Sox Stove Report: Formulating Plans

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Sox Stove Report: Formulating Plans

Tuesday, November 30, 2010
5:40 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

With the official opening of baseballs Winter Meetings just a week away and little movement by the Chicago White Sox, heres a peek at the current state of affairs for the 2011 club:

CHICAGO Just one week from the Winter Meetings, White Sox general manager Ken Williams is keeping his plans for the 2011 squad as close to the vest as ever. So close to the vest, in fact, that hes not even admitting yet that he has a plan heading into next week (telling MLBs Scott Merkin, I will expound on any thoughts, ideas, formulation of plan or plans then).

Fine and good, but even Williams would admit that the White Sox are still unsettled in some key areas: catcher, first base, designated hitter and closer, with viable questions at third and in right field, as well as an anticipated surplus of one potential ace-level starter.

Yesterday, Merkin also cited a major-league source who denied the White Sox ever made a formal offer to new Detroit Tiger Victor Martinez, who could have been an ideal fit for the 2011 White Sox. Pale Hose faithful had better hope that, if true, its some kind of face-saving maneuver over being reportedly outbid by just 500,000 per season for a player who could have slipped into either one of the teams gaping needs at catcher and first (likely a bit of both).

Even when Williams could have been expected to mellow down, hes pounced (case in point: Aaron Rowand for Jim Thome in 2006, with the bloom still on the World Series trophy), so the Winter Meetings are indeed Williams time to shine, and even with the omnipresent budget restrictions, the decade-tenured GM generally has excelled. So with that in mind, lets anticipate where Williams fingers will do their walking.

Catcher

Chisox stalwart A.J. Pierzynskis potential suitors are drying up with recent backstop signings, making the White Soxs gamble in not offering him arbitration (and a salary commensurate to or higher than last years 6.75 million) look smart. However, with Martinezs bolt to Motown and an inviting right-field line to offer, the Boston Red Sox still loom as a promising possibility for Pierzynski. Pierzynski is certain to have to take a pay cut wherever he signs and has further limited his options by desiring teams somewhat near his Florida home (the White Sox being one clear exception).

Williams is definitely in dollar-saving mode with regard to his catchers and is unlikely to top a 3 million offer to his veteran. Turning his back on Pierzynski (and similar players such as Miguel Olivo and Rod Barajas) would be risky, leaving rookie Tyler Flowers and veteran Ramon Castro, right-handers both, to man the dish.

Prediction: Pierzynski returns on a team-friendly deal, 7 million over two years, while Flowers is at the ready in Charlotte.

First BaseDesignated Hitter

Choices abound here even with Martinez off the board (ironically, wooed by Ozzie Guillen compadre and Tigs first baseman Miguel Cabrera), and whoever is acquired at first base will likely see time at DH, or vice-versa. If Williams could get both Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn onto the South Side for 25 million per year combined, the GM could likely get one of his Williams Exceptions from owner Jerry Reinsdorf and raise the clubs payroll.

With the bidding on Dunn expected to start at 15 million a year, that would mean Konerko would have to come back at a cut from his 12 million per season dealnot as farfetched as it might seem, as the Captain is comfortable playing in Chicago and not looking at money as the only, or even main, factor in choosing his next club. (At seasons end, Konerko spent more time discussing, albeit obliquely, what the White Sox needed to do to get back into serious contention in the AL Central than he did his salary demands.) Adding Dunn as a DH1B and contingent tweaks to the roster could get Konerko back and fired up for another two- or three-year run with the White Sox.

Some lower-budget choices are out there in a thick field of first basemen, including slick fielders like Carlos Pena and Derrek Lee. Adam LaRoche is also a consideration. If the White Sox could pull in Dunn along with any of the other first base candidates for 20 million annually, theyd be pleasedand in the case of Pena or LaRoche in combination with Dunn, thats not completely farfetched.

Prediction: Dunn and PenaLaRoche at 1BDH for 23 million annually.

Closer

With the money splurged to bring lefty power to the South Side, theres little room left to import a new closer, even after trimming Bobby Jenkss 7.5 million salary. J.J. Putz, who recently declined arbitration, remains a viable option to play the key set-up role in Chicago for a few years to come.

The good news is Williams has stocked the White Sox pen with power arms, including closer candidates Matt Thornton and Sergio Santos. And while the White Sox envision Chris Sale as a longtime rotation member, if injured hoss Jake Peavy is ahead of schedule in his rehab and can start the season in the Chicago rotation, Sale could serve another year in the pen and possibly close for the club as well.

If Sale is in the rotation, whether from April forward or penciled in to sub for an injured or slumping starter, the White Sox will need to find another lefty for the pen, but that inking wont break the bank.

Prediction: Three years, 11 million for Putz. Closer by matchup, split between Thornton and Santos.

Other Questions
Is Brent Morel the 2011 third baseman?
While many (including me) might look at Chicagos third base situation as unsettled, the White Sox were pleased with Morels audition and enters Spring Training as the incumbent starter. The good news is that a number of players, including Mark Teahen, Dayan Viciedo and Omar Vizquel will push Morel for playing time. The bad news? None of the three (or four, including Morel) appear ready both offensively and defensively to provide standout production at the hot corner.

Wheres Carlos Quentin?
Re-signing Andruw Jones to play right field and bumping Q to designated hitter (heartily endorsed on these pages) is a plausible, low-cost plan, but does nothing to add a lefty bat at DH. Quentins relative health and impressive power numbers will earn him a healthy raise in arbitration (5 million?) but must be at least a part-time DH in 2011 if the White Sox hope to field a competitive defensive team. Its been reported that Quentin has been rendered off-limits by the Chisox (as off-limits as any one player can be in a Williams regime), a sign the team still loves Quentin and could ready a long-term deal for him once again (Q rejected the buyout of his remaining arbitration years last spring, as did John Danks).

Whats all the chatter about trading Gavin Floyd?
Preposterous stuff indeed. The White Sox rarely sell low on a player, particularly one with the upside of Floyd. Persistent reports out of Colorado have the White Sox demanding Ian StewartDexter Fowler combination for Floyd, but even those two promising players dont represent the value Floyd brings (and will continue to bring) to the White Sox rotation. Part of the reason Williams is so willing to raid his farm clubs is that his mode of operation is swapping potential for proven playersand has hardly been singed yet in that high-stakes game. One thing he does not do is trade high-value, low-cost, major-league players off his roster.

Floyd as the centerpiece of a Prince Fielder trade? Now that bears the markings of a Williams concoction.

Why does Williams hate the Colorado Rockies?
Aside from the rumors hes swapping his most inexpensive ace to the Rockies, because they just gave shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, a relatively comparable player to Alexei Ramirez, a 20 million per season extension. Ramirez is likely to opt out of the last year of his initial, four-year contract with the White Sox tomorrow and force the club to more than double his salary for 2011, to 2.75 million. Thats still a bargain, so it will be interesting to see if the White Sox lock up the Missile with a stab at, say, five years, 35 million. Ramirez is entering his prime years and has provided almost 25 million in value to the club (per FanGraphs) in the last two seasons alone, so something even beyond that range could prove a bargain for the White Sox.

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

Jose Quintana turns in stellar outing as White Sox crush Twins in series finale

Jose Quintana turns in stellar outing as White Sox crush Twins in series finale

MINNEAPOLIS -- Guess who’s back?

Jose Quintana turned in the kind of game on Thursday afternoon that reminds you why he has been one of baseball’s top pitchers the past few seasons. Working with a swing-and-miss curveball and another shocking barrel of run support, Quintana waited out a near five-hour delay to produce a stellar outing. Quintana struck out nine batters in 6 2/3 scoreless innings as the White Sox avoided a sweep with a 9-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of 27,684 at Target Field. Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier and Matt Davidson all homered for the White Sox, who finished with 18 hits and a 3-3 mark on their road trip.

After making several baby steps in his past few starts, Quintana ran wild in the series finale against a Twins team that he has always struggled against. While he worked deliberately, Quintana never got into trouble facing a team against whom he was 6-8 with a 4.28 ERA in his career.

The left-hander used a nasty, biting curveball along with sharp fastball command to keep Minnesota hitters off balance. Quintana struck one batter in each of the first five innings before he picked up steam. He struck out two batters each in the sixth and seventh innings and is averaging a career best 8.97 strikeouts per nine innings this season.

He struck out Miguel Sano three times in three trips and never allowed a man past second base in a 113-pitch effort. Quintana allowed five hits and walked none.

Quintana has a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts as he’s allowed 19 hits and six earned runs in 24 innings. He has walked eight and struck out 24.

[MORE: White Sox will give Tim Anderson freedom to make mistakes

The White Sox offense made it all much easier for Quintana for a second straight start. Six days after they produced an early four-spot for Quintana against Toronto, the White Sox scored five times and knocked Minnesota starter Nik Turley out in the first inning.

Showing no signs of malaise after a 290-minute rain delay, Abreu and Frazier each blasted two-run homers off Turley to put the White Sox up 4-0. With two outs and Turley gone, Adam Engel singled off reliever Buddy Boshers to make it 5-0 in the first.

The White Sox continued to add on for Quintana as Kevan Smith and Engel each singled in runs in the third to give the 2016 All-Star pitcher a seven-run cushion. Engel finished with four hits and Smith tied a career high with three.

Davidson increased the lead to 8-0 in the fifth inning with a 427-foot blast off Craig Breslow, his 17th homer. Davidson also singled, doubled and walked. The White Sox scored once more in the seventh when Tim Anderson (two hits) doubled in a run off Breslow.

After they produced 22 runs of support for Quintana in his first 13 starts this season, the White Sox have scored 20 in his last two.

White Sox will give Tim Anderson freedom to make mistakes

White Sox will give Tim Anderson freedom to make mistakes

MINNEAPOLIS -- The White Sox have no plans for Tim Anderson to take the same path as the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber.

An hour before the Cubs announced their shocking news Thursday that the World Series hero is headed to Triple-A, White Sox manager Rick Renteria said he thought Anderson’s struggles could be addressed in the majors.

Playing in his first full season, Anderson has had an up and down campaign. He leads the majors with 16 errors committed and has struggled at the plate, hitting .256/.284/.374 with six home runs and 19 RBIs in 265 plate appearances. The roller coaster ride has led to some aggravation for Anderson, who slammed his batting helmet in frustration during Wednesday’s loss. Anderson said the helmet slam was the topic of a postgame conversation he had with Renteria on Wednesday.

“I feel like this year has been the toughest year I’ve dealt with since I’ve started playing baseball,” Anderson said. “I have to keep playing, lock in and control it.

“(Slamming the helmet) doesn’t make you feel better. It’s just a little frustration. You get mad at times, but you just try to control it and keep playing.”

Anderson, who turns 24 on Friday, has had a lot to manage in 2017.

It’s his first full season in the majors. He signed a contract extension in March. Since May he’s been dealing with the loss of his close friend, who was shot to death. Throw in the on-field struggles and Renteria realizes there’s a lot with which Anderson had to deal.

“You just make the sure the perspective they’re having at any particular moment is the correct perspective,” Renteria said. “You try to make sure that the underlying frustrations he might be having, that he’s able to separate it.

“You have ups and down, they’re not always going to be in the best place mentally at times. But for the most part you address it, you talk about it because you understand it, you’ve lived all those things and you just try to give him a little insight and keep it going in the right direction.”

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Anderson made a pair of miscues in a costly third-inning Twins rally on Wednesday night.

But Renteria expressed his confidence in the second-year player, calling him one of the premier shortstops in the league.

The White Sox manager has seen Anderson make the necessary corrections after infield work with bench coach Joe McEwing. The effort and preparation have been there. Renteria just wants to make sure his player can compartmentalize and stay focused. He realizes there’s going to be mistakes from time to time and wants to make sure Anderson is handling them well.

“To say he’s not going to continue to make mistakes every now and then, yeah that’s going to happen,” Renteria said. “It’s there for everybody to see. That’s why everybody takes notice and that’s natural. I think the one thing we have to do as a staff and players also is step back and stay away from the fray of that attention and stay focused on what you have to do. Minimize how all the noise affects you and continue to play the game.”

Renteria remembers his own struggles as a young player and knows how much more scrutiny Anderson faces. Every game is televised and highlights are streamed on the internet. Any little gaffe can be magnified. Anderson admits that at times he’s dealt with frustration he’s never before experienced and it’s caught up to him. Now he just needs to learn how to cope with the stress a little better.

“Nobody wants to go through tough times and struggle,” Anderson said. “Slamming helmets is not the right way to go about it because you could get injured, so try to handle it in a better way.

“It’s been tough times and a lot of frustration, but I try not to let it get to me, but sometimes it does. I try to balance it out and keep going.

“I’m just trying to manage it, balance it out and separate it from each other.”