On deck: The White Sox weren’t expecting to start 2014 No. 1 pick Carlos Rodon in the majors this April, but Chris Sale’s injury makes it possible. Rodon pitched just 24.1 innings in an abbreviated season after signing, although he did so impressively, fanning 38, allowing no homers and putting up a 2.96 ERA. Unfortunately for the White Sox, their rotation already includes John Danks and Hector Noesi, which means they’re not dealing from a position of strength. Rodon looks like a good bet to be the second player from the 2014 first round to reach the majors. Like the first, Kansas City’s Brandon Finnegan, Rodon’s a left-handed pitcher. Not only do careers last longer for left-handed pitchers (see Orosco, Jesse), they start sooner.
Trivia: Jose Abreu was the 2014 Rookie of the Year. Five previous players were AL Rookies of the Year for the White Sox. Who were they? Hint: Abreu is the first to do so in 29 years. Answer below.
What he said: White Sox broadcaster and one-time GM Ken Harrelson on the 2013 three-way deal which sent Jake Peavy to the Red Sox and brought Avisail Garcia to the White Sox: “(GM) Rick Hahn, in his first year, made possibly the greatest trade the White Sox have ever made.” What he meant: “It was better than
Bobby Bonilla for Jose de Leon.”
Outlook: The White Sox won 73 games last year and were outscored by 98 runs, finished eighth in the AL in runs scored and 13th in ERA. They were a bad team.
So the White Sox went out and spent $128 million on four players, traded for one-year temp Jeff Samardzijia and they’re no longer a bad team.
They’re an average one.
The White Sox’s investment might pale next to the $450 million-plus the Yankees spent in the last offseason, but they might pay heed to the results. The Yankees went from 85 wins in 2013 to 84 in 2014.
There’s not always a correlation between dollars paid out and wins returned.
The White Sox might see their profile rise more than the Yankees did, but not as much as they hope.
The AL Central has a leadership vacuum, but there are better candidates to fill it, no matter how much money the White Sox spent.
Their 73 wins last year represented a 10-game improvement over 2013, but that’s with the addition of Abreu, who ranked second in OPS (.964) in MLB. Abreu’s poor defense (-2.1 WAR) and lack of speed relegated him to a rank of 21st in WAR, but no player the White Sox acquired this offseason will come close that measure of upgrade. As a group, the new Sox will push them to .500 and maybe beyond. But the pitching staff lacks depth both in the bullpen and the rotation.
Noesi, who has a career 5.16 ERA, has thrown 58 home runs in 362.2 innings, or once every 6.1, and he led the AL in home runs allowed last year with 28 in 172.1 innings. And Danks has ERAs of 4.75 and 4.74 in his last 54 starts since coming back from injuries. There’s no reason to think he’s anything but what his ERA says he is.
That’s two days out of every five it will take Ken Harrelson’s optimism to think the White Sox have improved enough.
The White Sox also have a catcher (Tyler Flowers) who fanned 159 times in 407 at-bats last year and walked just 25, a shortstop (Alexei Ramirez) coming off his best performance in three seasons at age 32 who’s unlikely to replicate it, and lots of batters — with the exception of La Roche — who mostly hit their way on base.
Adam Dunn, in five months, led the White Sox in walks last year with 65; no one else walked more than Abreu’s 51, and it took 622 plate appearances for him to do that.
The White Sox were 13th in MLB in runs scored last year, but 20th in on-base percentage and 23rd in walks. That’s not likely to be helped by Melky Cabrera, who walked 43 times last year or Avisail Garcia, who has 26 walks in 497 major-league plate appearances.
It was Harrelson who said the trade for Garcia two years ago “has got a chance to be the best trade the White Sox have ever made. (Garcia) can run, throw, hit, hit for average, hit for power, he’s got a gun in the outfield and he is going to be an absolute force in a White Sox
uniform for many years to come.”
Then again, in Harrelson’s only season as GM, he fired Tony La Russa, traded Bobby Bonilla and lost 90 games.
Maybe his trade endorsement isn’t the one you want.
Trivia answer: The five previous players to win Rookie of the Year for the White Sox were Luis Aparico (1956), Gary Peters (1963), Tommie Agee (1966), Ron Kittle (1983) and Ozzie Guillen (1985)
Team song: Fred Astaire: Puttin’ On the Ritz