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Friday, August 9, 2013
White Sox rebuild stays in fast lane

By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox never wanted to tear the house down to the studs before rebuilding and a pair moves in the span of 10 days could keep them on plan.

By sending Jake Peavy to the Boston Red Sox in a three-team deal on July 30 and then sending Alex Rios to the Texas Rangers on Friday, the White Sox are optimistic enough to think they can be competitive as early as next season.

There are three things working in the White Sox's favor:

• Outfielder Avisail Garcia, acquired in the Peavy deal, is ready to become an impact everyday player. He was called up to the White Sox on Friday, but wasn't expected to start because of a late arriving flight.

• Four trades since the middle of January will save the club approximately $40 million between now and the end of next season. In all deals the White Sox made during this trade season, they did not want to pay any of the salary on departing players. Only in the Rios deal did the White Sox pay cash considerations and that $1 million was to cover Rios' contractually-obligated pay raises in the event he was traded.

• With Chris Sale at the top of the rotation, not to mention the duo of Addison Reed and Nate Jones anchoring the bullpen, the White Sox believe they have the pitching core to compete. With Garcia, as well as the money they saved in trades, they plan to target run production and defense this offseason.

"You start with a core of young pitching talent, which is obviously essential to having success and is the hardest thing to get in any restoring or rebuilding or retooling," general manager Rick Hahn said Friday. "At the same time, in addition to the starting pitching that we've obviously had under control for the last several months, in the last three or four weeks, we've not only acquired a guy like Garcia who we feel can be a middle of the order impact guy, we've also opened up a fair amount of payroll flexibility.

"We started with the young pitching, which made us feel good, and now this flexibility in addition to a player like Garcia makes us feel even better that we may be able to turn this around as quickly as possible."

Not only are guys like Peavy, Rios, Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain no longer with the team, but the "retooling" figures to proceed without Paul Konerko, whose contract expires at the end of this season.

It not only will require Garcia to be productive, but it figures to send the White Sox shopping for a run producer in the winter, which is never a simple proposition on the free-agent market.

As far as pitching goes, though, the White Sox only figure to be looking for support pieces. The rotation could consist of Sale, John Danks, Jose Quintana, Hector Santiago and a fight for the fifth spot between Andre Rienzo, Eric Johnson, Charlie Leesman and perhaps even Scott Snodgress.

With Reed and Jones locked into the bullpen, the White Sox figure to be chasing support pieces, especially a left-hander.

Sale, who seems be worn down over receiving the worst run support in baseball, is excited about being leaned on so heavily moving into next year.

"To show they have that kind of confidence in us moving forward always helps out," Sale said. "It's good for your mentality moving forward knowing that they want you to be a part of it. It's fun. This is the only baseball I've ever known so just keep competing, go out there and try win games."

Getting better production from Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo will be paramount, while inconsistencies at third base and catcher will be discussed.

So even though the White Sox have a pitching core to be excited about, plenty of work remains to be done.

Manager Robin Ventura, whose contract expires at the end of next season, was part of a rebuild when he was a player in the White Sox organization.

"It doesn't take forever, but again, it depends on who you get and how they play," Ventura said. "This is all hypothetical stuff so to me I don't like talking about the hypothetical of next year when we've got games to play this year and you're kind of assessing what's here now."

If pitching is the piece to build around, though, the defense will have to be addressed, otherwise the White Sox will be chasing their tail.

"It's a big part of it," Hahn said. "Look, we're last in the league in runs scored, and I think our defensive efficiency has gone through the floor as well. Those are both important areas for us to improve, along with the base running and being smarter out there.

"We've got a real task ahead of us. There are real changes and improvement that need to take place. This again is another step in that process to get where we need to be."