Offseason In Review: Chicago White Sox

The White Sox invested in John Danks, but said goodbye to Ozzie Guillen, Sergio Santos, Carlos Quentin, and Mark Buehrle.

Major League Signings

International Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Extensions

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses

White Sox GM Kenny Williams has always marched to the beat of a different drum, and this offseason was no exception.  While Williams met expectations by sitting out free agency and trading some veterans, he also authored a surprising extension and bucked industry consensus in the nuances of his trades.

In September, Williams pulled off a rare type of trade, sending allowing manager Ozzie Guillen to join the Marlins for Marinez and Martinez.  Marinez and Martinez profile as a setup man and utility infielder, but it's still a win to get potential big leaguers for a manager who had seemingly already checked out.  I see the appeal of replacing Guillen with Ventura, who might be Guillen's polar opposite but also a fan favorite.  Someone like Davey Martinez might have been a more practical choice, however.

Sergio Santos seemed like a building block for the White Sox, even if they were mostly punting on the 2012 season.  Santos was extended to a team-friendly deal in September, but traded to the Blue Jays in December with no advance warning.  The hard-throwing 28-year-old closer was not known to be available.  In the trade, Williams placed his bet on a lone prospect, 23-year-old starter Nestor Molina.  Despite dominant numbers at High-A and in a short Double-A stint last year, Molina is seen by prospect experts as a back-of-the-rotation type.  It's unlikely the White Sox agree with that assessment.  They certainly had inside knowledge on Molina, having hired former Blue Jays director of Latin American operations Marco Paddy prior to the trade.  Paddy later convinced Williams to spend $250K on 17-year-old Venezuelan Luis Martinez, a big step for a team typically reluctant to spend internationally outside of Cuba. 

It was in response to a question, but Williams took the leap and agreed the Santos trade was "the start of a rebuilding."  The GM qualified that by saying it wasn't a "falling domino rebuilding," because the offers for his starting pitching were lacking.  Williams backed up his words by extending Danks about three weeks later.  Coming off his worst season in quite a while, Danks didn't give much of a discount on the eve of his contract year.  The White Sox made a sizeable five-year commitment, including four free agent seasons at $14.25MM apiece.  Just 27 in April, Danks represented a better investment to the White Sox than longtime ace Buehrle, who had recently signed a four-year, $58MM free agent deal with Ozzie Guillen's Miami Marlins.  

Danks' 2011 season was all over the map, with a reduced strikeout rate against left-handed hitters, an awful May, and strong work from June through August sandwiching a month missed from an oblique strain.  In three seasons prior, he'd posted a 3.61 ERA over 608 1/3 innings.  Danks' extension includes a full no-trade clause only for 2012, so Williams retains flexibility for a future trade.  Danks' rotation-mate Gavin Floyd seems more likely to be dealt in the near future, as a solid mid-rotation starter who can be controlled through 2013.  If the Sox aren't contending but Floyd has a decent first half, he'll be one of the better starters available. 

Quentin, on the other hand, was not extended heading into his contract year.  The 29-year-old right fielder was dealt to San Diego for pitching prospects Castro and Hernandez.  Castro, the headliner, has decent upside even after a lost 2011 season.  Still, no one considers him among the best 100 prospects in the game.  Unlike the Santos trade, I think the White Sox were just taking the best they could find for Quentin rather than bucking industry consensus in their prospect evaluations.  Quentin is good for only 120 games per season, his defense is average at best, and his OBP is respectable by virtue of getting hit by a pitch 20 times a year.  He's not the type of difference-maker for which a team can extract top prospects.

Frasor was an unnecessary bullpen luxury for the Sox even with Santos gone, so Williams shipped him back to the Blue Jays for a couple of prospects.  The deal justified Chicago's earlier decision to exercise Frasor's club option.

Ventura will provide a fresh outlook for the White Sox, especially since he has no prior coaching experience.  His hire signals a youth movement, and the White Sox need results from Dayan Viciedo, Brent Morel, Gordon Beckham, and Chris Sale.  However,  the team's 2012 chances still hinge on disappointing well-paid players such as Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, and Jake Peavy.


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