Ideally, the White Sox can find a No. 2-type starter who pitches from the right slide so they can slide him between staff ace Chris Sale and consistent performer Jose Quintana.
Luring a pitcher into the American League and into a ballpark that plays small like U.S. Cellular Field won't be an easy task.
If it's a matter of going after the best possible option, then the Detroit Tigers Max Scherzer is the right-handed starter who would be at the top of anybody's wish list. Right behind him is the Kansas City Royals' James Shields.
But would the White Sox be ready to spend what it takes -- and commit to the years -- to land either pitcher at this point of their rebuild?
A notch down from those right-handers in the free-agent pool is the Atlanta Braves' Ervin Santana and the Oakland Athletics' Jason Hammel, among others.
Trades also remain a possibility, although landing a proven starter will take a significant package of young talent.
Another question is whether the White Sox would be willing to trade Quintana for his right-handed equivalent. The White Sox most definitely wouldn't consider dealing Sale, it will be next to impossible to find somebody willing to pick up John Danks' money in a possible deal, and there figures to be no way they would deal top pitching prospect Carlos Rodon, yet another left-hander.
A Quintana trade would be a huge risk and would only go down if the White Sox would be able to find another team in a similar predicament of needing left-handed balance with a young right-hander they are willing to deal. In that light, the odds of a Quintana trade appear extremely slim.
While right-handers like Hector Noesi, Scott Carroll, Eric Johnson and Chris Bassitt have all shown promise at some point recently, none of them are ready to break up the lefty logjam at the top of the White Sox's rotation.
Sure general manager Rick Hahn would like to land all of the top players on the team's wish list, but he also said that short-term fixes could fill holes as well. It isn't out of the question that a short-term fix could come with a right-handed starter.
Potential targets at all positions have already been compiled.
"The board in my office has more than two names at each position, and that's for a reason," Hahn said. "Our intent is to convert on the No. 1 target at every spot and address every need with the ideal fit. Realistically there are 29 other clubs, some of which have similar needs to ours and similar resources, whether it be from a player to trade standpoint or an economic standpoint. So, we're realistic and know that we're not going to be able to necessarily convert on every top guy.
"At the same time, our scouts and our analytics people are fairly well-versed and skilled at being able to target, perhaps, I don't want to say second-tier, perhaps less notable targets who've been able to develop into integral parts of championship clubs here. So the list is long."
Tyler Flowers was solid at calling games again in 2014, but his offense was sporadic, from a hot start as a singles hitter, to a sudden slump to a resurgence at the start of the second half that most people wanted to credit to his change from contact lenses to sport glasses.
Not to go unnoticed was Adrian Nieto's impressive showing as Flowers' backup at the position this season. Nieto batted just .236 with a .340 slugging percentage in 48 games, but after never appearing above Single-A before this past season, his ability to adapt to the game's highest level was impressive.
As a Rule 5 selection in the offseason, Nieto had to remain on the active roster all year or else the White Sox would risk losing him back to his former club, the Washington Nationals.
Flowers still appears to be in the lead to get the starting job again next season, unless the White Sox decide to use some of their spending cash this winter to upgrade behind the plate.
The best of the free agent catchers on the market appears to be the Pittsburgh Pirates' Russell Martin, who is 32 and has tons of experience not only with the Pirates, but with the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees.
Martin won't come cheap since he made $8.5 million in 2014 and is no doubt looking for something lengthier than the two-year $17 million deal he signed with the Pirates to start the 2013 season.
And Martin figures to have plenty of other suitors, including those ready to contend immediately, all of which would make it tougher on the White Sox to land him.
Other free agent options include Gerald Laird, Jeff Mathis, David Ross and Geovany Soto, all a good-size step down from Martin and not a guaranteed better option over Flowers, who will be 29 next season.
And with the way the White Sox were willing to make deals last winter, namely two with the Arizona Diamondbacks, putting a deal together that includes a catcher in a return package is always a possibility.
Adding it all up, though, giving Flowers another shot looks to be the likely route the White Sox take, unless they end up packaging him in a trade.
Flowers is a good teammate, works well with the pitching staff, he didn't even make $1 million in 2014, which means he won't break the bank as an arbitration-eligible player, and will come three to four times cheaper than somebody like Martin.
While many White Sox followers might find a change at catcher to be a little more enticing, the White Sox could be inclined to stick with what they have for at least another season. Flowers knows the pitching staff, can supply power at the bottom of the order when his swing is right and fits into the mold of team-first personalities the team is trying to compile.
And if by keeping Flowers it means there is more money to spend on areas like the bullpen, perhaps, that can't be a bad thing.
The White Sox could even go with Phegley as Flowers' backup, with the idea that Phegley plays much more than Nieto did this past season. As for Nieto, the prudent move would be to have him start the 2015 season at Triple-A Charlotte so he can get the steady at-bats he missed out on in 2014.
With the Gordon Beckham era now complete, the White Sox are in line to have Marcus Semien, Carlos Sanchez and Micah Johnson battle for the Opening Day job at second base.
But depth at a position also provides a team with trade options to make other areas stronger. Semien, Sanchez or Johnson might not be enough alone to land an impact player in a trade, but they might be able to attract a bullpen piece. Or, they could be packaged with somebody else in order to make a different deal work.
Johnson figures to be the favorite for the starting job next year, and he might have been up with the White Sox in September but he was shut down with hamstring issues. The speedy Johnson stole just 22 bases in 103 total minor-league games this past season, but he did have 84 steals in the minor leagues in 2013.
Without Johnson in September, the White Sox got a close-up look at Sanchez and saw reasons for optimism. Sanchez worked well with double-play partner Alexei Ramirez, proved to be an adept fielder and, while he struggled offensively over the last two weeks, batted .308 with a .325 on-base percentage for an 11-game stretch from Aug. 29-Sept. 10.
Semien showed plenty of promise during his two stints with the White Sox, especially with a knack for clutch hitting that ran contrary to his lack of major-league experience. On defense, he was fine at second base, but his play was worrisome at third, giving pause to the idea that he could be a utility man moving forward.
Leg issues and a reduction in steals could end up watering down Johnson’s trade value this winter. But Sanchez no doubt raised his stock by looking comfortable in his 28-game big-league stint this year.
The chances that all three of these players will make it through spring training as a member of the White Sox organization seem slim.
And even if the organization views Johnson as their top second base prospect, it isn’t out of the question he could be moved if it benefited another area of the roster considerably.
The major benefit in all of this is that the White Sox figure to at least have a couple of young second base options moving into next season, and whatever they do end up with, it will be affordable.
While the White Sox were better in some areas this past season when compared with the 2013 team, the bullpen was not one of them with a 4.38 ERA that was next to last in the American League.
Former closer Addison Reed was sent to the Arizona Diamondbacks last December in a move that appeared positive on the surface. Nobody denies that closers are hard to replace, but moving a 70-inning pitcher for a possible everyday player with power seemed to be a gamble worth taking.
So far, that gamble hasn't even come close to a payoff. Not only did the White Sox not find a set closer in 2014, the position player they traded for, third baseman Matt Davidson, spent the entire season at Triple-A Charlotte.
Conor Gillaspie's breakout season at third base in 2014 made Davidson's challenge to unseat him even harder than it was going into spring this past February.
And despite six months of baseball this past spring and summer, the White Sox still don't have a clear-cut closer candidate, although Jake Petricka accounted for himself quite nicely with his second-half closer chances.
Nate Jones (Tommy John surgery) still won't be back until midseason, so it isn't like internal help is on its way anytime soon, either.
Don't be surprised if the best closer candidate the White Sox get this winter is via trade. And don't be surprised if that candidate's track record as a closer is limited.
Much like Jones was last offseason as a young, rising, late-inning reliever with closer potential (before injuries surfaced), the White Sox could end up searching for live arms that they can convert to the ninth-inning role.
There will be closer candidates on the free-agent market this winter, but all but one is younger than 32, and none of them figure to come cheaply. Guys such as Jason Grilli, 38; Casey Janssen, 33; David Robertson, 30; Francisco Rodriguez, 33; and Sergio Romo, 32, all could be looking for new homes this offseason.
But closer isn't the White Sox's only need. If they do get one, Petricka and perhaps Zach Putnam can operate in a setup role. The club still has high hopes for right-hander Daniel Webb, but improvement with control issues is vital.
And even if left-hander Eric Surkamp finds his way back into the bullpen to start the 2015 season, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the White Sox carry an additional lefty. They carried one left-hander nearly all of last season, and it made it tough for manager Robin Ventura to match up against opposing lineups.
One interesting left-handed free-agent candidate is Neal Cotts, who has revived his career in recent seasons with the Texas Rangers, although he had his issues in 2014 (4.32 ERA in 73 appearances).
Cotts isn't young anymore at 35, but he has history with the White Sox, including his success with the 2005 World Series champions. There is also the fact that he still lives full-time in Chicago, all of which could make him a potential addition.
Even though right-hander Ronald Belisario is arbitration-eligible this offseason, don't expect him to return. Belisario was late to spring training, struggled mightily in the closer role after Matt Lindstrom was injured in the first half, and his power sinker was hardly effective late in the season.
One more reason Belisario doesn't figure to be back: He made $3 million in 2014 and would figure to get a raise on that if offered arbitration.
Now that the Royals have swept the Los Angeles Angels in the division series, though, the 2005 connection is becoming clear again, and not just because of the composition of Kansas City's roster. The White Sox also tallied a division series sweep in 2005, blowing through the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox to do it.
Keeping the comparison going is only going to get tougher for the Royals. The White Sox not only went on to win four of five games in the 2005 American league Championship Series, they closed with four consecutive complete games from their starters.
But Konerko's comparison was more about a Royals team that was pitching well heading into the postseason, especially from its bullpen, with an offense that might not be one of the best in baseball, but knows how to deliver when it needs to.
Konerko made the connection at none other than his speech to White Sox fans during Paul Konerko Day, one day before the club's season ended. Konerko took a moment early in his speech to congratulate the Royals for earning a postseason spot.
"Good luck to you guys," Konerko said, microphone in hand while turning toward the Royals dugout. "Represent the (American League) Central. You guys remind me of a team I played for once. You guys can go do it. Represent."
Now the Royals sit eight victories from their wildest dream, while Konerko is closer to saying, "I told you so," if he ever did things like that.
Asked about recognizing the Royals in his speech, Konerko stood by what he said. He wasn't giving praise, just because the Royals were in the room.
"What I told them was true," Konerko said. "That team right there looks a lot like the team that won the World Series here as far as how they're built. Good luck to them. I hope they do it. I hope they get the same feeling I had. It was great."
The White Sox started clearing the books back in July 2013 when Jake Peavy was traded to the Boston Red Sox. As big as it was to get back Avisail Garcia in the three-way deal that also included the Detroit Tigers, a major part of that transaction was the fact that the Red Sox assumed Peavy's salary moving forward.
Similar moves followed suit. Alex Rios' contract commitments were sent to the Texas Rangers in August 2013, with Leury Garcia coming back in return. Gordon Beckham, who could make as much as $6 million in arbitration for next season, was sent to the Los Angeles Angels this August, while the move that sent Adam Dunn to the Oakland Athletics saved the club about $1 million.
When the 2013 season started, the White Sox had committed about $120 million to the roster. This season, when the White Sox's overall record was 10 games better than it was one year earlier, they committed about $90 million to payroll, and that was before Beckham and Dunn were moved.
The front office is working on a spending plan for 2015, and while it likely will rise north of $90 million, it isn't expected to reach the $120 million heights just yet. One legitimate budget restrictor, whether White Sox fans want to hear it or not, is declining attendance.
The total head count at U.S. Cellular Field (1.65 million this season) was down for the eighth consecutive season. That's well below the club-record 2.96 million that showed up in 2006, the year after the White Sox won the World Series.
It's a classic chicken/egg scenario, of course. Fans don't want to come out and see a team that struggles, while management can't fill holes with its No. 1 option until more people come to the park.
So while payroll could rise in 2015, expect it to be closer to that $90 million starting point than $120 million. That still leaves plenty to dish out, though.
The White Sox have only about $41 million committed to the roster next season, or $46 million when adding what still is owed to Jeff Keppinger and Scott Downs, both of whom were released in 2014. Add another $10 million to $11 million for arbitration-eligible players and players who are under team contract control.
That doesn't account for Ronald Belisario, who made $3 million and is expected to be non-tendered, making him a free agent. Then the White Sox need to make a decision on Dayan Viciedo, who made $2.8 million this past season and also is arbitration eligible.
In any event, the White Sox still have a considerable amount of money to spend. The next question: how to spend it.
Expect the White Sox to explore options with a left fielder, catcher and right-handed starter. But the main additions in free agency could come in the bullpen, if the White Sox don't answer that issue first with trades.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Adam Dunn trekked 14 seasons and 2,001 games just to get to the postseason. But when his one and only playoff chance arrived Tuesday, he never got off the bench, and afterward he said he will retire.
The Oakland Athletics designated hitter, 34, told ESPN's Pedro Gomez that he has played his final game.
"I guess the computer got me," Dunn said, referring to the A's "Moneyball" tactics.
Long past midnight, after the Athletics' 9-8, 12-inning loss to the Kansas City Royals in the American League wild-card game, Dunn refused to take off his uniform, sitting in a back room instead of the clubhouse with most of his teammates.
He seemed to be soaking in the atmosphere one last time, even as the air around him was laced with disappointment.
When Dunn was traded to the A's in August from the Chicago White Sox, he said the final five weeks of the season would be his last hurrah. In the environment of an A's team grinding its way toward the playoffs, Dunn seemed to back off the retirement stance.
However, after a productive few games with the A's, Dunn's contributions were more like they had been with the White Sox, when he failed to reach base as often as he had in the past. Dunn batted .212 with a .316 on-base percentage for the A's and hit two home runs with 10 RBIs in 25 games.
ATLANTA -- The changes keep coming for the Atlanta Braves.
Already in the market for a general manager, they'll have to hire a new hitting coach as well.
Greg Walker resigned from the coaching staff Tuesday, a move that was expected after the Braves struggled through a miserable season offensively.
Atlanta batted .241 as a team and scored only 573 runs, the second-lowest total in the majors. Only seven teams hit fewer homers than the Braves (123), an especially troubling number because the team had the fourth-most strikeouts (1,369) and was supposedly built for power.
Down the stretch, the offense was especially feeble. The Braves lost 18 of their final 25 games to fall out of playoff contention, a stretch that included six shutouts and an average of less than 2.4 runs per game.
In a statement issued by the team, Walker said he told manager Fredi Gonzalez of the decision to quit during the final weekend of the season at Philadelphia.
"I grew up in south Georgia and have been a Braves fan my whole life," said Walker, a native of Douglas. "I am grateful for the opportunity they gave me."
Walker had been the hitting coach for three years, coming to Atlanta after serving in the same position with the Chicago White Sox from 2003-11.
Gonzalez is scheduled to meet Wednesday with interim general manager John Hart, a session that could lead to more changes on the coaching staff. Walker's assistant hitting coach, Scott Fletcher, is also thought to be in jeopardy.
"It's so easy to blame the coaches in any sport," Gonzalez said the day after the season ended. "Would I like to keep my staff completely? Absolutely. Is that going to happen? I'll call you as soon as I get out of the meeting."
Sharp, who has been with the Blackhawks since 2005, said Tuesday he's appreciated Konerko's loyalty to the White Sox. Konerko retired this year after 16 seasons with the White Sox. Sharp believes he and the Blackhawks have a similar bond.
"I think you certainly feel loyalty [with Konerko]. That's tough to come by in today's professional sports. It's a business now. That's the way things are. But the way Paulie has been loyal to the Sox and been willing to take a lesser role at the end of his career to help the younger players along for the betterment of the team and the organization, you don't see that every day in sports. I think that just speaks to the type of person and teammate he is."
Sharp went to watch Konerko play numerous times over the years at U.S. Cellular Field and also got to know him personally. Sharp said he respects Konerko on and off the field.
"I think he was a very underrated player whether it's his numbers, whether it's his consistency," Sharp said. "He came to the park every day and he was kind of just a rock in that lineup. Knowing him somewhat on a personal level, you could tell he was a good teammate, he cared about the Sox and wanted to do whatever he could to make that team win. It's a pretty impressive career he put together in this city."
Sharp believes Chicago's baseball landscape will be different for him now without Konerko.
"I'm a huge baseball fan," Sharp said. "I cheer for both Chicago teams. But Paulie is a guy that I've gotten to know away from the sport, spent some time with him. He's a great guy. He's got a great family. In some parts, it's sad to see him go. It's tough to go down to the Cell and see a Sox game without Paulie playing. On the other hand, you have to celebrate his career, what he's done for the city, what he's done for the organization, and I wish him the best of luck in the future."
General manager Rick Hahn confirmed that while not the ideal scenario, the team is open to having prospect Carlos Rodon compete for a rotation spot in the spring to join a starting staff that already includes lefties Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks.
The team's willingness to go the four-lefty route this time has more to do with the ability of Rodon, the No. 3 overall selection in this past summer's first-year player draft and widely regarded to be the player who would most likely reach the major leagues the fastest.
In fact, the White Sox considered adding Rodon to the major league club when rosters expanded in September. But after advancing the North Carolina State product to the Triple-A level, the White Sox felt it would be best to have the 21-year old call it a season. He turns 22 on Dec. 10.
"He's had, obviously, a busy professional season and professional debut, where we had him at numerous stops, so right now he's just resting," Hahn said. "In the not-too-distant future he's going to connect with (pitching coach) Don Cooper, and (minor-league pitching coordinator) Curt Hassler and some of our pitching coaches and come up with a specific program of what we'd like to see him work on this offseason.
"So, it was a tremendous debut for this kid. I think he's going to be an important part of what we've got going on here for the next several years."
It isn't out of the question that Rodon could return to the minor leagues or open next season in the White Sox's bullpen, but he will be pointed toward the starting rotation first, even if it means lefty overload.
"I'm more hung up on taking the five best guys that give you a chance to win on any given day," Hahn said. "Certainly, if we had four righties and one lefty, no one would say, 'You've got too many righties.' Perhaps you want a little more balance, but nobody goes out of his way to get rid of a quality righty to bring in a less or inferior option just because he throws from the left side. We're not going to do that from the left side given our situation.
"Is it ideally how you would draw it up? No. But at the same time, if Carlos is capable of filling his potential ..."
For now, the options with Rodon are wide open.
"It's conceivable he could be a member of the bullpen in 2015 at some point," Hahn said. "I do believe, much like when we had Chris Sale in a similar situation, that his long-term future is at the front end of a rotation, but we are not necessarily committed that it has to be on Day 1 as part of a rotation in order to get to that spot."
The longtime team captain went 0-for-10 in his farewell weekend, grounding out to third base in the fifth inning on Sunday in his final major league at-bat.
With a sore hand after breaking a bone earlier this month and a tight back that stiffened up on him over the weekend, Konerko also had to deal with the emotions of his final start that included a statue presentation and other gifts, an on-field speech in front of a sold-out stadium and one standing ovation after another.
"It hasn't hit me yet," Paul Konerko said Sunday of the impact of no longer playing baseball. He said that might be different by the time spring training rolls around. "Maybe I'll find out then."
This weekend was never about what kind of production Konerko could give. It was a celebration of all the things he had done in the past. He leaves the game with the Chicago White Sox record for total bases (4,010) and is second in franchise history with 432 home runs and 1,383 RBIs.
That he was humble and so self-aware while doing it, all while being a determined leader in the clubhouse, only heightened his appeal with White Sox fans and baseball fans, in general. Konerko did it the right way all the way to the end and only in the final weekend of his career did he let outside factors get the best of him.
“That’s such the beauty of this game, there is no switch,” Konerko said. “You gotta be good. You gotta have your act together. And it’s almost in a way for me, just a nice, gentle reminder on the way out you don’t get what you want all the time when it comes to on the field stuff. But everything else couldn’t have been [better]. This whole thing blew me away.
“I know I’ve been here awhile, and I knew there’d be something at the end that would be commemorating me being here for a while. But this whole thing, the fans and all that [celebrating Paul Konerko Day on Saturday] night, I never thought that I was one of those guys that gets that. I just didn’t think I was, but I guess I was.”
Konerko walked off the field the last time before the start of the sixth inning when he was replaced at first base by Andy Wilkins. He had one last curtain call before the sixth inning started, then watched his final game unfold from the bench. The White Sox fell 6-4 to the Royals.
“The thing is, I didn’t feel it was such a dramatic thing to stop playing baseball,” Konerko said. “And maybe it hasn’t hit me yet; maybe it won’t hit me until spring training rolls around and I’m not getting ready again, I’m not going with the team and all that. Maybe I’ll find out then.”
To show his appreciation, Konerko finished a postgame television interview and ran around the field to thank the fans, shaking hands for at least 20 minutes after the last out was made.
“You have the support as you’re going through, you know the fans are there, you know it but you don’t,” Konerko said. “What just happened out there on the field like at the end there going around, you see other people doing that. You don’t ever think that’s you. I don’t know. It’s going to take me a while to digest all of this stuff. It’s pretty crazy to me.”
Perhaps Konerko’s biggest show of thanks came early in the game, when he scratched the names of his family members in the infield dirt near first base. There was Nick and Owen for his two sons, J for his wife Jen and A for his daughter Amelia. Then he finished it off by drawing a heart.
“I thought about it probably 20 minutes before the game,” Konerko said. “I don’t know why, I just did. It was as a thank you, because your family is always in the back seat. Your mom, your dad, your wife, your kids. You do the best you can, but if you’re a big league baseball player you have to be selfish. You have to leave the house early. You’re traveling. You come home late. You just miss a lot.
“It’s not a normal thing, so it was kind of a) a thank you and b) to remind me that when this all ends today, that’s what really matters. That’s what’s waiting for me all the time on the other side, and that’s pretty good.”
The additions of Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton last winter have the offense in better shape than it was a year ago. But those additions also are a tough act to follow for Hahn, as the fan base yearns for more improvement and a better 2015.
Is Hahn challenging himself to match and possibly exceed last year’s roster maneuvering?
“The addition of (left-handed pitcher) Carlos Rodon in the last draft is another example, and we’re never going to move our eye from those long-term targets being a priority. At the same time, we may be in a position where some shorter-term deals with some veteran-type players might make some sense in order to get this team closer to where we want to be.”
While making some long-term roster additions in order to get better for the long run, the White Sox also have been creating financial flexibility. Payroll was down some $30 million from last year, and with big-money players like Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko all gone now, Hahn said he expects to have some freedom to spend a little more to shore up roster spots.
“The flexibility helps a lot,” Hahn said. “Having some important players signed long term, you have that cost certainty about what your obligations are going to be going forward, and we’re in a position now where we’ve managed to create some economic flexibility going into the offseason. We can deploy that via free agency or via trade and really not be precluded from any opportunities right now due to economic reasons.”
The White Sox still might not be ready to push past the $110 million mark in player salaries, but overall talent still could be younger and better than it has been the past two seasons. Just don’t expect the White Sox to spend like the deep-pocket Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
“Our intent is to convert on the No.1 target at every spot and address every need with the ideal fit,” Hahn said. “Realistically there are 29 other clubs, some of which have similar needs to ours and similar resources, whether it be from a player to trade standpoint or an economic standpoint. So, we’re realistic and know that we’re not going to be able to necessarily convert on every top guy.
“At the same time, our scouts and our analytics people are fairly well versed and skilled at being able to target, perhaps, I don’t want to say second-tier, but perhaps less notable targets who have been able to develop into integral parts of championship clubs here. So, the list is long. It continues to be vetted. It’ll continue to be vetted over the next few weeks.”
Yet for all the positives, there is no getting around the fact that the White Sox finished with just 73 victories this season, a mark that was 15 games under .500. That is not a positive no matter how many long-term impact players have been added since the July 2013 trade deadline.
“If you're asking me for a pass-fail grade on the 2014 season, it's a failure,” Hahn said. “The goal is to win a championship. The goal is always to win a championship, and we're not going to do that.”
That’s the black-and-white summary of the season. The gray area offers intrigue.
“'From the standpoint of putting ourselves in position to win multiple championships, there are some successes that we can feel happy about,” Hahn said. “Obviously, last offseason we were able to acquire the rookie of the year (Abreu). It would be nice to do that again this offseason and continue that process.
“Adam Eaton is going to be the mainstay at the top of our order for a long time. Obviously, Chris Sale took another step forward, as did Jose Quintana. Avi Garcia has shown flashes. It would have been nice if he had been healthy the whole year to continue that development, but at the same time, he continues to be a very integral part of our plan going forward.”
As for there the fixes that need to be made, a right-handed starter is a priority and a decision on a left fielder will be key. But one other area will have much of the emphasis.
“When you look at our bullpen, you wish that was better,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You don’t know if it’s going to be guys that are improving or different people. That’s just the way the game goes. You look at what you’re weak at and try to figure out a way to improve it. There are quite a few things.
“When you end up 15 games back in your division, you look back at a lot of games you lost; see how you lost them, why you lost them. I think defensively for us, there’s ways to improve. Offensively there’s ways to improve. There are a lot of different things to it. We’ll definitely go over that. We’ve been going over that as we move along and kind of start focusing on what we want to see this offseason.”
While questions have been raised this season about Ventura’s job stability, Hahn said he has no issues with his manager moving through the current roster rebuild.
“Robin continues to do an excellent job at the helm of the club,” Hahn said. “Obviously, when you evaluate managers, you have to take into account the personnel that they're given. I don't think it's fair to expect them to have every player on the roster consistently overachieve or achieve at perhaps a level beyond the player's capabilities.
“So we judge it from the prism of what was he given and what did he get out of them. His communication continues to be outstanding, his ability to keep all the players involved, and keeps them on point to prioritize the things that we feel are important and respond to inevitable challenges.”
CHICAGO -- Kansas City's chance for the AL Central title was erased by Detroit's victory on Sunday, and the Royals went on to a 6-4 comeback win over Chicago in the final game for retiring White Sox captain Paul Konerko.
Coming into the final day of the regular season, Kansas City was hoping for a one-game playoff on Monday in Detroit for the division crown. But the Tigers clinched the Central with a 3-0 victory over the Twins, sending the Royals to a home wild-card game against Oakland on Tuesday night in their first playoff appearance since 1985.
Right after Detroit secured its fourth straight division title, Kansas City manager Ned Yost started pulling some of his regulars from the lineup. Rookie right-hander Yordano Ventura was lifted after four innings and 73 pitches.
Kansas City (89-73) likely will have James Shields on the mound when the Royals take on the Athletics.
How it happened: Konerko ended his 18-year career Sunday with an 0-for-3 performance. He played 16 of those seasons in a White Sox uniform. With standing ovations in his honor all day long, Konerko struck out twice and grounded out to third base during his final at-bat in the fifth inning. Konerko took his position at first base before the sixth inning started, but he was replaced by Andy Wilkins before a pitch was thrown, getting a standing ovation as he left the field one last time.
What it means: Although Jose Abreu played the majority of games at first base, Konerko’s departure officially passes the torch to the new slugging first baseman. Abreu’s numbers this season (.317 batting average, 36 home runs, 107 RBIs) are on par with what Konerko produced in his prime. Abreu already has one All-Star Game appearance to his credit. Konerko played in the All-Star Game six times.
Outside the box: Konerko finished his career as the White Sox’s all-time leader in total bases at 4,010. He ranks second in home runs (432), RBIs (1,383), games (2,268) and extra-base hits (846). He is third in team history in hits (2,292) and doubles (406). Konerko is the White Sox’s leader in 20-homer seasons with 12, 30-homer seasons with seven and 100-RBI seasons with six. Konerko’s 10 grand slams are tied with Robin Ventura for the club record.
Off beat: Konerko had a touching tribute of his own to deliver as he recognized his family in the dirt. During the first inning, Konerko scratched the names of his sons Nick and Owen on the skin part of the infield near first base. As the game proceeded he added a letter “J” for his wife Jen and a letter “A” for his daughter Amelia. He finished it off with a heart. The names easily could be read from the Konerko family suite above first base.
Final record: The White Sox finished 73-89 on the 2014 season, a 10-game improvement on last year’s 63-99 mark. The White Sox had consecutive losing seasons for the first time since they finished under. 500 for three consecutive years from 1997-99.