Showing posts with label Adam Dunn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adam Dunn. Show all posts

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Todd Frazier becomes seventh player in White Sox franchise history to reach 40 home runs

Todd Frazier
The "dream" of a .500 season survives for another day. The White Sox (77-81) won their fifth consecutive game Wednesday night, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays, 1-0.

This game featured two rain delays, and cold, wet, windy weather that knocked down its share of flyballs. However, Sox third baseman Todd Frazier connected for a solo home run off Tampa Bay knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa in the bottom of the seventh inning, and that provided the margin of victory.

The home run was the 40th of the season for Frazier, extending a career high, and he became the seventh player in Sox franchise history to reach 40 home runs in a single season. Here are the others:

Sox right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (5-8) concluded a sneaky-good season with his best outing of the year Wednesday. He worked 8.1 scoreless innings, despite having to sit for 97 minutes because of a rain delay in the third inning. Gonzalez allowed just three hits, struck out five and walked nobody. He threw 71 of his 102 pitches for strikes, and that allowed him to get some quick outs in the pitcher-friendly conditions.

Gonzalez finishes his season with a 3.73 ERA. Fifteen of his 23 starts were quality. Like most of the Sox rotation, he pitched better than his record indicates, and I don't think anyone can complain about his performance this year.

His 102nd pitch Wednesday was a hanging slider that Logan Forsythe hit for a single to left with one out in the top of the ninth. At that point, closer David Robertson was summoned. He needed one pitch to record his 37th save in 44 chances, inducing Kevin Kiermaier to hit into a game-ending double play.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

White Sox designate John Danks for assignnment

The White Sox on Tuesday announced their intention to designate veteran left-hander John Danks for assignment.

Danks is 0-4 with a 7.25 ERA in four starts this season, and as we've chronicled previously on this blog, he is the one guy who seems to be holding the Sox back this season. The South Siders enter Wednesday's game against Boston with a 19-8 record, which means they are 19-4 when Danks doesn't pitch.

General manager Rick Hahn indicated right-hander Erik Johnson will be recalled from Triple-A Charlotte to take Danks' spot in the starting rotation. Johnson will start Thursday's game against Boston.

“(Danks) was an important part of some very good White Sox teams,” Hahn told CSNChicago's Dan Hayes. “This is about putting us in the best position to win ballgames going forward. We feel we have a pretty special thing going on in this clubhouse right now. We have the opportunity to build off some of the momentum we already have created for ourselves, and we wanted to put ourselves in the best position to win games going forward.”

There's no question Danks has been a momentum killer during his starts in the early going this year. His appearances have put a stop to a five-game winning streak and a six-game winning streak already. The struggles are part of a longer-term trend since Danks underwent shoulder surgery in August 2012.

He has never been the same pitcher since returning in 2013. In 88 post-surgery starts, he has gone 22-44 with a 4.84 ERA. As a team, the Sox are 32-56 in those 88 games. He's just too big of a liability for a team that is off to a good start and has every intention of trying to win this year.

Letting Danks go will not be cheap. The club is eating the remaining $11.75 million on Danks' contract, which comes as a surprise to many longtime Sox observers, who are used to seeing owner Jerry Reinsdorf insist on getting a return on his investment.

For myself and other Sox fans, the move is refreshing, because it shows the Sox are serious about winning and willing to address problems quickly. In the past, we've seen this organization stick with high-priced players despite poor performance. (Why was Adam Dunn batting third in 2011 when his batting average was well below .200?)

In the past, we've seen this organization stick with struggling players (Tyler Flowers, Dayan Viciedo, Gordon Beckham) long after it became apparent they were never going to be solid, everyday contributors.

Whether the Sox have an internal solution for the No. 5 starter spot remains to be seen. But both the numbers and the eye test show that Danks is no longer capable of pitching at the major-league level. I commend the Sox for recognizing that and moving on.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Maybe Adam LaRoche isn't going to be a bust after all

I feel like Adam LaRoche hasn't gotten a fair shake from White Sox fans this year.

I knew it was going to be that way, too, because LaRoche is a notorious slow starter, and for many of the meathead fans in Chicago, first impressions are lasting impressions.

Predictably, LaRoche had a bad April for the Sox, and the fans labeled him as the second coming of Adam Dunn.

Some went so far to give LaRoche the nickname "Adam LaDunn," which is an unfair comparison. Unlike Dunn, LaRoche is a good-fielding first baseman, and he has always hit for a respectable average. And, while LaRoche is not exactly a fast runner, he's not the lumbering baseplugger Dunn is, either.

But hey, LaRoche's first name is Adam, he bats left, he used to play for the Washington Nationals, and he's a first baseman. BAM! They must be the same player! So say the meatheads.

Unfortunately for the small-minded folks who want to declare LaRoche a bust, the veteran has been playing better as the year has moved along. His home run in the sixth inning Wednesday night tied the game, and the Sox went on to beat the Houston Astros, 4-1, to complete a three-game sweep.

Let's take a look at what LaRoche has done by month:

April: .191/.286/.353
May: .270/.420/.427
June: .300/.344/.567

LaRoche's career split in April is .222/.316/.397, so this year's start was even worse than normal for him. But, it falls in line with his career trend. His career splits for May and June are .261/.350/.456 and .261/.336/.460, respectively, so just as he has his whole career, LaRoche is showing improvement in May and June.

We can see now that LaRoche is starting to recover from his bad start, progressing toward his career norms:

2015 season: .246/.362/.422
Career: .263/.340/.470

He's not quite where he should be yet, but it's going to take a little while longer to erase that poor April. Nevertheless, we're starting to see evidence that LaRoche is still the player the Sox thought they were getting when they signed him to a two-year contract this past offseason.

Sox fans would do well to get over their obsession with Dunn and his failures and judge LaRoche on his own merits.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Here's why the Adam LaRoche signing is worth the risk for the White Sox

The deal hasn't been announced yet, but reports over the weekend indicated the White Sox have agreed to terms with first baseman Adam LaRoche on a two-year, $25 million contract. The left-handed slugger is expected to share duties at first base and designated hitter with Jose Abreu.

The signing of LaRoche, 35, has been called foolish in some quarters. While I'm not necessarily printing playoff tickets as a result of this move, I don't blame the Sox for taking the risk on the veteran middle-of-the-order hitter. I'll explain why.

To start off our discussion, let's do some player comparison. Which of these five hitters would you say is the best?:

Player A: .283/.369/.448, 35 2Bs, 13 HRs, 71 RBIs
Player B: .219/.337/.415, 18 2Bs, 22 HRs, 64 RBIs
Player C: .259/.362/.455, 19 2Bs, 26 HRs, 92 RBIs
Player D: .231/.281/.405, 22 2Bs, 21 HRs, 58 RBIs
Player E: .279/.324/.415, 26 2Bs, 16 HRs, 73 RBIs

Without knowing the names of the players (these are all 2014 stats), who would you go with? Maybe Player A? Or how about Player C? I wouldn't take Players B or D. Player B's batting average is too low, and Player D's on-base percentage is by far the worst of the group. For that matter, Player E's OBP leaves something to be desired, as well, and that slugging percentage isn't the greatest either.

For me, I'd have to take Player A. Player A hits for the best average, has the most doubles and is solid in the OBP and slugging components. But Player C is worthwhile, too, because he leads the group in slugging, home runs and RBIs, and is a close second in OBP to Player A.

Player C is LaRoche. Player A is Hanley Ramirez, who just agreed to terms on a four-year, $88 million contract with the Boston Red Sox.

Now, Ramirez never would have fit in with the White Sox' plans. He's a right-handed hitter, and the overly right-handed Sox were looking for a lefty bat. But, I inserted him into this discussion because you could make the case he was the best hitter available in free agency after Victor Martinez re-signed with Detroit.

Ramirez is a better hitter than LaRoche, but not drastically so, and you could argue LaRoche is a better value at $12.5 million per year than the oft-injured Ramirez is at $22 million per year.

Who is Player E, you ask? That would be the other guy the Red Sox are reportedly going to sign: Pablo Sandoval. Boston is giving out a reported $90 million over five years to a guy who had a .739 OPS last year. Good luck with that. Sandoval was a postseason hero in San Francisco, and his fans wear panda suits, but I'm not convinced he's a better hitter over 162 games than LaRoche, who had an .817 OPS in 2014. I do know that LaRoche costs about $5.5 million less a year than Sandoval on the current market.

Player B is Adam Dunn, who was the Sox' DH for most of last season and the guy LaRoche is essentially replacing on the roster. Player D is Dayan Viciedo, who was the Sox' best internal option at DH had the club not acted in free agency. I'm not going to spend any time telling you why LaRoche is better than Dunn and Viciedo. Just look at the numbers and see for yourselves.

The Sox needed an upgrade at DH, preferably a left-handed one, so they signed one. It's not an overpay when you consider the contracts other free-agent hitters such as Ramirez and Sandoval received, and LaRoche is clearly a better option than the players the Sox had internally. That makes the signing worth the risk.

Let me leave you with this parting thought: There were only seven left-handed hitters in Major League Baseball who hit 25 or more home runs in 2014. Only one of those seven was a free agent.

The White Sox just signed him.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Royals use running game to beat A's in AL wild-card game

Kansas City Royals fans have waited exactly 10,565 days for this night.

After 29 consecutive years of missing the playoffs, the Royals captured their first postseason victory since Game 7 of the 1985 World Series on Tuesday night, defeating the Oakland A's 9-8 in 12 innings in one of the craziest, most entertaining American League wild-card games you're ever going to see.

The Royals overcame three deficits and finally prevailed with a two-run rally in the bottom of the 12th inning, capped off by a two-out RBI single by catcher Salvador Perez off former Cubs right-hander Jason Hammel.

Credit the Royals for this: They stuck with their offensive identity in this game. They were going up against a tough pitcher in Oakland ace Jon Lester, who entered Tuesday's action with a 2.11 ERA in 11 career postseason starts. The A's went 2-5 against Kansas City during the regular season, but Lester was the starting pitcher in each of the two Oakland victories.

The A's had the right man on the mound, but the Royals prevailed thanks to their ability to manufacture runs with speed. Kansas City stole a league-best 153 bases during the regular season, and on this night, they tied a Major League record by swiping seven bases in a postseason game. They also successfully executed four sacrifice bunts.

Remarkably, the seven stolen bases came from seven different players: Nori Aoki, Lorenzo Cain, Christian Colon, Jarrod Dyson, Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon and Terrance Gore.

Dyson had perhaps the biggest steal of them all in the ninth inning. The Royals trailed 7-3 after seven innings, but they scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth to get close at 7-6. In the ninth, pinch-hitter Josh Willingham led off with a bloop single and was lifted in favor of pinch-runner Dyson. After one of the aforementioned sacrifice bunts, Dyson found himself on second base with one out. Moments later, in a gutsy move with the season on the line, he stole third and put himself in position to score the tying run on Aoki's deep fly to right field. The stolen base allowed the Royals to tie the score, force extra innings and, ultimately, extend their season.

The stolen base also played a key part in the 12th-inning rally. Kansas City trailed 8-7 after allowing a run in the top of the inning, but erased the deficit when Eric Hosmer tripled and scored the tying run on an infield single by Colon. 

Colon then came through with the second-most important stolen base of the evening, getting himself in scoring position to set the table for Perez's game-winning hit. 

Defense is not a strong point for Oakland. In fact, the A's were the worst defensive club among the five AL playoff qualifiers. They have excellent starting pitching, but if an opponent can put some pressure on them and force them to execute defensively, they cannot. The Royals proved that with Tuesday's win. 

The loss finishes an epic collapse for the A's, who had a 66-41 record the first four months of the season. But they slumped to a 22-33 mark since Aug. 1, and they did not clinch a berth in the wild-card game until the last day of the regular season. 

The Oakland offense struggled mightily down the stretch of the season, but it was not their bats that caused them to lose to Kansas City. Designated hitter Brandon Moss clubbed two home runs and drove in five runs, and left fielder Sam Fuld reached base three times Tuesday, quieting critics who said before the game that Oakland manager Bob Melvin was making a mistake by not including late-season acquisition Adam Dunn in the lineup.

The A's scored plenty of runs, but they could not slow down Kansas City's small-ball attack. Oakland is going home, and the Royals are moving on to the American League Division Series, where they will face the Los Angeles Angels in a five-game set that starts Thursday night.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

White Sox trade Adam Dunn to A's; deal Alejandro De Aza to Orioles

When the Oakland Athletics visit U.S. Cellular Field for a four-game series starting Sept. 8, White Sox fans will get their first opportunity to boo Adam Dunn as a member of the visiting team.

That's because the Sox traded Dunn and cash considerations to Oakland on Sunday morning for minor-league pitcher Nolan Sanburn.

Dunn, who was hitting .220 with 20 home runs and 54 RBIs at the time of the deal, finishes his White Sox career with a .201/.321/.410 slash line. Dunn hit 106 home runs during his nearly four-year tenure on the South Side, but he leaves town as a symbol of the franchise's failings over the past four seasons.

Dunn fell out of favor with the fans after an historically bad 2011 campaign, and while he rebounded somewhat the past three years, he never performed to his previous career norms while wearing a Sox uniform.

So why would Oakland want him, you ask? The A's are leading the majors in runs scored, but that's a bit deceiving. The A's traded their cleanup hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, to the Boston Red Sox for ace left-hander Jon Lester on July 31. While Lester has performed well (2.66 ERA in 6 starts), Oakland's offense has slumped. The A's rank 20th in baseball in runs scored during August, and no doubt they are hoping Dunn can give them a boost.

The Sox, meanwhile, save themselves about $1.25 million and acquire some organizational pitching depth with Sanburn, who has been working in relief at Class-A Stockton this year. He has a 3.28 ERA in 71.1 IP with 73 strikeouts and 25 walks.

The Dunn deal comes on the heels of another move the Sox made Saturday night, in which they traded left fielder Alejandro De Aza to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for minor-league pitchers Mark Blackmar and Miguel Chalas.

De Aza figures to be a fourth outfielder with Baltimore. He was hitting .243 overall at the time of the trade, but as we've noted before on this blog, De Aza is a left-handed hitter who can produce against right-handed pitchers. He owns a .279/.347/.410 slash line against righties, and he will be a useful offensive player for Baltimore if spotted correctly in matchups that are favorable for him.

Of course, baserunning blunders, defensive gaffes and lollipop throws from left field also are part of the package with De Aza. To put it mildly, the Sox will not miss those things.

Blackmar owns a 10-1 record with a 3.18 ERA in 26 games (18 starts) with Class-A Frederick this season. Chalas (2-3, 4.80 ERA) has been working in relief at Frederick for most of the year. He was recently promoted to Triple-A Norfolk.

Nobody can say for certain whether any of these three pitchers will one day contribute to the White Sox. If nothing else, these are moves that help replenish organizational depth. If one of the three pans out and becomes a major-league pitcher, that would be great news for the South Siders.

The best part of these trades for the Sox? Neither Dunn nor De Aza was going to be back with the team for the 2015 season, and these moves open up playing time for younger players. It's evaluation time for the organization.

We know Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia are part of the White Sox outfield plans, both now and in the future. One spot remains open. Now, instead of wasting their time with De Aza, the Sox can take a longer look at Jordan Danks, Moises Sierra or even Jared Mitchell, if they wish.

With the subtraction of Dunn, the door opens for 1B/DH Andy Wilkins, who was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte and is making his big-league debut Sunday for the Sox. Wilkins is a left-handed bat who hit .293 with 30 home runs, 38 doubles and 85 RBIs for the Knights this year. Can he help the Sox in the middle of the order? I don't know, but now is the time to let Wilkins play and gather more information about him.

Of the 25 roster spots available on the 2015 White Sox, you have to figure at least half of them are still open. Some younger players are about to receive an opportunity to put themselves in the picture for a job on next year's club.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Avisail Garcia's return will create an interesting roster decision for the White Sox

White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia was once believed to be out for the year after tearing the labrum in his shoulder the second week of the season.

However, the timetable for his return keeps accelerating. Garcia is currently 10 for 19 with a home run in five games on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte, and White Sox manager Robin Ventura has said the 23-year-old could return to the major leagues before the end of the month if he avoids setbacks.

If Garcia stays on track, he'll be back with the White Sox before the Sept. 1 roster expansion, so that means somebody on the current 25-man roster will have to go.

A lot of times in these situations, the club will just tell its backup outfielder to hit the bricks. But for the Sox, it's not that simple in this case. Fourth outfielder Moises Sierra is out of options and cannot be sent back to the minors without first clearing waivers.

It would be a mistake for the Sox to expose Sierra to waivers. There's a good chance he'd be claimed. He has posted a respectable .295./.318/.448 slash line in a reserve role. Defensively, he's the best corner outfielder on the 25-man roster, and he's still only 25 years old.

If you're the White Sox and you're five games below .500 the first week of August, it's time to start thinking about what your team might look like next season. Sierra has shown enough this year that the club should consider bringing him back in 2015 in some capacity, even if it is just in the part-time role he has filled capably this year.

But, if the Sox are going to hold on to Sierra, that means one of three players -- Adam Dunn, Alejandro De Aza or Dayan Viciedo -- has to go when Garcia comes off the DL. Ideally, general manager Rick Hahn would be able to swing a waiver-wire deal to move one of those three players.

Unfortunately, hopes for trading Dunn are getting less and less by the day. The left-handed slugger is mired in an 0-for-15 skid. He did not reach base a single time on the Sox' most recent homestand, and he is hitting just .129 with two home runs over the past two weeks. Jose Abreu is starting to see fewer pitches to hit, because opposing pitchers know Dunn is an automatic out behind him right now.

If Dunn were swinging the bat well, a contender would be able to use him for the last 40 or so games of the season. Unfortunately, that's not the case, and Dunn might stuck playing out the string in Chicago.

Viciedo is the player who benefited most when Garcia went down. The Sox seemed ready to move on from him as an everyday guy coming into the year, but Garcia's injury created a second chance for him to play on a daily basis. He has failed to capitalize. Viciedo is a poor defender, so he needs to hit to justify his roster spot. Despite 14 home runs, his .238/.286/.400 slash has impressed nobody, and in fact, his batting average and slugging percentage are both below his career norms.

Like Sierra, Viciedo has age on his side. He's only 25, but he doesn't seem to be making progress as a hitter. His previous perceived strength -- hitting left-handed pitching -- hasn't been much of a factor. His platoon splits show him as being only slightly better against lefties than he is against righties:

vs. RHP: .236/.276/.398
vs. LHP: .247/.317/.409

Hahn will only be able to move Viciedo if there is another GM who thinks the outfielder might benefit from a change of scenery. There's nothing about Viciedo's game right now that suggests he could help a contender.

That brings us to De Aza, who like Dunn almost certainly will be somewhere other than Chicago when the 2015 season begins. De Aza cannot hit lefties at all this year (.091/.155/.136), but he still gets on base at a respectable clip against right-handed pitching (.283/.349/.416).

And, De Aza has been trending in the right direction over the past two months. He was awful in April and May (.173/.240/.250), but since Sierra was added to the roster, Ventura has been able to limit De Aza's exposure to left-handed pitching.

As a result, De Aza has posted a .327/.375/.455 slash line since June 1.

Yeah, you read that right: De Aza has been almost a .330 hitter for a full one-third of the season.

If there's a team that could use a left-handed bat to help against right-handed pitching, De Aza is a fit. He represents Hahn's best chance to make a waiver-wire deal before Garcia comes off the disabled list.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Buyer's remorse? Five worst recent deadline deals, White Sox edition

The White Sox have had success adding pieces at the trade deadline, but it's maybe arguable they've had more failure making deals under duress. Here are the five worst July trades since 2000:

5. July 25, 2002: Traded Ray Durham and cash to the Oakland Athletics. Received Jon Adkins.

Durham was set to be a free agent at the end of the year and a July nosedive had taken the Sox from four games back in the AL Central in late June to 14 games behind Cleveland when Durham was traded.

Not wanting to sign the then-30-year-old Durham to a big contract, but determined to get something for him, the Sox took a flyer on Adkins. Which might have made sense if not for the fact that under baseball's last collective bargaining agreement, the Sox could have offered Durham arbitration and either gotten him to agree to an affordable one-year contract, or gotten draft pick compensation when he signed with another team.

The Sox might have been better off with that draft pick than watching Adkins flounder to a 5.08 ERA in just less than 80 innings in his Sox career. Sox fans probably would have more enjoyed another two months of Durham's under-appreciated career.

4. July 28, 2012: Traded Eduardo Escobar and Pedro Hernandez to the Minnesota Twins. Received Francisco Liriano.

Liriano was walking one of the valleys of an up-and-down career with the Twins, but as a left-hander with good velocity, he seemed like a good candidate to improve under the tutelage of Sox pitching coach Don Cooper.

Instead of recapturing the dominant form he had flashed at times since his rookie year, Liriano kept nibbling at the strike zone, walking too many batters and giving up home runs at inopportune times. Deciding they'd done all they could do with him, the Sox let Liriano walk in the offseason only to watch him have a resurgent year that helped carry Pittsburgh to the playoffs for the first time in more than two decades.

Liriano probably wouldn't have found that success in the American League, or without a ballpark that helps hide some of his flaws. And the Sox probably don't miss Escobar or Hernandez. It was still a disappointing outcome as Lirano's struggles were part of the reason a division title slipped through the Sox's fingers.

3. July 26, 2001: Traded James Baldwin and cash to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Received Jeff Barry, Gary Majewski and Onan Masaoka.

The Sox predictably got little for Baldwin, who like Durham was set to be a free agent after the season in which he was traded. Unlike Durham, Baldwin wasn't very good.

What makes this trade embarrassing for the Sox is that they didn't actually want Jeff Barry, a journeyman minor league first baseman. They wanted pitching prospect Jonathan Berry.

Berry never made the majors, otherwise this would have been an embarrassment that could have lived on for years and years.

2. July 27, 2011: Traded Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen to the Toronto Blue Jays. Received Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart.

Instead of trading their best asset near the deadline, the Sox basically bundled it with Teahen's ill-advised contract for salary relief, plus the meh and bleh performances they'd respectively get from Frasor and Stewart.

Jackson certainly had value as the Jays immediately spun him off in a package for Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus. In a way Rasmus has been a hitting version of Jackson, with his up-and-down career that hasn't seen him reach his full potential. Though it's no doubt Rasmus' line with Toronto (.233/.295/.431) would make a number of Sox outfielders over the last three years envious.

No matter how crowded their rotation was at the time, or if Rasmus or someone similar would have been available in a similar package, the Sox should have done much better in any deal with Jackson while he was near the peak of his value.

1. July 30, 2010: Traded David Holmberg and Daniel Hudson to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Received Edwin Jackson.

Jackson graces the list twice, coming and going. Even though Jackson had one the better stretches of his career with the Sox (3.66 ERA over 196 2/3 innings), it was an awful idea to trade the young Hudson for him straight up, much less adding another prospect in Holmberg.

The Sox were concerned Hudson's fly ball tendencies wouldn't play in their ballpark. They were frustrated that he nibbled at the plate in his brief audition with the big club. And they were worried he would get hurt.

The injury concerns were validated when Hudson needed elbow surgery during the 2012 season, and then needed another during his comeback attempt. Still, he pitched to a 3.58 ERA over 347 innings for the Diamondbacks (who also play in a homer-friendly park) before his injuries. He also did it for nearly league minimum salaries.

Besides not getting good value back in Jackson, it was rumored the Sox had only traded for him in an attempt to pry Adam Dunn away from the Washington Nationals. When Nats GM Mike Rizzo either backed out, or the Jackson-for-Dunn swap wasn't as solid as Sox GM Kenny Williams had believed, the Sox were stuck with Jackson and ended up claiming Manny Ramirez off waivers in August to bolster their offense instead.

All of this was to help hold on to an unlikely division lead grabbed after an unreal 26-5 stretch during June and July. And the Sox did lead as late as Aug. 8, but the reinforcements didn't really matter much as the team slid to a double-digit deficit by mid-September. 

That the Sox were willing to spend big bucks to keep their run alive in 2010 only made it more frustrating when they punted in 2011 just to save a few bucks they never would have had the need to spend if they'd kept Hudson around.

Monday, July 28, 2014

An unapologetic defense of Adam Dunn

With baseball's non-waiver trade deadline looming, the days of Adam Dunn in a White Sox uniform are likely short. The slugger will probably be shipped to a team in need of a left-handed power bat.

It wasn't that long ago that there was an open debate over which Chicago baseball player had the most disastrous contract: Dunn and his four-year, $56 million pact or Alfonso Soriano and the eight-year, $136 million contract the Cubs handed out.

I don't think it ever merited that much debate. Soriano made more per year on a contract twice as long. And now with the benefit of more hindsight as both contracts are nearly off the books there's this to consider -- the Sox got exactly what they should have expected from Dunn when they signed him.

How would this contract look if Dunn's career performance looked like this the last four years?

Year 1: .229/.363/.435
Year 2: .219/.320/.442
Year 3: .204/.333/.468
Year 4: .159/.292/.277

Coming off a .260/.356/.537 batting line in Washington the year before, this looks like a hitter who lost a chunk of batting average and power but was still a decent hitter the first season. Year 2 is a disappointment with the power still missing and some of the strike zone control now gone along with it. The third year looks like a rebound with the power coming back, even though all of the on-base percentage didn't. The final year looks like the end of the line for a designated hitter who can't make contact, can't hit for power and can't get on base as a result.

Should the Sox or anyone else have expected more from a 31-year-old slugger who even in his prime struggled to make contact? That looks like a completely typical aging pattern for Dunn's type of player.

The only peculiar thing about that career arc is that it's the opposite of how Dunn's year-to-year performance in a Sox uniform played out.

Obviously there are circumstances around these numbers to account for. This year might be Dunn's best year with the Sox, despite being three years older. Of course, this is also the first year the Sox have acknowledged Dunn's struggles against left-handed pitchers and have aggressively limited his exposure to them. And if Dunn had really batted .159 with no power in the final year of his contract, there's probably no way he'd have gotten nearly 500 plate appearances to try to right the ship.

The Sox would have benefited in this alternate universe where Dunn's seasons are reversed. The 2011 season, when the team was as close as three games back for the division lead as late as July 30, perhaps unfolds differently if Dunn and Alex Rios aren't both posting disastrous seasons.

Dunn wouldn't have been as good as he actually was in 2012, so maybe that Sox team spends more of the season chasing rather than leading before falling off in the end. In the backwards timeline, Dunn has a resurgent season that probably can't save the 2013 team that is forced to rebuild, but maybe he's dealt for better talent than he's likely to fetch in the real world this week and the Sox avoid the disastrous final year and a half of his contract.

None of that happened because baseball is a funny game that doesn't care about typical aging and performance patterns. As it is, this isn't the end of the road for Dunn's career. He should draw some interest on the trade market, and if he's willing to accept that teams will want to platoon him to keep him away from lefties, he can probably play for several more years, likely making at least $5 million per year doing it.

If the Sox do say goodbye to Dunn this week, they shouldn't feel like they got cheated.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Justin Verlander takes a beating from White Sox

As a White Sox fan, I used to dread games when the team would have to face Detroit right-hander and former Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander.

I don't have those pangs of fear anymore.

We discussed it on this blog a couple weeks ago: It looks like Verlander's best days are behind him. And, if that's the case, then Detroit can be had in the AL Central Division race.

When I looked at Wednesday night's matchup between Verlander and Chicago left-hander John Danks, my initial instinct was not "Oh crap," as it might have been two or three years ago. Instead it was, "Hey, the Sox could win this one."

Win it they did, 8-2. The victory means the Sox (33-33) have as many wins as the first-place Tigers (33-28) and are just 2.5 games back in the division race.

However, the main story I took out of this game was Verlander's continuing vulnerability. The Sox touched him up for seven runs on eight hits over 5.2 innings. The erstwhile Detroit ace has now given up five runs or more in five of his past six starts. His ERA over that stretch is 8.72. His season ERA has swelled to 4.61. That's Hector Noesi territory right there.

And, anyone who watched this game knows the Sox should have scored more runs than they did. The South Siders loaded the bases with just one out in the third inning, but neither Conor Gillaspie nor Jose Abreu could knock in a run.

The Sox also got a one-out triple from Adam Eaton in the fifth inning, but failed to score after the Sox center fielder was thrown out at the plate on grounder off the bat of Gordon Beckham.

Verlander found himself in bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the sixth, and this time he did not get off the hook. With the score tied 1-1, Dayan Viciedo grounded into a double play that gave the Sox a one-run lead. The twin killing gave Verlander a great chance to minimize damage and keep his team in the game. Instead, he imploded.

Alejandro De Aza singled in a run. Verlander then walked light-hitting catcher Adrian Nieto and Eaton back-to-back to reload the bases. Beckham ended Verlander's night with a two-run single that put the Sox ahead 5-1.

Detroit summoned Naperville product Ian Krol from the bullpen, and the lefty provided little relief. Gillaspie's two-run double increased the Sox' advantage to 7-1. After an intentional walk to Abreu, Adam Dunn singled to make it 8-1. Chicago cruised to victory from there.

How often do you get a seven-run inning in a game started by Justin Verlander? The answer used to be never. Now, it can be done. The Sox proved it Wednesday night.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Best-laid plans (and platoons) going awry for Sox

One of the big ways the White Sox were hoping to improve their offense this season was by taking a group of guys that were each a net-negative when playing full time, and partnering them with someone who could perhaps compliment the other's weaknesses.

Thus Adam Dunn, who has struggled to hit left-handers, would be joined with Paul Konerko as a two-headed designated hitter. Alejandro De Aza's defense would look better in left field than in center, and with his own slight deficiency against lefties, could maybe be combined with the poor-fielding-but-southpaw-mashing Dayan Viciedo.

Things started out well. Dunn is hitting a respectable .246/.388/.458, even with a recent power outage. Konerko has flailed in his new role (.192/.241/.309), but that was somewhat made up for by Viciedo, for now excelling (.291/.352/.447) while being pressed into a bigger role when right fielder Avisail Garcia was lost for the season.

Unfortunately that's left De Aza to struggle miserably (.190/.248/.306). First he was needed in left field, but even with Moises Sierra (.303/.351/.424) added, De Aza was still the best choice to fill in when center fielder Adam Eaton missed time on the disabled list.

Eaton is back, and De Aza with his track record probably remains the best option to play as a fourth outfielder on this team, at least as long as the Sox are on the fringes of contention. He's otherwise having a season that would have him designated for assignment (which might yet happen).

Now a new crisis has emerged. First baseman Jose Abreu -- the team's best and most exciting hitter -- is headed to the DL. In the meantime, it looks like Dunn and Konerko will be pushed back into the full-time roles in which they struggled to produce value a year ago. And if Viciedo and Sierra both cool off along with that surprising catching tandem of Tyler Flowers and Adrian Nieto?

Things could get ugly fast with Abreu gone.

That's not to say it was the wrong idea for the Sox to try cobbling together something from what they had on hand instead of overpaying for a free agent who might not do any better than a healthy platoon pair. They've been one of the highest-scoring teams in the American League by effectively playing a shell game around injuries and the limitations of the guys populating their roster.

There might just be so many injuries now that the Sox are looking at turning over a series of empty shells.

It goes without saying the Sox hope Abreu is back soon, and that Eaton stays healthy, because the chewing gum that's holding together the rest of the offense is getting stretched too thin.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

When Conor Gillaspie returns from the DL, who will the White Sox send down?

White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie is on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Charlotte and could come off the disabled list as soon as Wednesday.

Before suffering a bruised hand, Gillaspie was hitting .302 with 12 RBIs in 16 games. Upon his return, he's going to take over for Marcus Semien as the Sox's regular third baseman. And unlike earlier in the year, there isn't much playing time available for Semien at second base, now that Gordon Beckham is back off the disabled list.

So, what do the Sox do with Semien? Is he the guy they send back to the minors when Gillaspie is activated? Or will outfielder Jordan Danks or all-purpose player Leury Garcia be optioned? It's not an easy call, and there is more than likely some internal debate going on among White Sox brass.

If the fans had their way, Beckham would probably be the guy shown the door -- even with his 4-for-5 performance and go-ahead home run in Tuesday's 5-1 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The disappointing second baseman has become a bit of a whipping boy for fans on Internet message boards, but let's be realistic: The Sox aren't going to cut Beckham loose now or look to trade him when he's just coming off an injury and his value is at its lowest.

For better or for worse, Beckham is the regular second baseman until at least July. Defensively, he's still the Sox's best option at the position. If he rebuilds his value by midseason, he could be shipped off at the trade deadline to clear a starting spot for either Semien or Micah Johnson. But that's a question for another time.

When Gillaspie returns, one of Semien, Danks or Garcia is going to be gone. Of the three, Danks is perhaps the weakest player, but he needs to remain on the roster for as long as Adam Eaton is on the disabled list. With Eaton on the shelf, Danks is the only good defensive outfielder the Sox have. Without him, you're looking at a starting outfield of Moises Sierra, Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo -- with Garcia, an infielder by trade, and Adam Dunn, a designated hitter by trade, filling backup roles. Not acceptable. If I'm making the decision, Danks stays despite his ugly .098/.229/.195 slash line.

That leaves Semien and Garcia. A lot of Sox fans would disagree with me here, but I think Semien goes to Charlotte for more playing time. Garcia stays as the backup infielder.

It's tough because Semien has shown a flair for the dramatic this season. He's had some big hits for the Sox -- 15 of his 16 RBIs have come in the sixth inning or later. That said, I can't ignore his.213/.267/.346 slash line, nor can I ignore his league-leading 45 strikeouts.

I like Semien and think he could be an everyday player in the majors at some point in the future. I just don't think that day is today. I don't think he would benefit much from sitting on the major league bench, so I support sending him to Triple-A and having him work on closing some of the holes in that swing. Garcia, to me, will never be more than a utility infielder anyway, so I'm fine with leaving him right where he is.

For me, Semien's development is a greater priority than Garcia's development. He's the better of the two players. Semien's the one who needs the everyday at-bats in my book, so the Sox should put him in a place where he can get them. That place, right now, is Charlotte.

We'll probably find out sometime in the next 48 hours whether the Sox agree with me.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bunting with two strikes ... sometimes that works

I was watching a White Sox-Reds spring training game last week when I saw Sox center fielder Adam Eaton bunt for a base hit on an 0-2 pitch. The Cincinnati third baseman was so stunned that he threw the ball away on the play. Even with an accurate throw, Eaton would have been safe.  

I thought to myself, "I haven't seen a Sox player try something like that in quite a few years."  

Fast-forward to Wednesday afternoon: With the score tied 6-6 in the bottom of the 11th inning, Sox infielder Leury Garcia lays down a perfect bunt on an 0-2 pitch. He beats the play out without a throw.  Later in the inning, he scores the game-winning run on a wild pitch as the Sox defeat the Minnesota Twins, 7-6.  

It would be a refreshing change if the Sox can find a way to score some runs this season without the benefit of the long ball. On Wednesday, only one of their seven tallies came on a home run -- a solo shot by Adam Dunn in the eighth inning.  

The Sox scored three runs in the second inning on three singles, a double and two sacrifice hits. They rallied to tie the game with two runs in the ninth on three singles and a fielder's choice. It was encouraging to see some manufactured runs with the game on the line.

Speaking of that ninth-inning rally, Paul Konerko got off to a good start in his new bench role. He led off the inning with a pinch-hit single off Minnesota closer Glen Perkins, who is left-handed. Konerko, for all his struggles in 2013, hit .313 against left-handed pitchers a year ago. He can still be effective for the Sox if he is spotted in matchups that are favorable for him.

'Don't want to get picked off here in this situation'

Good news for the Cubs: Their new leadoff man, Emilio Bonifacio, is swinging the bat exceptionally well out of the gate. He's 9 for 12 through the first two games of the season.  

Bad news for the Cubs: Bonifacio has been picked off base two of the nine times he's reached, and he would have been picked off a third time if the Pittsburgh first baseman had not dropped the ball.

I don't know if I've ever seen a guy get picked off three times the first two days of the season. Would that be some kind of record? It's hard to come down too hard on Bonifacio, though, because he's one of the few Cub hitters off to a good start. The North Siders are 0-2, having lost a pair of extra-inning contests in Pittsburgh. They've scored only three runs in 26 innings against the Pirates pitching staff.

On Wednesday, the Cubs rallied from a 2-0 deficit with a run in the eighth and another run in the ninth. They even took a short-lived 3-2 lead on Anthony Rizzo's solo home run in the top of the 12th. But new closer Jose Veras failed in his first save situation. He gave up the lead and was fortunate to escape a bases-loaded jam and with only one run allowed in the bottom of the 12th. Veras was taking forever in between pitches and seemed to have no confidence in his stuff. It's only one outing, but that performance cannot be encouraging for the Cubs, who went on to lose 4-3 in 16 innings.  

Buerhle turns back clock in first start of season  

Former White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle had an up-and down year in his first season in Toronto in 2013, but on Wednesday, he looked like the pitcher he was five or six years ago.

Buehrle allowed only four hits over 8.2 innings and picked up the win as the Blue Jays defeated Tampa Bay, 3-0. The southpaw struck out 11 and walked just one.

It was just the second double-digit strikeout game of Buehrle's career. The other came during the Sox' World Series year. He fanned a career-high 12 in a 2-1 win over Seattle on April 16, 2005.

I still root for Buehrle, as long as he isn't pitching against the Sox.  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

White Sox have post-holiday clearance items for sale

White Sox GM Rick Hahn has come a long way in reshaping his roster since last year's trade deadline, adding MLB-ready prospects at third base (Matt Davidson), center field (Adam Eaton) and right field (Avisail Garcia), while adding a handful of other potentially useful parts.

Don't forget the bow.
The turnover might not be over as the Sox still have some players that might be more useful to other teams, and could fetch something interesting in return.

Here are the guys who weren't tucked into another team's stocking and will have their price marked down.

Alejandro De Aza (OF)
This is the guy I think the Sox are most likely to trade. De Aza is either a good-hitting, poor-fielding centerfielder, or a poor-hitting, good-fielding left fielder. With the addition of Eaton, De Aza is now in a platoon with Dayan Viciedo in left. De Aza is probably the better player, hitting just as well as Viciedo while also being able to catch the ball, but that he could still slot into left or center gives a team a little more flexibility, and maybe opens up more trade avenues.

Gordon Beckham (2B)
Top infield prospects Marcus Semien was ticketed to play third base until the acquisition of Davidson, but now if the Sox think he's MLB-ready, they might move Beckham to install Semien at second base. Beckham, a former top-10 draft pick, had star potential. Right now he might just be what he's been, which is an OK hitting, good-fielding second baseman. That's not very sexy, but with two years left before free agency and the Sox looking to move him, Beckham might be a more attractive pickup for a 2B-needy team that doesn't like what's left on the free agent market, or the idea of swallowing the huge contracts of other potential trade targets like Brandon Phillips, Rickie Weeks or Dan Uggla.

Dayan Viciedo (OF/DH)
As noted, he's a worse player than De Aza, and shouldn't be in the outfield. He is younger and cheaper for now, and maybe still has potential if he can improve his hitting against right-handed pitching. While the Sox will listen, I doubt he'll be moved unless another team overpays, especially if he's being counted on to help fellow Cuban Jose Abreu adjust to life in the US.

Alexei Ramirez (SS)
Ramirez is a fine shortstop signed to a reasonable contract (2 years, $20.5 million left, plus an option). He can hit a little and is a good defender. He is better than the top in-house alternative, Leury Garcia, who can't hit even by middle-infielder standards. But if the Sox aren't going to contend, they might want to install Garcia at short where his excellent defense will have the most impact and just give him the at-bats to see if that part of his game can ever become adequate enough to make him a starter. Like Viciedo, the Cuban Ramirez might help with Abreu's integration in the clubhouse, but the Sox might not feel like they need both of them to hang around to make Abreu comfortable. Ramirez can go for the right price.

Adam Dunn (1B/DH)
Dunn has been a disappointment since signing a four-year, $56 million contract. He is in the last year of it, and still hits well against right-handed pitchers. If the White Sox ate a good chunk of his salary, he could be moved to clear room for Viciedo. If that's unlikely, it's because the Sox don't like to pay guys to play for other teams. Plus Viciedo isn't an ideal platoon partner for the re-signed Paul Konerko as they both need help against righties. Still, if a team desperate for a designated hitter or first baseman offered to go halfsies on the remainder of the contract, it's hard to see the Sox saying no.

John Danks (SP)
Danks is another guy who might not go anywhere because the Sox won't eat any money on the contract. He's got three years and $43 million left. That sounds like a lot for a guy that just posted a 4.75 ERA while coming back from shoulder surgery. Those results still weren't that much worse than Jason Vargas' last season, or Phil Hughes', both of whom just got big bucks in free agency, and both have worse track records than pre-surgery Danks. The Sox might not have to eat that much to move him this offseason, but might just wait to give him the chance to pitch this season and prove he's healthier and worth a team taking on a much better chunk of salary.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Paul Konerko re-signs with the White Sox ... for cheap

It turns out Paul Konerko really does want to play one more season with the White Sox.

One of the faces of the franchise over the last decade on Wednesday agreed to a one-year deal to return to the South Side. This is definitely a team-friendly contract. Konerko is used to making eight figures, but he's coming back for just $2.5 million, and $1 million of that is deferred to 2021.

The six-time All-Star batted just .244 with a career-low slugging percentage of .355 in 2013. There probably wasn't a full-time first baseman's job available for him on the open market. Konerko has said he would only accept a part-time role with the Sox, and that is what he will get for 2014.

I wouldn't be surprised if we see a DH platoon between Konerko and Adam Dunn next season.

Despite his 2013 struggles, Konerko still hit lefties at a decent clip last year:

vs. LHP: .313/.398/.525 with 5 home runs and 16 RBIs in 99 at-bats.

Against righties, he was not good:

vs. RHP: .226/.290/.310 with 7 home runs and 38 RBIs in 368 at-bats.

That makes him a natural platoon fit with Dunn, who hit righties much better than lefties in 2013:

vs RHP: .226/.327/.459 with 28 home runs and 64 RBIs in 403 at-bats.
vs. LHP: .197/.296/385 with 6 home runs and 22 RBIs in 142 at-bats.

Hopefully, the Sox will be smart enough to use Konerko and Dunn in this fashion. Barring an injury to Jose Abreu, neither man figures to see much time at first base.

The best thing to come from this signing is it will allow Konerko to have one more year in the sun and have a proper sendoff before he retires.

The negative is it limits roster flexibility for manager Robin Ventura. He's going to have a DH (either Konerko or Dunn) on his bench every day. One of the other four bench spots will be taken up by a backup catcher. That means your other two bench players better have the ability to play multiple positions. If the Sox can find a reserve who can play both the infield and the outfield, all the better. I figure Leury Garcia might be the player they have in mind for that role.

In any case, Konerko is back for one more year as a fan and clubhouse favorite. If used properly, he may still have a little left to give the White Sox.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Adam Dunn and the difference between overpaid, useless

With baseball's winter meetings approaching, a fair number of White Sox fans might be wishing for the team to find some way to banish Adam Dunn.

Adam Dunn is vastly overpaid.
With the hoopla surrounding his arrival in Chicago, and the four-year, $56 million contract he was given, it's not hard to see why the Sox shouldn't be disappointed in Dunn. In the first three years of the deal, the lefty slugger has hit .197/.317/.407. That includes a disastrous Year 1 in which Dunn rushed back from an appendectomy and promptly hit .159/.292./.277.

When you sign a free agent in his 30s (Dunn was 31 the first year of his deal), you usually do so with the expectations that the player could very likely decline to the point you're better off punting the last year or so of the contract.

Dunn, however, has had a funny performance arc. The first year was nothing if not calamitous. Then he rebounded to be actually pretty decent in 2012, and was doing the same last year before a crummy September.

What the Sox get from him next year is anybody's guess. Assuming Dunn stays with the Sox -- a good assumption considering he's owed $15 million still for next year -- I think it's fair to say that no matter what happens, his sum total of production will fall short of giving the team any value for it's money. (In fact, both Baseball Reference and Fangraphs calculate his production as being worth negative 1.5 Wins Above Replacement).

While WAR might peg Dunn as being worth less than any guy off the street, is that true? The Sox don't really have another internal candidate to take at-bats at designated hitter who would be an obvious upgrade. That's why they forked over a ton of money for Dunn in the first place.

And Dunn was the team's best hitter last season. That really says more about how awful the Sox's offense was in 2013, but it also indicates that instead of spending resources to upgrade over Dunn, the team might get a bigger boost from allocating those resources to filling another gaping hole in the roster, like catcher, or adding another outfielder.

Going that route might be more palatable than eating Dunn's contract just to give money to someone like Mike Napoli, who like Dunn three years ago, might be the best slugger on the market. The similarities between the two -- including all of the strikeouts -- might just be too much to stomach for fans more eager to see Dunn depart than for someone to take his place.

Dunn will not make good on his contract, even if he could somehow rebound next year to hit. .250..381/.521 like he did before he put on a White Sox uniform. But that's really irrelevant to where the Sox go from here. The only thing that's relevant is trying to maximize what resources they've got on hand.

What they have still in Dunn is a hitter who can likely give them better than league-average offense, maybe better if he's protected from some of the left-handed pitching that's given him problems the last couple years. He's not blocking anybody from getting developmental at-bats.

In other words, the Sox still have a use for him, at least until they actually find a better hitter to DH, or can find a trade partner willing to save them a few bucks by not making them eat all of his salary.

Even if the Sox did make a splash with a free agent outfield addition, and wanted to add that guy and current outfielders Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro DeAza to the DH mix, Dunn's bat would probably still fit into some sort of platoon situation.

It won't be much consolation, but at least he'll still be able to give the team something.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

AL Central might be happy to see more Jason Vargas

The Royals signed left-handed starter Jason Vargas to a four-year, $32 million contract last week, no doubt hoping he'll fill the gap in their rotation left by the likely exit of Ervin Santana, who just turned in a terrific season for Kansas City.

While Vargas, with his 4.30 career ERA, including 4.02 last year for the Angels, probably can't match what Santana just did for the Royals (3.24 ERA over 211 innings), he can maybe improve what Kansas City got from guys like Wade Davis (5.32) and Luis Mendoza (5.36) across nearly 40 mostly poor starts.

To do that, Vargas is going to have to prove he's not the creation of his home parks. Toiling mostly for the Angels and Mariners, who both have pitcher-friendly homes, Vargas has a career ERA of 3.46 when he's sleeping in his own bed. When he hits the road, however, he's been reached for a 5.17 ERA.

There's some talk about how Kauffman Stadium, where the Royals play, is a good fit for Vargas. While the K might keep some home run numbers down, overall it isn't a pitcher's haven like the ballparks in Los Angeles or Seattle.

If the Royals think Vargas might have an advantage in some of the AL Central parks, the proof hasn't been in the pudding:

ERAs vs. AL Central Teams
6.31 vs. White Sox
5.40 vs. Indians
5.28 vs. Twins
4.60 vs. Tigers

It looks worse in each of those teams' home parks. Vargas has been slammed by the Twins for a .386/.440/.603 batting line against (9.16 ERA). The Sox have whipped him for a .283/.333/.554 line (6.45 ERA). The Tigers have mauled him at a .311/.354/.556 rate (8.71 ERA). Only the Indians have been held in check at home by Vargas for a .235/.291/.353 line (1.93 ERA).

Granted, you can divide numbers up into portions so small that they're meaningless. Vargas has pitched no more than 22 1/3 innings in any of those ballparks, though the aggregate picture when all of those innings are combined isn't pretty. Nor is the 5.31 ERA Vargas has turned in over 20 1/3 innings as a visitor to Kauffman Stadium.

Still, the Indians, who last year hit left-handed pitching much better than right-handed pitching, are probably looking forward to getting more cracks at Vargas. White Sox DH Adam Dunn, who at times struggles against left-handers, isn't going to be sad to see more of a guy who he has hit .429/.636/1.286 against in his career. (No type-Os there. Dunn has crushed Vargas.)

That's not to say the past keeps on repeating itself. Maybe Vargas will prove to be resilient. Perhaps now that he's reached his 30s he will remain durable, and is becoming crafty as we're sometimes wont to describe left-handers without great stuff.

I'm not seeing enough evidence of that to warrant the largess of this contract. Even understanding that in today's free agent dollars, $8 million per year isn't all that much, and might be within Vargas' reach to be worth that money, I don't know why the Royals had to rush out to make sure the ink dried on this deal before the end of November.

Not when there are so many better options still available, including a few options that might be better and much cheaper.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rick Hahn: Door is open for Paul Konerko to return to White Sox

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn and manager Robin Ventura visited with free agent first baseman Paul Konerko last week at Konerko's Arizona home, according to media reports.

Hahn says he told Konerko the door is open for him to return to the Sox in a reduced role for 2014, despite the team's decision to sign first baseman Jose Abreu.

“We had a real good open and honest conversation about where his mind is at and his hopes for going forward, and a good talk about the club and our hopes for moving forward,” Hahn said. “At this time, he’s still going through his process of deliberating about what he wants to do next year.”

Konerko has offered no timetable on his decision, but I suspect we'll know within the next month whether he intends to play next year.

I would be surprised if we see Konerko back with the Sox. Resigning him would create a logjam of first baseman/designated hitter types. Are there enough at-bats to go around for Abreu, Konerko and Adam Dunn? I don't believe so, and Abreu and Dunn are already under contract for next season. The Sox aren't paying Abreu $68 million to start the season in the minors. He's going to be on the club. Dunn is going to be on the club, too, unless Hahn can find a taker for his $15 million salary. Unlikely. So where does that leave Konerko? Probably elsewhere or retired.

In this day and age where clubs carry 12 pitchers, it's really hard to go into a season with three 1B/DH types. You only have four position players on the bench, and you'd really like to have some speed and versatility there. Neither Konerko nor Dunn provide you with those things. In my mind, it's impossible to justify keeping both of them around when neither of them is going to play every day.

For now, we are in a holding pattern.Will Konerko take a reduced role with the Sox? Will another team offer him a full-time job at first base? Will he just retire? We'll see.

Four 'untouchables'

In other news, rival executives say Hahn is willing to trade anyone except these four players: Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Abreu and Avisail Garcia.

I agree with three of the four, but I'm a little surprised to see Quintana's name on that list. Not that I don't like Quintana. He's a tough kid, a good competitor, an above-average pitcher in the American League. As an added bonus, he's left-handed. I'm just not sure his skill set ascends him to the level of "untouchable," especially since the Sox have so many other holes to fill.

I would never trade Sale, because I think he's a special talent that only comes along every so often. As effective as Quintana is, he's not in that class. If Hahn could fill two or three other holes by trading Quintana, wouldn't he have to consider that?