Sox Send Morel to Charlotte

Yesterday the White Sox sent Brent Morel to minor league camp. I am surprised by this move, despite Morel having a terrible spring Rick Hahn seemed to indicate earlier in Spring Training that Morel was their starting third baseman. Unfortunately for Morel he has been dogged by a terrible spring audition which has seen he him hit for a .216 batting average with a .256 on-base percentage. In addition, he has only drawn one walk in thirty-seven plate appearances, while striking out in eight of them.

Gillaspie has really impressed this spring.

This is the right move by Hahn and the White Sox staff because Morel has shown that he is not ready to shoulder the load at third base from an offensive standpoint. Hahn also has players who seem like they can produce in Jeff Keppinger and Conor Gillaspie. Gillaspie, a left handed bat, has done very well this spring, hitting to a .278 average with a .357 on-base percentage. Gillaspie has been one of the best hitters on the Sox this spring and may very well be able to steal the starting third base job away from the veteran utility man Jeff Keppinger. Keppinger, like Gillaspie, also signed on to the Sox this offseason for three years, $12 million, and was supposed to take over the vacancy Kevin Youkilis left at third. Thus far Keppinger has shown the Sox no reason not to start him there opening day as he has hit an outstanding .500 in spring training and has reached base at a .576 clip. The Sox will have to choose who starts between the two when the season begins, but I believe Hahn likes his options.

Jeff Keppinger will most likely hang onto the 3rd base job.

Back to Morel, personally I am hoping this season will be a make or break year for Morel at Triple A. He will either accept that he is not cut out with the bat to compete for a major league level job, or he will find his confidence again and play like the reincarnation of Joe Crede, like he was supposed to. Meanwhile, the Sox will be comfortable enough at the Major League level to let Morel figure himself out.

What You’ve All Been Waiting For: AL East Preview

1. Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays will reign again as division champs.

Notable Additions: RP Roberto Hernandez (Fausto Carmona), 1B James Loney, RP Juan Carlos Oviedo (Leo Nunez), SS Yunel Escobar, OF Wil Myers, SP Mike Montgomery, SP Jake Odirizzi

Notable Losses: SP James Shields, SP Wade Davis, 1B Carlos Pena, 3B Jeff Keppinger, OF BJ Upton, RP JP Howell

The Rays are locked and loaded for another year to be the David who can stand up to the Goliaths of the Major League Baseball. Continuing to have one of the deeper starting rotations in baseball with David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, and Jeff Niemann as their starting five. The Rays shouldn’t have difficulty getting innings out of this bunch. David Price is just coming off of a Cy Young performance in 2012, and his contract will be up in 2013 which leaves a lot of uncertainty for the cash-strapped Rays. The Rays have discussed both trading Price and extending him, however the later would leave little room for a supporting cast around him and Longoria. That evidence leads me to think the Rays will move Price, but they will need to find a team that will be willing to swallow their step price (no pun intended) for a potential rental pitcher. Moving from the rotation to the bullpen the Rays are decent here as well marksman Fernando Rodney handling the closers role, Joel Peralta setting up, and Jake McGee and Kyle Farnsworth providing relief when extra innings need to be pitched.

As far as the Rays lineup goes, it seems to be balanced all the way around. Power threats remain despite the departure of BJ Upton with the likes of Evan Longoria, Matt Joyce, Ben Zobrist, and Luke Scott. In addition to the guys that can drive the ball, the Rays also have a legitimate base stealer in Desmond Jennings, and guys who can just flat out get on base like James Loney and Yunel Escobar despite his down year with the Blue Jays in 2012. Overall, I feel like the Rays should have enough to win the division in 2013 and they will make a deep playoff run due to the youth and depth of their starting pitching staff.

2. Toronto Blue Jays

The Toronto Marlins’ impact should be felt on the 2013 Jays

Notable Additions: SP Mark Buehrle, SP Josh Johnson, SS Jose Reyes, 2B/3B Emilio Bonifacio, 2B Maicer Izturis, OF Melky Cabrera, SP R.A. Dickey, INF Mark DeRosa, C Henry Blanco, C Josh Thole, Mick Nickeas

Notable Losses: C John Buck, C Travis D’Arnaud, C Jeff Mathis, 2B Kelly Johnson, SS Yunel Escobar, SP Adeiny Hechavarria, SS Mike Aviles, SP Henderson Alvarez, RP Jason Frasor, RP Brandon Lyon, SP Carlos Villanueva

Wow. Just wow is all I have to say regarding this team’s transformation from 2012 to 2013. GM Alex Anthonopolos (AA) went out and got the starting pitching the team lacked in 2012 and got it in a big way. He now has power pitcher Josh Johnson, innings eater and perfectionist Mark Buehrle, and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in conjunction with the talent the Blue Jays already had in house in Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero. This starting rotation is absolutely phenomenal and I consider it to be one of the top five rotations in the league. The bullpen isn’t too shabby either as they have Casey Janssen closing, Sergio Santos returning in the set up role, and Darren Oliver, Brad Lincoln, and Steve Delabar among other big names to help out in the middle innings. The Jays pitching staff is far from impressive, they are out of this world.

The Jays are no slouch at the plate either with power hitters Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Colby Rasmus heading up the middle of the order. In addition, the Blue Jays will have a lot of stolen base potential with Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio on the same team. Not to mention they have a lot of guys who can just purely rake in Brett Lawrie and Melky Cabrera.* The Jays will be an exciting team to watch in 2013 and will give the Rays a bunch of problems at the top of the AL East, however the reason I do not pick them to win the division despite them being so much better on paper is because the game isn’t played on paper, and I feel like the Blue Jays will just have something that won’t allow them to put it together for a division title. However, I do see them with a playoff berth.

3. Baltimore Orioles

Buck Showalter is hoping to repeat the success he had with the Orioles in 2012

Notable Additions: 3B Danny Valencia, UTIL Russ Canzler, UTIL Alexi Casilla

Notable Losses: 1B Mark Reynolds, SP Joe Saunders

The Orioles really didn’t make a splash in this offseason, however, they are still very much the same team that won a wild card spot last year. The thing about the Orioles is that they are a young team with boppers such as Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, and Matt Wieters expected to be around for years to come. As well as guys like JJ Hardy and Brian Roberts continuing to be productive as they age. The Orioles starting rotation however should prove problematic in their chances of pursuing back to back playoff appearances as they lack a truly dominant starting pitcher on their staff. Don’t get me wrong, Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen are solid, but when they square off against guys like Josh Johnson, David Price, and CC Sabathia they will need to be that much better in order to keep their Orioles in the game. I wish I could say their bullpen will provide the starters some relief in 2013, however I don’t think that is the case because with the exception of Jim Johnson, the Orioles bullpen is rather inconsistent and inexperienced, but the same could be said for the White Sox bullpen in 2012 and they did just fine.

4. New York Yankees

May as well just suit these gentlemen up

Notable Additions: 3B Kevin Youkilis, OF Ben Francisco, 1B Juan Rivera, 1B/DH Travis Hafner, 1B Dan Johnson

Notable Losses: C Russell Martin, 3B Eric Chavez, OF Andruw Jones, OF Nick Swisher, OF Raul Ibanez, SP Freddy Garcia, RP Rafael Soriano

Here they are Next Sox GM readers. The great Yankees of New York will finish 4th this year according to this baseball enthusiast and here is why:

They are old. I mean they may as well refer to Yankee stadium as a retirement home because with geezers like Youkilis, Rivera, Jeter, Hafner, and Ichiro Suzuki headlining the team they sure aren’t trying to get younger. The youth movement for them is not speeding up either as their bench also seems to be made up of older major leaguers or career minor leaguers. Brett Gardner is the one bright spot of the team along with Robinson Cano, but they won’t be enough to lift the Yankees above the younger and more talented Orioles, Rays, and Jays. Not to say that being old is bad, but I simply don’t foresee the older Yankees being able to produce all 162 games and/or stay healthy the whole time as well.

They do have a bright spot as far as pitching goes. CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda should continue to do well and Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes will continue to eat innings. Andy Pettitte is the wild card in the equation, he can be decent or he can fall apart. We shall see with him, however I expect the 2013 Yankees starting rotation to keep their team in games in 2013. In addition, I also expect their bullpen to be able to hold leads as the great Mariano Rivera is returning for one more season and the Yankees also still have David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, and Boone Logan to shut the door.

5. Boston Red Sox

Red Sox fans better hope the John Farrell era goes better than the Valentine era

Notable Additions: C David Ross, OF Jonny Gomes, OF Shane Victorino, RP Koji Uehara, SP Ryan Dempster, SS Stephen Drew, C Mike Napoli, UTIL Mike Carp, RP Joel Hanrahan, MGR John Farrell

Notable Losses: 1B James Loney, 3B Danny Valencia, SS Mike Aviles, OF Cody Ross, SP Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP Vicente Padilla

The Red Sox are in shambles.What once was a great team, is now the laughing stock of the AL East. After their momentous collapse in 2011 to the embarrassment that was 2012, to the transition period that will be 2013, the Red Sox need to find their new identity. The thing that gets me most about this team is that they have good players, just not at the right time. They acquired Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster, and Mike Napoli this offseason, all good players, but they are getting older and not better. Stephen Drew might have problems adjusting to the tougher AL East, and the Red Sox also must rely on Jacoby Ellsbury remaining healthy and Will Middlebrooks having a great sophomore campaign. The Red Sox dont have a bad rotation, however it is inconsistent, Lester and Buchholz will be expected to pitch to their potential all year long and I just don’t see that happening. John Lackey will be returning this season, but will he come back the same old John Lackey from his Angels years or the Red Sox years? Red Sox fans better hope for the former. The bullpen is solid as they have two closers in Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey, the rest of the bullpen is solid with power arm Daniel Bard and hot-head Alfredo Aceves. Thing is the Red Sox simply won’t have the offense, youth, or pitching to keep up with the beasts of the East.

What You’ve All Been Waiting For: AL Central Preview

1. Detroit Tigers

Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera will haunt my dreams this year.

Notable Additions: OF Torii Hunter

Notables Losses: RP Jose Valverde, OF Delmon Young

This is very much the same team that came back and bit the White Sox in the butt at the end of last season. They lost one below-average outfielder and picked up a still above average one who should continue to succeed late in his career. The Tigers also let go of their erratic closer and will most likely have a closer by committee with candidates Bruce Rondon and Phil Coke among others vying for the job. Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera along with his partner in crime Prince Fielder will once again be counted on to lead the team’s run production, but they will also have Victor Martinez return to the lineup in 2013 and he will make this team that much more dangerous. Not to mention that if Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks build off their success in 2012 as well… Jesus the Tigers are scary. And Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Anibal Sanchez, too. I’ll just stop. They are going to win the division, they are too good.

2.Cleveland Indians

I mean…they did the Harlem Shake. Your better than that Cleveland.

Notable Additions: OF Michael Bourn, OF Drew Stubbs, OF Nick Swisher, SP Brett Myers, MGR Terry Francona, SS Mike Aviles, C/1B Yan Gomes, SP Trevor Bauer, 1B Mark Reynolds, SP Daisuke Matsuzaka, 1B/DH Jason Giambi

Notable Losses: OF Shin Soo-Choo, RP Tony Sipp, SS Jason Donald, RP Roberto Hernandez (Fausto Carmona), 1B/DH Travis Hafner, OF Grady Sizemore, 3B Jack Hanahan, UTIL Brent Lillibridge

The Indians are a highly improved team in 2013. They have men who can hit at every position, power, speed, and on-base percentage. In fact, I think their lineup rivals Detroit’s in terms of scariness; and it’s not because their players can take you deep at will, but instead because they can win in so many different ways. Mark Reynolds, Jason Kipnis, and Nick Swisher can take you deep. Michael Bourn, Michael Brantley, and Drew Stubbs can run wild on the base paths, and Asdrubal Cabrera can continue to dazzle with his glove. The main sticking point to this team is their starting rotation. Justin Masterson is their ace, which really says something about A.) how bad this staff is, and B) how badly Ubaldo Jimenez had regressed from his days with the Rockies. If Masterson can pitch like the ace he is supposed to be, allegedly and Jimenez can return to his glory days with Colorado the Indians should be in good shape. Brett Myers will eat innings, Trevor Bauer should be up in the majors by mid-season, and Scott Kazmir has really impressed in Spring Training. Not to mention the Tribe really doesn’t need that great of a starting staff because their bullpen is one of the best in the American League with Vinny Pestano being one of the best guys for holds in the league and Chris Perez being the best closer in the division.

3. Chicago White Sox

No pitcher with more intensity than Jake.

Notable Additions: RP Matt Lindstrom, UTIL Jeff Keppinger, 3B Conor Gillaspie

Notable Losses: 3B Kevin Youkilis, C AJ Pierzynski, UTIL Orlando Hudson, SP Francisco Liriano, RP Brett Myers, SP Philip Humber

The White Sox lost a lot of key players from the 2012 almost champion team. AJ Pierzynski clubbed a career high twenty-two home runs in 2012 and that will be sorely missed in the 2013 version of the White Sox. Tyler Flowers has been the named the anointed one to replace all-time favorite Pierzynski. He probably won’t come close to AJ’s numbers in his first year, but he can be expected to produce at least fifteen home runs and drive in at least seventy runs on a year to year basis. Kevin Youkilis also left the team for the “Evil Empire” New York Yankees, and the Sox will most likely fill that hole with a platoon of Brent Morel and Jeff Keppinger. Hopefully Morel can turn into the hitter he was projected to become in the minors so that the Sox can have a consistency at the position, which has been unstable since the great Joe Crede left. Overall, the Sox lineup is starting to age as slugger Paul Konerko begins to head down the road to retirement. Adam Dunn is still a good power hitter and should be able to contribute to the offense and Alex Rios is still a wild card as far as consistent production goes. The 2013 lineup wont be the most offensively potent, however if there is one thing the Sox have always been able to do, its pitch. Ace, Chris Sale, was extended to five year deal, and will hopefully continue his prior dominance. Jake Peavy extended his contract with the team for two more seasons and should continue his mad-dog attitude on the mound. John Danks is returning from injury and is expected to be a big contributor as well. Not to mention Gavin Floyd will be back on the mound, barring he doesn’t get flipped at the deadline; and in addition Jose Quintana is looking to rebound from a poor second half performance and pitch the Sox to playoff contention in 2013. The baby bullpen will begin their sophomore season this year as well. Veterans like Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain, and Matt Lindstrom will be expected to lead the group of talented relievers including Nate Jones, Addison Reed, and Dylan Axelrod. The young bullpen did well in 2012, and will hopefully continue to be consistent in 2013. The Sox don’t look that good on paper, but they didn’t look good last year either; and the best thing is that the front office has shown willingness to make moves if the Sox are in contention, as evidenced by the Youkilis and Myers moves. They will give the Tigers & Indians problems and may compete for a wild card spot.

4. Kansas City Royals

Unfortunately we’ll all be seeing a lot of this in years to come.

Notable Additions: SP James Shields, SP Ervin Santana, SP Wade Davis, INF Elliot Johnson

Notable Losses: RHP Jeremy Jeffress, RHP Vin Mazzaro, OF Wil Myers, RHP Jake Odorizzi, C Brayan Pena, RHP Joakim Soria, RHP Blake Wood

If you haven’t had the chance to as of lately please say good-bye to the days of the Royals being absolute pushovers in the AL Central. Though I have them finishing in fourth place, the Royals will be highly competitive in 2013. Their lineup will feature young fixtures Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, Bill Butler, and Salvador Perez. Those four players are part of the Royals core of players who will begin to reek havoc upon the Central for years to come. The Royals did well down the stretch last year, despite not having the best pitching out there. Well GM Dayton Moore did something about that this winter, trading for starters James Shields and Wade Davis from the Tampa Bay Rays, and signing Ervin Santana in free agency. Not to mention they have mainstays Bruce Chen and Jeremy Guthrie returning to the rotation as well. The Royals will also have a very good bullpen which will feature Greg Holland, Aaron Crow, Luke Hochevar, and Kelvin Herrera. The Royals look good this year, but I can see them putting everything together yet. They will battle with the White Sox for third place but ultimately lose out.

5. Minnesota Twins

All the Twins have left.

Notable Additions: SP Rich Harden, SP Mike Pelfrey, SP Kevin Correia, SP Vance Worley

Notable Losses: OF Denard Span, OF Ben Revere, SP Scott Baker, INF Alexi Casilla, RP Matt Capps

The Twins will be your resident celler dweller this year. They traded away their best two outfielders this offseason, and have no offensive weapons aside from Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham (barring Justin Morneau has a great rebound season). The pitching staff is improved from last years as Scott Diamond will get some veteran help from the likes of Correia, Worley, and Pelfrey. There really isn’t much to say about this team as they seem to be drained of talent at the major league level. However Aaron Hicks is currently an exciting player to watch as he may win their center field job out of Spring Training without playing a game above AA. Also keep your eye on Miguel Sano, an exciting young shortstop with power, and Bryan Buxton who is a powerful outfielder. This team will finish last, but Terry Ryan is working to change that.

What You’ve All Been Waiting For: AL West Preview

1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Angels have one of the most stacked organizations in baseball.

Notable Additions: OF Josh Hamilton, SP Tommy Hanson, SP Joe Blanton, RP Sean Burnett, SP Jason Vargas

Notable Losses: SP Zack Grienke, SP Dan Haren, SP Ervin Santana, INF Maicer Izturis, RP Jordan Walden, OF Torii Hunter, 1B Kendrys Morales

The Angels currently have one of the most complete lineups in Major League Baseball. Their outfield is absolutely stacked with Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton manning the corners and Peter Bourjos patrolling center field. Their infield is built on speed as they have Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick as the double play combo up the middle, and Alberto Callaspo who can get on base at will at the hot corner. Bring it all together with former Cardinals great Albert Pujols having a resurgent year and you have a clear World Series favorite. But that is just the Angels lineup that we have seen. They can produce runs alright, but how can does their pitching staff compare? Well they still have ace, Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson, but they needed to scrounge for some help this offseason as they lost Zack Grienke, who was acquired at the deadline, and Dan Haren. In their stead they built around Weaver and Wilson with Tommy Hanson, Joe Blanton, and Jason Vargas, who was acquired in the Kendrys Morales trade with Seattle. These pitchers, with the exception of Hanson, are not better than Haren or Grienke, not by a long shot, however they should be good enough to keep the Angels in games and in the long run I feel like the Angels will be fine in the starting rotation. Should the starters break down though, the bullpen looks absolutely fantastic with names like Ryan Madson, Ernesto Frieri, Scott Downs, and Kevin Jepsen who will be working to hold Angels leads this year. Ultimately the Angels will win this division based on the fact that they have the best ability to produce lots and lots of runs, and opposing pitchers might just cry when they have to face this monstrosity of a team.

2. Oakland Athletics

The A’s won the most one-run games last year.

Notable Additions: C John Jaso, OF Chris Young, SS Hiroyuki Nakajima, 3B Jed Lowrie

Notable Losses: SP Brandon McCarthy, OF Jonny Gomes, SS Cliff Pennington, 1B Chris Carter

In a division that has gotten significantly better, except the Astros, the Oakland A’s will continue to compete despite not being able to deal out cash with the big guns in Los Angeles and Texas. As in the movie, the Oakland A’s are built on players who can get on base, and get on base often, players like John Jaso, Coco Crisp, Jemile Weeks will be providing most of Oakland’s runs this year. In addition the A’s have a couple of power hitters who could bring these guys in en masse such as Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, and Brandon Moss. The A’s will also be banking their starting rotation to stay as strong as last years with Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, and Tommy Milone being the veterans that the A’s will count on to go deep into games and give the team the best chances to win. The A’s bullpen, as usual, is an island of misfit toys with guys like Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook, Jeremy Blevins, and Pat Neshek coming out to relieve the A’s starters. The A’s certainly don’t look as strong as some of the other teams in this division, however, they are relatively the same team as last year, and shouldn’t be pushovers in this division. I can see a wild card berth from this team and I expect them to compete heavily in the AL West for first place.

3. Seattle Mariners

M’s right fielder Michael Saunders had a terrific WBC

Notable Additions: OF Michael Morse, OF/DH Raul Ibanez, 1B/DH Kendrys Morales, SP Joe Saunders, OF Jason Bay

Notable Losses: SP Jason Vargas, SP Kevin Millwood,

The Mariners have vastly improved over the last six months, and I expect them to give the Oakland A’s a ton of trouble in the AL Western division this summer. The Mariners find themselves with a team that seems to have a perfect balance of hitting, pitching, and defense. Unfortunately for them, it’s all highly mediocre. Michael Morse, Kendrys Morales, Michael Saunders, and Kyle Seager should all provide excellent power for the M’s especially with the fences being moved in to help alleviate the lack of long balls in Safeco Field. Defensively, the M’s have center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, who can cover ground with the best of them, and should alleviate some of the pressure defensively from Morse and Saunders in the outfield. Dustin Ackley and Brenden Ryan up the middle are a solid defensive middle infield combination and the M’s should expect almost nothing to fall in the middle of their field, both infield and outfield. The M’s also have relatively decent pitching, headlined by ace Felix Hernandez. After Hernandez though the rotation is relatively weak with the likes of Hisashi Iwakuma, Blake Beaven, Joe Saunders, and Erasmo Ramirez. Iwakuma, Beaven, and Saunders are all fourth starters at best, but will be able to pitch their six innings and then turn it over to the bullpen. No fear though M’s fans! Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, and James Paxton are on the way! In the interim though, as stated earlier, the M’s will rely on their bullpen. The bullpen is where some of the M’s top prospects have already arrived, with Stephen Pryor (#4 on the M’s Prospect List according to mlb.com) and Carter Capps (#7) in the major league bullpen. In addition to those promising youngsters the Mariners will also have Tom Wilhelmsen returning as the team’s closer and Charlie Furbush as the team’s go-to left-handed reliever. All in all this team is incredibly mediocre but should be able to put up enough of a fight to stay ahead of this next team.

4. Texas Rangers

This upcoming year might be a tough one for the Rangers.

Notable Additions: C AJ Pierzynski, DH/1B Lance Berkman, RP Joakim Soria, RP Jason Frasor, UTIL Jeff Baker

Notable Losses: OF Josh Hamilton, 3B Michael Young, RP Mike Adams, SP Ryan Dempster, 1B/C Mike Napoli, SP Roy Oswalt, SP Scott Feldman

The Rangers were really depleted this offseason. They lost Josh Hamilton, the heart and soul of their team to the division rival Angels. Michael Young, a man who personified Ranger baseball was traded to Philadelphia. Mike Napoli was let go, and pitchers Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, and Mike Adams walked for sunnier horizons.  Amid all these reshuffling and essentially rebranding of the organization, GM Jon Daniels did a poor job of replacing the talent he lost. On paper, Daniels did a solid job of replacing the statistics he lost from last year, however the intangible of age might nip the Rangers in the behind if AJ Pierzynski and Lance Berkman aren’t able to escape father time this year. In addition, Joakim Soria is just returning from injury and no one will know for certain how he will perform. Thus, the Rangers are only left with Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, and Adrian Beltre as the only true run producers on the team. Everyone else is a question mark. Their rotation could also be stronger as Matt Harrison is not and should not be the ace of a staff. Yu Darvish was figured out by the end of the year as well, and the rest of the staff is just…meh.  The bullpen doesn’t exactly wow either, as Joe Nathan, Joakim Soria, and Neftali Feliz are the only recognizable names, and two of the three are past their prime. Many are picking the Rangers to do well this year, however I see them seriously regressing this year, and not even having a winning record.

5. Houston Astros

Basically my response to the Astros as a team.

Notable Additions: 1B/DH Carlos Pena, RP Jose Veras, SP Philip Humber, 1B Chris Carter, OF Rick Ankiel, C Jason Jaramillo, RP Alex White, SP Erik Bedard

Notable Losses: C Chris Snyder, 3B Scott Moore, SS Jed Lowrie

It’s sad when you look at a team’s transaction wire and you can’t tell whether a guy will make an impact on the 2013 team or not. The Astros are essentially a minor-league team at this point and I can’t see them competing at any point in the next two to three years.

White Sox Extend Ace Pitcher, Sale, for Five Years, $60 Million

White Sox Pitcher Chris Sale signed an extension Thursday that will keep him in Chicago for the next five years.

The White Sox have reached an agreement to sign Chris Sale to a 5 year, $60 million dollar contract Thursday afternoon. The contract will lock up Sale through his arbitration years beginning in 2014 and will also cover his first free agent year. The White Sox now have three pitchers locked up for at least the next two years who should be critical to the team’s success in Jake Peavy, John Danks, and Sale. This deal is an outstanding one for the Pale Hose as it locks up a young arm who pitched to sixth place in Cy Young voting in his first year as a starter, and also looks to be the team ace, for an annual value of $12 million a year. To put that in perspective, Justin Verlander will make $20 million in 2013, Jered Weaver will make $16 million, and Felix Hernandez will make $19 million. In fact, the only starting pitcher who finished above Sale in Cy Young balloting last year, the winner himself, David Price is the only one of the group who will make less than Sale in 2013 and it is the end of a team friendly 6 year deal he signed in 2007, and Price is in for a big raise this offseason.

Sale is a key piece for the future of the White Sox organization and I as well as every other White Sox fan should praise general manager Rick Hahn for taking the initiative to re-sign the pitcher who will attempt the carry the White Sox to a division crown for years to come.

White Sox Spring Training Preview: Hitters

The smell of freshly mowed grass is beginning to accumulate in Glendale, Arizona. White Sox pitchers and catchers will report in two days and begin the grind to another AL Central title. However, the fate of the White Sox will be decided in Spring Training as the White Sox invite their 40-man roster along with non-roster invitees to see who will best fit the mold for Robin Ventura and his coaching staff. Spring camp is also a good way to evaluate the Sox at each position and how they did in the offseason trying to upgrade that position. This will only address the hitters as I will do the pitchers at a later date.

At catcher, barring a move before camp breaks, Sox fans will see Tyler Flowers handling the pitching staff. Flowers does not currently command the confidence of many White Sox fans but Rick Hahn has defended the catcher and says he has faith in his abilities. Flowers, in past seasons has shown flashes of Adam Dunn-like country power. Sox fans have seen him absolutely obliterate foul balls and if he can translate that power to hitting balls on the fair side of the foul poll then the Sox might be on to something. Backing up Flowers will be minor league journeyman Hector Gimenez. Gimenez has had 20 at-bats in his major league career, so I won’t even bother trying to project or predict what kind of major league player he will be. With the unknown of Gimenez however I would expect Flowers to get a lot of playing time similar to the way A.J. Pierzynski hogged the playing time at catcher when he was in his prime years. The Sox really didn’t make much of an effort to upgrade at catcher despite options being available and options that continue to be available.

Grade: C

Credit: Chicago White Sox Memes (Facebook)

The Sox infield continues to stay static with team Captain and face of the franchise Paul Konerko manning first base, youngster Gordan Beckham taking second, and the Cuban Missile, Alexei Ramirez, at shortstop. This infield has been the same since Beckham became a regular in 2010. So this is no surprise. However, third base is in flux. Rick Hahn intends to give Brent Morel every chance to win back the third base job after he lost it last season due to poor production at the plate, though Hahn will claim it was due to his back injury. Three different men occupied third base last year: Morel, Orlando Hudson, and Kevin Youkilis. In order to try to stabilize the position should Morel bust again, Hahn added utility-man Jeff Keppinger who can spell any infield position to backup both Morel and Beckham. Though I do not see Beckham having a breakout year, ever, I can see Morel significantly improving this year. Or at least one can hope. Fans should be glad that Hahn did address the third base issue in some way by adding Keppinger, so that is a plus as well. Let’s also not forget the Big Donkey, Adam Dunn, who should continue to build on his success from last year. I expect his numbers to stay relatively the same considering he is the epitome of an all-or-nothing hitter.

Grade: B

Captain Paul Konerko will anchor the infield as he has done the past 13 seasons

The White Sox outfield is full of familiar faces in 2013 as well, with all three starters returning to the lineup in 2013. Dayan Viciedo will man left, speedster Alejandro De Aza will be in centerfield, and Alex Rios will patrol right. Though this outfield isn’t exactly suited for its defensive abilities it will be a force to be reckoned with on offense. If Alex Rios can repeat last year’s success and Viciedo can learn some plate discipline, the White Sox lineup will continue to be one of the AL Central’s best. However, there is still a battle to be won in the Sox outfield. Who will be the fourth outfielder? Currently the battle looks to be between the veteran, DeWayne Wise, and the youngster, Jordan Danks. Wise seems to be the favorite as he has continued to fight for a major league job throughout his career, but the Sox should really look at giving Danks an opportunity this season because he has more of a future with the team than Wise when you consider age instead of production. The Sox really didn’t need to address this position in the offseason as it is fine where it is as of now.

Grade: B+

Speedy outfielder Alejandro De Aza

As spring training comes nearer and nearer, we as baseball fans get more excited to see the position battles, the drama, and heroics of our favorite teams.  The way the White Sox lineup looks now, I am not to worried about the team producing runs, I am more worried about the consistency of the run production as the players we have now are know to be streaky, however a new season brings new trends, and maybe that is a trend that won’t continue into this year. For now though, let’s all just look forward to that beautiful fresh-cut grass.

Ahhh… baseball!

Rick Hahn’s Interesting Comments at SoxFest

Over the weekend at SoxFest, Rick Hahn had some interesting commentary in regards to the White Sox payroll. Hahn declared at the morning seminar at SoxFest that if the White Sox were in contention, fans could expect the team to add to payroll if necessary. “the money has always been there,” said Hahn. So that is the good news. Now stop drooling White Sox fans, the fact that Hahn said he would raise payroll does not mean the Sox will be splurging, but it does mean that if the White Sox are an impact player away from being a force to be reckoned with come July, Hahn will have the flexibility to swing a deal.

General Manager Rick Hahn At SoxFest

The undeniable bad news though is the biggest question mark in Hahn’s comments. If the money has always been there, then why not re-sign fan favorite A.J. Pierzynski? A man who had just come off of a career year at the plate. When asked about the departure of Pierzynski, Hahn said that the money that would have gone into a Pierzynski extension was instead reassigned to the contracts of starting pitcher Jake Peavy, utility man Jeff Keppinger, and reliever Matt Lindstrom.

Assuming Hahn would have re-signed Pierzynski on a one-year contract, Hahn was apparently about to dish out about $20 million on the thirty-six year old catcher. Now, I am being facetious, but if the White Sox are willing to spend on an impact bat later in the season, why wouldn’t they spend on a proven bat like Pierzynski’s now? There could be several reasons as to why the Sox passed on Pierzynski, but I am assuming Pierzynski wouldn’t have commanded as much as the $7 million dollar price tag he signed for in Texas from the White Sox.

Overall, I am pleased that the Sox see themselves in a win-now mode, despite the bleak outlook on the division. The Tigers are still an offensive juggernaut with a great complementary starting rotation. The Kansas City Royals have improved their weak rotation, which should combine with a solid bullpen and young, exciting lineup to be somewhat relevant in 2013, but yet Hahn and the Sox front office can still see themselves having a shot at this thing. Only time will tell.

Matt Lindstrom Signs On with South Siders

Yesterday news was broke by Jon Paul Morosi that former Rockies and Orioles reliever Matt Lindstrom had signed a one year deal with the White Sox. Lindstrom, 32, split time last year with the Orioles and Diamondbacks, he compiled a 2.68 ERA, with a walk ratio of 2.7 and a strikeout ratio of 7.7.

Newly signed RHP Matt Lindstrom delivers a pitch for the Orioles in 2012.

Lindstrom could very well be the reliever the Sox have been talking about acquiring all off-season as he is a 6 year veteran, and throws pure gas. In addition the Pale Hose only had one more remaining roster spot, and it was for a reliever. I do like the surface numbers Lindstrom has put up over his career, however I do have some major concerns when it comes to this type of pitcher.

My number one concern when it comes to pitchers is league changing. When pitchers go from the National League to the American League they are notorious for getting completely shelled in the beginning of their stint. Example 1 being Ryan Dempster. Last year, Ryan Dempster was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Texas Rangers. Dempster had been lights out for the Cubs but with their rebuilding effort going on Dempster was more worth what he could bring in than what he put in. Before the trade, Dempster had a 2.25 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and  a 2.3 walk ratio. After he was dealt to the Rangers, Dempster regressed heavily. In 12 starts Dempster had a 5.09 ERA, 1.435 WHIP, and his walk ratio jumped up a whole point. The competition in the AL West, with teams like the A’s and Angels combined with the designated hitter rule, was just too much for Dempster to handle. So now I begin to wonder.

Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster fared very poorly for the Rangers in the sceond half of the 2012 season

Lindstrom pitched in the National League exclusively for 5 years with the Marlins and Astros. The beginning of 2012 was the first time he had been on an American League club. Even worse, it was an American League club in the best division in baseball. During Lindstrom’s time with the O’s, he didn’t fare too badly. But the fact that his walk rate with the O’s compared to the Diamondbacks was alomst 1.5 points higher is a little concerning.

I’m not saying this was a bad signing, because I do like the fact that the White Sox went after a veteran reliever with some pop. But what I am saying is that the switching of leagues is something to watch out for , as it may not be a smooth transition. Fortunately, Lindstrom is coming into a pretty weak division even despite all the improvements the clubs have made this offseason. If there is any American League division that most resembles a National League division it’s the AL Central.

Thank you for reading another edition of the Next White Sox GM. If you have any comments on the signing of Matt Lindstrom, or have any ideas of your own please comment below and have your voice heard! Spring Training opening day is only 34 days away, and pitchers and catchers report on February 10th!

According to a Rival GM: Michael Morse Traded to Seattle in 3-Team Deal

The AL West just got a little tougher today when general manager Jack Zduriencik of the Seattle Mariners pulled the trigger on a three team deal that saw former Nationals outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse head to the Emerald City, also involved in the deal was Mariners catcher John Jaso who went to Oakland. Oakland then sent minor league pitchers AJ Cole and Blake Treinen to Washington, who will also receive a player to be named later from Oakland. Morse was being shopped after Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo re-signed first baseman Adam LaRoache to a two-year deal. With Morse’s first base position filled, and Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, and the newly-acquired Denard Span patrolling the oufield Morse was out of options. Though he could have played second base and been part of a stacked lineup, Rizzo saw more value in the talent that Morse could bring in than having the extra offense lying around in the lineup.

Reacquired Nationals prospect AJ Cole

Michael Morse brought back former Nationals prospect AJ Cole, who was traded away in the Gio Gonzalez deal last year. The year he was traded to the A’s the Nats sold on him high with Cole being the fifty-seventh ranked prospect according to Baseball America. In 2011 at Single-A Hagerstown Cole pitched to a four win and seven loss record, a 4.04 ERA, and a WHIP around 1.2. Solid stats, but they could have been better. What most likely attracted the eye of A’s GM Billy Beane was Cole’s outstanding walk rate which was a relatively cool 2.4 and his high strikeout rate which was at 10.9. In comparison David Price’s career walk rate is 3.0 and his career strikeout rate is an 8.3.

Former National, turned Mariners slugger Michael Morse

Now more on Michael Morse, who will head to a smaller Safeco field, and be placed in the middle of a now formidable Mariners lineup. Before this offseason the Mariners need to address their offensive needs, and badly. Their best hitters were designated hitter Jesus Montero and third baseman Kyle Seager. However, GM Jack Zduriencik has vastly improved their anemic offense by adding former Angel Kendrys Morales and signing former Mariner great Raul Ibanez. Morse just seems to be the cherry on top. Yet there still lies a problem. As noted by MLB insider Jon Paul Morosi: Jesus Montero, though not the subject of the deal is the key player to making this trade work.

But why is Montero so key? Well that’s because Montero, though listed as a catcher, does not actually catch. Of the 135 games Montero played last year, he was the starting catcher for 55 of them, catching 40% of Seattle’s games. With the DH spot now being occupied by a revolving door of Morse, Morales, and Ibanez; Montero will have to find at-bats elsewhere. But the problem is, the elsewhere might not be catcher for the Mariners, it might be designated hitter elsewhere.

A rare photo of Montero in his catching gear.

Montero’s fielding numbers at the catching position are not promising. Last year he let up 7 passed balls, in addition to not really being a brick wall behind the plate, Montero also only threw out 25% of base runners attempting to steal on him. In comparison, 35 year old catcher AJ Pierzynski only let up 8 passed balls in about 71 more games than Montero, and Pierzynski also threw out about the same percentage of base runners. Now don’t go saying “well, Pierzynski is one of the best catchers in the game and got by.” That is not the right logic here, Pierzynski is about 14 years older than Montero and had one more passed ball allowed than Montero, while being the backstop for 71 more games than the younger Montero. In order to get the same kind of at-bats a young power hitter like Montero will need, Jack Zduriencik will most likely need to look elsewhere. The good thing is that a player like Montero still holds significant value considering he won’t be arbitration eligable until 2015, and isn’t a free agent until 2018, which still gives the team receiving him about 5 years of cheap control on Montero.

Now we move on to the Moneyball A’s, who essentially gave up prospects AJ Cole, Blake Treinen, and a player to be named later for catcher John Jaso. Yes, the A’s did a three-for-one trade for John Jaso, That’s what I said when I first heard about the deal, and thought Billy Beane had gone mad. But upon further investigation I started to warm up to why Beane did this deal. Though Cole was an elite prospect upon coming to Oakland, he left under much worse circumstances.

Upon his arrival Cole was placed in Single-A ball with Oakland’s Burlington affiliate. Nothing had changed, Cole improved his whip to a 1.0, dropped his walk rate to a 1.8, and had a dazzling 9.6 strikeout rating, all while maintaining a 2.07 ERA. But then Stockton happened. Cole was promoted to A+ ball, and just fell apart. He was not the same pitcher that left Burlington. Though maintaining a 2.4 walk rate, Cole’s strikeout rate decreased to a 7.3 and his home run rate increased a full point to 1.7. Cole’s ERA also ballooned to a near an 8, and he lost all but one of his starts which was a no decision. Now this by no means indicates that Cole is done, considering his size of good work versus bad work is still about 38 starts to 7, but if Cole did continue to tank then Beane would have been SOL (so out of luck). Thus, it pained Beane to part with a promising prospect of Cole’s caliber, but he got someone who could help the big league club in Jaso.

Going into the 2013 season Beane had planned to have Derek Norris and George Kottaras battle it out for the starting catcher job. Norris who came over with Cole in the Gonzalez trade had had a decent year at AAA Sacremento, grinding out a  slash line of .271/.329/.477 (avg./obp.%/slg% for those who aren’t familiar), Norris also tacked on 9 home runs and 38 RBI’s. Oh, and not to mention this was all done in less than 250 plate appearances.

Kottaras, the other man battling for the job, came over in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers. Though Kottaras doesn’t hit for a high average, he is known for getting on base, something that sources tell me Billy Beane really likes a lot. With Beane ready to let the two duke it out for the job, the opportunity to acquire Jaso came up. Beane had been chasing Jaso for months, and would only let Cole go for Jaso. Jaso was Beane’s man. Jaso is probably thought of so highly by Beane because of his insanely high on-base percentage, which flirted with .400 last year (.394). Having Jaso, who is staying in the same division he played in with the M’s is probably all the more insurance for Beane, as the adjustment period won’t be as long as if he had switched divisions or leagues. Not to mention that 2013 is the first year Jaso is arbitration eligible, and he won’t be a free agent until 2016 which gives Beane so time to think of a creative way to keep Jaso on the cheap.

Billy Beane’s temptress, on-base percentage personified. I mean John Jaso

All in all, I like the deal for all parties involved as the M’s improve their lineup, the A’s get their starting pitcher, and the Nationals stock their system after losing a draft pick from signing reliever Rafael Soriano. This trade was truly a masterpiece, and kudos to Beane, Rizzo, and Zduriencik for making the trade work and make sense for all parties involved.

White Sox News:

  • In White Sox related news, second baseman Gordon Beckham and center fielder Alejandro De Aza filed for arbitration. mlbtraderumors.com anticipates a $3.1 million salary for Beckham and $1.7 million for De Aza.
  • Javier Vazquez is also still on the market, the White Sox, Nationals, and Red Sox are considered front runners, with the Nats showing the most interest.

 

Thanks for reading another installment of the Next White Sox GM, if you have any thoughts on the trade or a question anything else in general please leave a comment.

Position Battles to Watch at Sox Camp

There are thirty-nine more days until pitchers and catchers report to Camelback Ranch. Baseball will be back, and we can all emerge from the disappointment of last season in hopes of succeeding again. However, before the Sox can get their feet off the ground, there are still some question marks across the diamond and the starting rotation. It is imperative that the Sox coaching and player development staff use Spring Training to identify impact players who can help the big league roster and to sort out the best lineup from what they have been given.

Who doesn’t love Spring Training weather, so beautiful.

Starting out the competition will be utility infielder Jeff Keppinger versus incumbent third baseman Brent Morel. Keppinger was signed this past offseason to a 3 year, $12 million deal in order to be the team’s starting third baseman, and he is presumed to be the favorite as of right now. Despite, the signing of Keppinger, Morel is still young and has time on his side. In 2009, Future Sox’s scouting report on Morel projected him to be an average third baseman, and if he can do that he will win the job handedly. Morel’s defensive abilities combined with his decent power could easily net him twenty home run/eighty RBI seasons, but he needs to put it all together first. Last year was not pretty, but we start over again every year, fresh starts, so that players can try again. Here’s to Morel finding his way back to where he is expected to perform, but until then, based on last year’s performance, Keppinger has the third base job locked up.

Utility infielder Jeff Keppinger

Another war to be waged in the Arizona desert will be for the backup starting catcher job. With the departure of AJ Pierzynski, it is now safe to safe to say that Tyler Flowers will be the starting catcher, but who the backup will be is a whole different beast. Currently the White Sox 40-man roster lists three catchers, Flowers, Hector Gimenez, and Josh Phegley. Phegley is ranked as the 11th prospect in the White Sox farm system, and is my personal favorite to win the job. Phegley is twenty-four years old and has only had four years of minor league experience as opposed to Gimenez who has had a ten-year minor league career with four different organizations, including the White Sox. If he was anything special, I feel like he would have shown it somewhere before his age thirty season.

Charlotte Knights catcher Josh Phegley

Despite my feelings toward Gimenez I can also see why the White Sox would like Phegley to remain in AAA for one more season. Phegley regressed a little last year, though his average spiked about fifteen points, his on-base percentage dropped, which indicates impatience at the plate. The Sox are already stacked with impatient free swingers (see Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo, and Gordon Beckham), what the Sox need is someone who can control the strike zone, and take walks. Another year in the minors would allow Phegley to identify bad pitches and try to take more walks instead of taking himself out of at-bats. In addition, Phegley has blood disorder, ITP, which lowers the body’s platelet count. Side effects are increased risk of bleeding and Purpura, which are disgusting red or purple skin discolorations caused by bleeding under the skin. Another year in the minors would be beneficial to see how well Phegley can continue his playing career in spite of having the blood disorder.

The final battle that will be interesting to watch unfold is that of the fifth starter. The White Sox rotation this upcoming season will consist of John Danks, Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, Gavin Floyd, and Jose Quintana or Hector Santiago. Though trade rumors continue to surround Gavin Floyd we will assume the Sox break camp with him. Hector Santiago was an unknown last year when spring training came around, but he broke camp with the Sox and ended up winning the closer job for the first week of the season (before eventually losing it to Addison Reed). Santiago wasn’t exactly a stellar reliever, but he was good enough for about half of the season. The Sox then decided that Santiago would be best fit as a starter and sent him down to Charlotte to stretch out. He came back and made a start against Cleveland on October 1st, and pitched a gem; only allowing one hit over seven frames. The case for Santiago is a little shaky though based on his losing of the closer job, and him also only making one start against one of the worst teams in the AL Central.

Jose Quintana’s story is quite similar, an unknown, he didn’t even break camp with the Sox. Quintana was toiling away in AA when the Sox came calling. John Danks had just been placed on the disabled list and the White Sox needed a spot start. On May 25, against the who-would-have-guessed-it Cleveland Indians Quintana took the bump for six innings, allowing two runs, walking three, and striking out four. This would cement Quintana’s place in the White Sox rotation, and he would go on to make twenty-three more starts for the Pale Hose, winning six and losing six.

White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana

In my opinion, this competition will be close, both pitchers are very similar in stuff, but when in doubt, experience is always the tie-breaker. All in all, this Spring Training should be no different than others. Battles will be fought, positions will be won, and the Sox will be absolutely terrible compared to the Cubs in Spring Training play, prompting Cubs fans to tease us until the regular season begins and everything goes back to normal. Will the battles won in Spring Training help us overcome the Everest that has become the Tigers? I hope so. But the only way to find out is in seventy-five days when Chris Sale takes the bump at US Cellular Field against the James Shields and the new look Royals.

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