander is on the move too after reaching high Class A as a 19-year old and solidifying himself as one of Boston’s top 10 prospects. He is a switch-hitter with the speed and athleticism to stick in center field, and his 25 stolen bases in 30 attempts last season are a testament to how his speed plays on the basepaths. Basabe is still very raw and refining his game, particularly his plate discipline and strike-zone judgement, but has shown the skill set to become a top of the order center fielder down the road." —​ (Baseball America)

Victor Diaz, 22, RHP

(Acquired from Red Sox for Sale)

"Diaz has a power fastball in the 96-100 mph range, an 87-90 mph slider that is his main secondary pitch, a riding two-seamer and a splitter in its nascent stages. He is still learning how to harness his arsenal after issuing 41 walks in his first 90 career innings. If he does that, he becomes a bona fide closer prospect down the road." —​ (Baseball America)