Where are the White Sox headed? And when you talk about their future, will Adam Dunn be a part of it?
It’s a tricky question, with an even trickier answer.
But first things first: Does Dunn think he’ll be with the White Sox for the rest of his contract (which ends after 2014) or will he be moved before then?
“I’m not thinking about it, because I can’t control it,” Dunn said in an interview before Tuesday’s game against the Yankees. “If I’m here, that means we’re going to turn this thing around next year and not wait a couple years. And if it’s a couple-year process, I probably won’t be here, so that makes my decision of not thinking about the future pretty easy.”
Does Dunn get a sense that the White Sox might be in a two-year rebuild?
“It looks like that, but then again we’re not that far off. I know it’s hard for people to sit there and hear that. For people in this locker room and the front office as well, they see the core guys that we have, it’s not bad. That’s what’s kind of tricky, I would think, for Rick [Hahn] in his position. I truly believe he sees what we have nucleus-wise. Put a couple pieces around it, we’re not going to be this bad. I promise you all. I promise.”
There are no guarantees in life; certainly not in baseball. It’s crazy, random and unpredictable — both on the field and in the moves made off of it.
Two months ago, Dunn looked like he was on the verge of repeating his disastrous season of 2011. He was batting .156 in his first 55 games. But in the last 49 games, look at these numbers: a .306 average, 13 homers, 36 RBIs and 32 walks.
That’s Dunn. It’s probably the best stretch of his White Sox career.
The powerless Yankees could sure use a bat like that. After leading the majors in home runs in each of the last two seasons, they currently rank second to last in the American League in homers — a staggering stat for the Bronx Bombers.
And no, the return of Alex Rodriguez isn’t the solution.
Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers just lost their best power-hitter in Nelson Cruz, suspended for the rest of the year. See Biogenesis. The 37-year-old designated hitter Lance Berkman has been on the disabled list since July 7 with an inflamed hip. He had two knee operations last year.
They need help, too.
A big hurdle is Dunn’s contract. He’s owed around $17 million. If the White Sox place him on waivers, it’s very realistic he could fall to one of those teams. But how willing will they be to strike a deal and eat a large portion of the contract?
The White Sox clearly need hitting for the future. The crop of free agent bats this winter (and even next winter) is lacking to say the least.
Hahn’s best options for 2014 are Shin-Soo Choo, Hunter Pence, Jacoby Ellsbury and Curtis Granderson; all four costing more than $10 million a year. If Hahn deals away Dunn (or Alex Rios, who’s in a similar boat), there’s suddenly a lot more money available.
What the White Sox have is a surplus of starting pitching, which is in high demand everywhere. Don’t be surprised if they trade one of their starters (not named Sale) for a hitter next season. I’d aggressively pursue Pence for his hitting — and equally for his energy and personality, which is lacking in this White Sox offense.
They rank last in the American League in runs, 14th in on-base percentage and 12th in homers.
If former hitting coach Greg Walker was still with the White Sox, he’d be torched for this performance. He was a fan and media target for years. Now he’s the hitting coach with the Atlanta Braves, who have scored the second most runs in the National League.
So is his replacement, Jeff Manto, to blame for the team’s hitting struggles in 2013?
Dunn came to his defense.
“He’s the hardest working guy that I’ve ever played for,” Dunn said of Manto. “I don’t think you’ll hear one bad thing about him from anybody in here or anybody in the organization.”
But for a team unable to consistently put runs across the board and is a country mile out of first place, changes are coming.
Will Dunn be one of them?
Again, tricky question and tricky answer.
It's up to Hahn to find the solution.