White Sox look just about set after Pierre trade

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Swinging a trade with the Dodgers for Juan Pierre this morning has the White Sox’s lineup looking more or less set for 2010:
C – A.J. Pierzynski (.300/.331/.425 in 2009)
1B – Paul Konerko (.277/.353/.489)
2B – Gordon Beckham (.270/.347/.460)
SS – Alexei Ramirez (.277/.333/.389)
3B – Mark Teahen (.271/.325/.408)
LF – Carlos Quentin (.236/.323/.456)
CF – Juan Pierre (.308/.365/.392)
RF – Alex Rios (.247/.296/.395)
DH – Andruw Jones (.214/.323/.459)
While fairly solid top to bottom that group certainly doesn’t look likely to score a ton of runs, although Quentin getting back to his 2008 form and Beckham improving upon his solid rookie campaign could change that somewhat. Rios and Ramirez are also good bets to bounce back with better seasons, and re-signing Jim Thome to perhaps platoon with Jones would bring significant pop to the DH slot. Bringing back Thome would also help balance out what is now a very right-handed group.
Pierre gets overrated by people who focus on his speed and batting average rather than his lack of power and plate discipline, but he’s a decent fit for the White Sox’s lineup given the lack of on-base threats. Konerko is the only other hitter in the lineup who had an OBP above .350 in 2009 and he’s obviously not a leadoff option, so by adding Pierre the White Sox can use Beckham in more of a run-production spot and keep the various .300-.330 OBPs lower in the order. Of course, Pierre’s career .348 OBP is hardly great either.
Barring any further changes I’d peg that lineup for somewhere in the middle of the pack, perhaps in the 8-10 range, which doesn’t sound very good until you consider that they ranked 12th in scoring in 2009. Plus, with the deep, talented pitching staff that general manager Ken Williams has assembled the White Sox won’t necessarily have to do a ton of scoring to have success in 2010:
SP – Jake Peavy
SP – Mark Buehrle
SP – John Danks
SP – Gavin Floyd
SP – Freddy Garcia
CL – Bobby Jenks
RP – Matt Thornton
RP – J.J. Putz
RP – Scott Linebrink
RP – Tony Pena
RP – Daniel Hudson
Buehrle, Danks, and Floyd combined to start 95 games with a 3.89 ERA in 2009, so with a healthy Peavy added to the mix that rotation should be among the league’s very best. The bullpen isn’t as strong because Jenks and Linebrink have declined, but Thornton is an elite setup man and Putz getting back on track would be a huge addition. Overall the White Sox have the look a good team rather than a great one, but in a division where 88 wins often gets the job done they’re in solid shape.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.