Chicago White Sox v Cleveland Indians

2013 Preview: Chicago White Sox

25 Comments

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Today: the Chicago White Sox.

The Big Question: Will the White Sox again exceed low expectations?

Last year at this time the White Sox were coming off a disappointing 79-win season and had lost Mark Buehrle to free agency, fired Ozzie Guillen and replaced him with a manager totally lacking in experience at any level, and further retooled by trading Carlos Quentin and Sergio Santos. Expectations were so low that Las Vegas set their over/under win total at 75 and many people wondered why the front office stopped short of a full-scale rebuild.

And then they won 85 games.

This offseason Chicago re-signed Jake Peavy to a favorable contract but again shed talent, as A.J. Pierzynski, Kevin Youkilis, Brett Myers, and Francisco Liriano walked via free agency and the biggest additions were Jeff Keppinger and Matt Lindstrom. And so expectations remain low, with Las Vegas setting the over/under at 80 wins. I think they’ll beat that total, not because the White Sox are a particularly great team but because they’re clearly a decent team and the unbalanced schedule means someone in the AL Central besides the Tigers is going to finish above .500.

There are plenty of potential stumbling blocks for the White Sox emerging as that team, of course. Tyler Flowers has a very difficult task replacing A.J. Pierzynski’s production and durability behind the plate. Counting on Peavy to stay healthy in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2006-2007 is iffy and the rotation has other health question marks in John Danks and Gavin Floyd. Robin Ventura needs to get some kind of offensive help from the Keppinger, Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez infield trio so the lineup doesn’t lean so heavily on Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, and Alex Rios.

Because of all that the White Sox making a legitimate run at the AL Central title deep into the season looks unlikely, but unless the rotation falls apart because of injuries it’s also hard for me to imagine Chicago not finishing above .500. And yet if they do beat Las Vegas’ preseason expectations again it would be the White Sox’s first time with back-to-back winning seasons since 2005-2006.

What else is going on?

• For all the talk of teams making mistakes by shifting dominant young relievers to the rotation only to see them struggle and/or get hurt Chris Sale did exactly that for the White Sox last season and it couldn’t have gone better. At age 23 he was among the AL’s top five in wins, ERA, WHIP, opponents’ batting average, and strikeout rate, throwing 192 innings with a 3.05 ERA and 192/51 K/BB ratio before signing a long-term contract that could keep him in Chicago through 2019. Sale holding up physically in Year 2 as a starter might be the biggest key to the White Sox’s season.

• Dayan Viciedo showed a lot of power at age 23, smacking 25 homers in his first full season, but his overall production was lacking for a corner outfielder who isn’t a plus defensively. He hit just .255 with a measly .300 on-base percentage, striking out 120 times in 147 games while drawing a pathetic 20 walks in 543 trips to the plate. Despite playing in a hitter-friendly ballpark Viciedo’s all-around offensive contribution was below average among MLB left fielders even without factoring in his defense. Viciedo is obviously not without long-term potential, but power vastly overstated his 2012 value.

• Addison Reed posted a 4.75 ERA that suggests he wasn’t very effective as a 23-year-old rookie closer, but he allowed 21 percent of his total runs in one May appearance. In his other 61 games Reed threw 55 innings with a 3.75 ERA and 53/15 K/BB ratio while converting 88 percent of his save chances. He also averaged 94.6 miles per hour with his fastball. As a fly-ball pitcher in a power-inflating ballpark Reed will always be walking on relatively thin ice, but the White Sox have the ninth inning figured out for the foreseeable future.

• Dunn had a bounceback season after a miserable 2011, boosting his OPS by 231 points. That’s an amazing turnaround and it’s also amazing that he managed an .800 OPS while hitting just .204. In fact, while leading the league in both strikeouts (222) and walks (105) and ranking fifth in homers (41) he had the highest OPS of all time for someone with a sub-.220 batting average. By comparison, 25 players last season hit .280 or higher and posted a lower OPS than Dunn. It might not always be pretty, but production is production.

Prediction: Second place, American League Central

The Padres are aggressively shopping Yangervis Solarte

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 01:  Third baseman Yangervis Solarte #26 of the San Diego Padres fields a ground ball against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the sixth inning of a MLB game at Chase Field on October 1, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Ralph Freso/Getty Images
Leave a comment

In a column published on Sunday, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says the Padres are “aggressively shopping” third baseman Yangervis Solarte. The 29-year-old is entering his first of three years of arbitration eligibility and is projected to earn $2.7 million next season.

This past season, Solarte hit a solid .286/.341/.467 with 15 home runs and 71 RBI in 443 plate appearances. It’s quite impressive factoring in that he plays in the pitcher-friendly Petco Park.

Given that Solarte is team-controlled for three more years and he offers lots of versatility with previous experience playing first and second base as well as corner outfield, the Padres should receive a fair amount of interest.

Yankees sign Matt Holliday to a one-year, $13 million deal

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 20: Matt Holliday #7 of the St. Louis Cardinal hits a solo home run during the second inning against the San Diego Padres of game one of a doubleheader at Busch Stadium on July 20, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images)
Scott Kane/Getty Images
6 Comments

Update (6:52 PM EST): The deal is expected to be one year for $13 million, per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports confirms the report.

*

The Yankees are close to signing veteran free agent Matt Holliday, WFAN’s Sweeny Murti reports.

Holliday, who turns 37 years old next month, was limited to 110 games in 2016 with the Cardinals due to a fractured left thumb suffered in the second half. He finished the season hitting .246/.322/.461 with 20 home runs and 62 RBI in 426 plate appearances.

Holliday is likely looking at spending the majority of his time in the DH role. Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann handled the DH role for a majority of the time last season but all three have moved on — Rodriguez was released in the second half, Beltran just signed with the Astros, and McCann was traded to the Astros last month.