Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Five things to watch in second half
By Doug Padilla
Will Paul Konerko move on after 15 seasons with the White Sox?
A restructuring of the organization's talent, however large or small, is still no reason to turn completely away from the Chicago White Sox as the second half begins.
There is no doubt that the team's disappointing play, and the trades that likely will result, have put a damper on a season that could have brought intrigue if the roster stayed healthy and everybody played to their potential.
As it turned out, there was no way to compensate for the White Sox getting struck down with an unprecedented rash of injuries and for so many players to play under expectations.
Moving into the second half, here is what intrigue still remains:
THE END OF AN ERA
While nobody is saying Paul Konerko won't be re-signed when his contract expires at the end of the season, all signs point to new challenges ahead for the veteran of 15 seasons on the South Side. The team's decision to retool the roster wouldn't exactly be inviting for Konerko even if the White Sox unexpectedly offered him a deal. Injuries and struggles marred his first half, but the captain still has time to rediscover his productive swing, even if it's too late to carry the team into contention. While a final game tribute will definitely be in the works, White Sox fans don't have to wait until the bitter end to show their appreciation.
TWIN CANNONS TAKE AIM
Addison Reed and Nate Jones are a fine-1-2 punch at the back end of a bullpen and the final stretch of the season offers the hard-throwing right-handers the opportunity to gain even more experience. For Jones, he struggled to spot his pitches early, but in finding a way back to respectability, he might have gained the knowledge to avoid such stumbles as his career moves forward. Reed hasn't been as dominating as he was earlier in the season, but he continues to show the makeup to be a talented closer for a long time. Reed already appears to have the savvy it takes to put a rough outing behind him and remain confident in his very next appearance.
Robin Ventura insists he is committed to the White Sox.
Manager Robin Ventura has said he will not quit on the team, even as it struggles. When he skipped a few days in June to attend the graduation of his daughter, Ventura said he was made aware of talk that his heart might no longer be into managing. He has committed himself to this season and by all indications he intends on finishing out his three-year contract next season. Whether he returns under a new contract after 2014 remains to be seen. A telling sign might have come this past offseason when he turned down an extension. If Ventura isn't interested in managing during a rebuilding project, he could end up walking away with bench coach Mark Parent or third-base coach Joe McEwing logical replacement candidates.
Up first in the coming weeks are trades that could alter the face of the organization. Those figure to bring about minor league talent still a few years away from making a potential splash on the major league level. But any established talent that leaves will open the door for high-level prospects currently developing in the system. Will those players show enough to earn a serious look at a roster spot next spring? Will the younger players acquired in trades show enough in the minor leagues to prove they are ready to move through the system quickly?
MAN WITH A PLAN
Don't expect general manager Rick Hahn to try and sell a rebuilding project to the masses. It's not the best way to move tickets for the 2014 season. Instead, he will insist that the moves being made now are for sustained success in the future, which is essentially the same thing as a rebuild just with more positive wording. Just how long the rebuild will take will be evident in the moves Hahn makes. But with $27 million coming off the books this season and another $42.5 million coming off after the 2014 season, the White Sox's ideal scenario to rebuild quickly would be to add players in trades now that are a year or two away from emerging and then spend money to fill in the remaining holes. It won't be easy since the White Sox don't necessarily have the assets to add very many of those prospects ready for a breakthrough.