Next up: a 2007 Team Outlook for the White Sox.
Kenny Williams’s contract obligations:
C – A.J. Pierzynski – $5.5MM
1B – Paul Konerko – $12MM
2B – Tadahito Iguchi – $3.25MM (club option)
SS – Juan Uribe – $4.15MM
3B – Joe Crede – $2.875MM
IF/OF – Pablo Ozuna – $0.5MM
1B/OF – Ross Gload – $0.35MM
LF – Josh Fields – $0.33MM, Ryan Sweeney – $0.33MM
CF – Brian Anderson – $0.33MM
RF – Jermaine Dye – $6MM
DH – Jim Thome – $8.5MM
OF – Rob Mackowiak – $2.75MM
SP – Jose Contreras – $9MM
SP – Mark Buehrle – $9.5MM (club option)
SP – Jon Garland – $10MM
SP – Freddy Garcia – $10MM
SP – Javier Vazquez – $12.5MM
SP – Brandon McCarthy – $0.332MM
RP - Bobby Jenks – $0.34MM
RP – Mike MacDougal – $0.43MM
RP – Neal Cotts – $0.4MM
RP – Matt Thornton – $0.355MM
RP – Charlie Haeger – $0.33MM
RP – Boone Logan – $0.327MM
RP – Sean Tracey – $0.33MM
RP – Dustin Hermanson – $0.5MM
Arbitration-eligible; could be nontendered
LF – Scott Podsednik – $1.9MM
IF – Alex Cintron – $1.6MM
Assuming Podsednik, Cintron, and Hermanson are not invited back, the Sox have about $100MM tied up. Throw in raises for Crede and others and you’re probably around $105MM. The Sox entered 2006 a touch under $103MM, and the payroll shouldn’t be significantly higher than that. Keep in mind that the subtraction of a starter would free up some cash.
The Sox will need a decent backup catcher, but some of the better options like Vance Wilson and Mike Redmond have been locked up.
Around the infield: Iguchi’s option is a no-brainer. But what to do with Juan Uribe? The man had the worst OBP in baseball (though he continued to hit for good power). His glovework is top five in the game for sure.
Kenny Williams could trade Uribe and acquire someone better to play shortstop (if perhaps in a separate deal). Some Sox fans are clamoring for a Michael Young trade if possible. Young, however, is the worst defensive shortstop in baseball. It would be exchanging Uribe’s OBP problem (and a ton of young prospect talent) for another problem. You’d still probably rather have Young, but not at the price.
Baseball Prospectus rates Uribe’s ’06 performance at 2.6 wins, and his 2004 peak at 5.1 wins. Aside from giving up the farm for Miguel Tejada, the Sox could sign Julio Lugo or trade for Orlando Cabrera. It won’t be easy if Williams tries to upgrade at short.
Crede’s been doing one-year deals, and could go up to five or six million after arbitration. If he elects not to have back surgery, the team may be reluctant to ink him to a multiyear contract. Plenty of teams need third basemen, so feel free to concoct wild trade scenarios. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
If the Sox do trade Crede, Josh Fields probably becomes the third baseman. He’d be a step down but might be able to get the job done following a .305/.379/.515 line in Charlotte. Fields did have a weak offensive second half for the Knights though. And you wouldn’t want to replace both Crede and Uribe, as the left-side infield defense would be severely weakened. The Sox may very well stand pat at both positions.
Depending on who you ask, something may have to be done about center field. Brian Anderson has his supporters for another shot at center, though he still wasn’t league average offensively for his position in the second half. And league average for a CF isn’t asking much. We know Ozzie and Juan Pierre have mutual affection, but Williams doesn’t feel the love. Other options include Jim Edmonds and Gary Matthews Jr. and, to a lesser extent, Dave Roberts or Kenny Lofton. Maybe a deal for Ryan Freel? No acquisition could top Vernon Wells, but competition will be fierce if he’s available. There’s no easy answer here, of course.
Left field is more of an agreed-upon problem. The Sox have probably had enough of Pods, so they’ll either nontender or trade him. Should Crede stay, Fields and Ryan Sweeney could get a look. Otherwise there’s Cliff Floyd (a Chicago native), Moises Alou, David Dellucci, Luis Gonzalez, or maybe even Alfonso Soriano. Or maybe Kenny peddles his one possible surplus, starting pitching, as part of a deal for Manny Ramirez or Carl Crawford. If the Sox want to make another deal with Philly, Pat Burrell is available for peanuts but would have to approve a trade.
The rotation, of course, is six deep. Assuming Williams’s six-man rotation idea doesn’t fly, someone has to go to make room for McCarthy. Popular opinion is Garcia, who could interest the Mets (and would succeed in the NL). But Buehrle and Vazquez are certainly fair game. KW is good at what he does, and he’ll find a way to turn one of these starters into a good outfielder. How about Matt Murton or Luke Scott, to toss out a few names? I’m sure Kenny can do better.
Williams has pledged to add a reliever. Haeger should join the pen if he’s not traded; his knuckler would certainly be a change from flamethrowers like Jenks and MacDougal. Hermanson could return at reduced pay, but at least one other proven guy will be imported. Aaron Heilman could be available via trade. Justin Speier could be on the radar. Various free agents fit the bill. Maybe the Sox will get creative, grab a guy like Byung-Hyun Kim or Kerry Wood.
It looks like another fun offseason in Chicago, as the Sox have all sorts of ways to play this hand. What would you do?