Feb 27, 2014, 2:08 PM EDT
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 2014 season. Next up: The Chicago White Sox.
The Big Question: Can the White Sox rebuild the league’s worst lineup on the fly?
Chicago went from 85 wins in 2012 to 63 wins last year for the White Sox’s worst season since 1970. Their pitching got worse, but it was nothing compared to the offense falling off a cliff by going from fourth in the league with 748 runs to dead last with 598 runs. It was ugly.
Instead of stocking up on prospects with an eye toward several years down the road general manager Rick Hahn has instead tried to rebuild the lineup in the short and long term, acquiring MLB-ready young talent in Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton, Matt Davidson, and Avisail Garcia. In doing so he traded away a young closer in Addison Reed and a young mid-rotation starter in Hector Santiago, and the White Sox previously parted with Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, Jesse Crain, and Matt Thornton in the middle of last season. Toss in Paul Konerko fading into a part-time role and this is a very different lineup than the .680 OPS crew, but will the results be much different?
Not so long ago Eaton looked like one of the best leadoff prospects in baseball, Abreu has immense upside after putting up monster numbers as a slugger in Cuba, and both Davidson and Garcia have the potential to be solid contributors offensively. But for the White Sox’s lineup to go from horrible to respectable immediately they need just about everything to click and holdover bats Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo, and Tyler Flowers have disappointed after once showing promise as youngsters themselves.
Chicago’s offense can’t help but be better in 2014, but the White Sox don’t look capable of making the leap into contention and the success or failure of the season depends largely on Abreu living up to the hype and 2-3 other young bats emerging as long-term regulars (plus Chris Sale staying healthy and remaining one of the elite starters in the league, of course). If they can accomplish those things and win 70-something games Hahn and company should be pretty happy with the offseason moves.
What else is going on?
- Thanks to a misleadingly poor win-loss record last season it’s possible that a lot of people don’t realize just how amazing Sale has been as a starter. Among all MLB starting pitchers since 2012–when he moved into the rotation–Sale ranks ninth in ERA and third in ERA+, which adjusts for ballparks and leagues. He’s also fifth in strikeout rate, fourth in K/BB ratio, and ninth in opponents’ OPS. He’s one of the best 5-10 pitchers in baseball and he’s still just 25 years old.
- Much is being made about the decision to trade away a 24-year-old closer coming off a 40-save season, but Reed wasn’t all that great once you get past the save total. He has a 4.17 career ERA, is more fly-ball prone that is ideal in the ninth-inning role, and has mediocre control. And while he’s piled up plenty of saves his actual save conversion rate of 85 percent is nothing special. The wisdom of the trade obviously depends on whether Davidson proves to be a valuable regular, but the idea of cashing in Reed was a smart one. Closers are made, not born, and Nate Jones or Matt Lindstrom likely can handle the job without much dropoff.
- Exactly how good can Abreu be? Projecting foreign players is always tough, but Fan Graphs’ reliable ZiPS system pegs Abreu as a .273 hitter with 26 homers and an .858 OPS as a rookie. To put that in some context, an .858 OPS would have ranked sixth among MLB first basemen last season, one spot behind Freddie Freeman. If the White Sox get that, they should be thrilled with their $68 million investment. (The bad news? Abreu is the only White Sox hitter projected by ZiPS to be above average.)
- Overshadowed by the young, MLB-ready bats brought into the mix is that the White Sox also already had a very good infield prospect in Marcus Semien. Last season between Double-A and Triple-A he hit .284 with 19 homers, 24 steals, more walks (98) than strikeouts (90), and an .880 OPS, including a studly .401 on-base percentage at age 22. Semien getting on base and Abreu knocking him in could be a very nice combo for a long time, perhaps as soon as midseason.
Prediction: Better–and a whole lot more interesting–but still nowhere near good. Fifth place, AL Central.
Jul 31, 2015, 12:24 AM EDT
Leake has a 3.56 ERA and 90/34 K/BB ratio in 136 2/3 innings over 21 starts this season.
Jul 31, 2015, 12:00 AM EDT
The Astros completed a three-game sweep of the Angels and now hold a two-game lead in the American League West.
Jul 30, 2015, 11:29 PM EDT
Gallardo isn’t going into the trade deadline on a high note, as he has allowed five runs in three straight starts.
Jul 30, 2015, 10:55 PM EDT
The Diamondbacks are trying to make a play for All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman.
Jul 30, 2015, 10:20 PM EDT
It was made possible due to a misplay by Jacoby Ellsbury in center field.
Jul 30, 2015, 9:33 PM EDT
The Brewers traded center fielder Carlos Gomez to the Astros earlier tonight along with right-hander Mike Fiers and they could be close to another deal.
Jul 30, 2015, 9:08 PM EDT
As the Mets try to pick up the pieces after their deal for Carlos Gomez fell apart, they reportedly have an interesting proposal to consider from the Reds.
Jul 30, 2015, 8:40 PM EDT
Morse is owed $8 million next season, but the Dodgers covered it in order to complete Thursday’s 13-player trade with the Marlins and Braves.
Jul 30, 2015, 7:33 PM EDT
Carlos Gomez was nearly dealt to the Mets last night before the deal fell apart, but it didn’t take long for the Brewers to find a new suitor.
Jul 30, 2015, 7:10 PM EDT
It wasn’t too long ago that we were talking about the White Sox as sellers, but now they are trying to buy a big bat.
Jul 30, 2015, 6:32 PM EDT
Angels slugger Mike Trout is back in tonight’s lineup against the Astros after missing two games with left wrist inflammation.
Jul 30, 2015, 6:09 PM EDT
After dealing ace David Price to the Blue Jays earlier today, the Tigers have traded closer Joakim Soria to the Pirates.
Jul 30, 2015, 5:05 PM EDT
Of course, experience is education too, and based on that I’m quite sure that even the most intelligent Marlins fan would be justified in being confused and thinking the organization has no clue whatsoever.
Jul 30, 2015, 4:44 PM EDT
No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 draft behind Stephen Strasburg.
Jul 30, 2015, 4:20 PM EDT
Carlos Correa has shortstop covered for a while.
Jul 30, 2015, 4:07 PM EDT
Defeat from the jaws of victory and then they got all wet.
Jul 30, 2015, 3:50 PM EDT
Nava hit .303 in 134 games for the Red Sox in 2013, playing a key role in the team’s World Series title.
Jul 30, 2015, 3:46 PM EDT
It’s like we’re in Philly all over again.
Jul 30, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT
We’re recapping all of the deals as they come down.
Jul 30, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
He’s signed through 2019.
- Giants to acquire Mike Leake from Reds 2
- Astros acquire Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers from Brewers 39
- Pirates bolster bullpen, pick up Joakim Soria from Tigers 10
- 2015 MLB Trade Deadline Tracker 4
- The extraordinarily odd, 13-player Dodgers-Marlins-Braves trade is done 62
- Blue Jays acquire David Price from the Tigers 111
- Both the Phillies and the Rangers did well in the Cole Hamels trade 72
- Rangers land ace left-hander Cole Hamels from Phillies 106
- The MLBPA is considering withholding cooperation with ESPN, Fox over Colin Cowherd’s comments (157)
- The Cubs are in discussions with the Phillies on Cole Hamels (146)
- Major League Baseball rips Colin Cowherd in an official statement (123)
- Blue Jays acquire David Price from the Tigers (111)
- Rangers land ace left-hander Cole Hamels from Phillies (106)