Sunday, March 30, 2014
Transformation visible in final roster
By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- It will be a transition season on the South Side in 2014 and it is clearly evident in a final roster where veterans will be passing the torch to a number of heralded youngsters.
Paul Konerko is retiring after this year and Adam Dunn is playing out the final season of his contract. They will be making way for a new generation of sluggers in Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia. Another newcomer in Adam Eaton will give the White Sox the pure leadoff hitter the lineup has been missing in recent seasons.
That youth is also present in the rotation and in the bullpen. Rookie Erik Johnson, with just five games of major league experience, earned a starting spot in spring training, while rookie Daniel Webb, and his nine games of experience, nabbed a spot with the relief corps.
Turning over a roster is often a lengthy process as young impact pieces are hard to come by. If they aren’t available in trades, then multiple prospects need to be ready to make an impact at the same time and the timing isn’t always ideal.
The White Sox were able to get their transformation started with moves that earned compliments from team executives around baseball. It started last July when Jake Peavy was moved to the Boston Red Sox in the three-team deal that netted Garcia from the Detroit Tigers.
Even though the White Sox were prepared to head into 2014 with both Konerko and Dunn, they still went ahead and invested $68 million in Abreu, knowing that they had to act now in order to make sure they had a corner infield spot settled for the long run.
The move to add Eaton was bold since it cost them starter Hector Santiago. Third baseman Matt Davidson, who will start the season at Triple-A Charlotte, was traded for closer Addison Reed in yet another aggressive move.
Losing a closer won’t be easy to overcome, but if the White Sox have been able to do one thing consistently over the last 12-plus years it’s figure out who will pitch in the final inning of victories. From Keith Foulke to Bobby Jenks, Sergio Santos and then Reed they have continually had an effective piece in that role.
Next in that line appears to be Nate Jones, although Ventura declined to name his closer one day before the season begins. Webb is also a closer possibility as is veteran Matt Lindstrom.
Nobody expects this new-look squad to go ahead and quickly compete for a playoff berth, but the White Sox knew that if they wanted to have sustained success any time soon they needed multiple players with their best years in front of them, not behind them.
Reducing payroll from the $118 million range down to the $90 million range is also not the ideal recipe for getting into quick World Series contention, but this offseason was always about the long term instead of a quick fix.
There remains no guarantee that these are the exact players to get the job done, and get the White Sox into a long run of contention in the coming years, but it is a pretty commendable start. By next year, the team could have a new third baseman in Davidson, another starter in prospect Chris Beck and a new second baseman in Marcus Semien or Carlos Sanchez.
Starting pitching is always a target in the trade market, but one that isn’t so easy to come by. Perhaps the White Sox would be willing to spend for pitching help next winter by using the money that will come from the expiring contracts of Dunn and Konerko.
For a team that had to make drastic moves in order to improve its long-term health, the White Sox’s offseason was a success. There is actually a real sense of optimism heading into Opening Day, not something easy to do with a club that will struggle to reach the .500 mark.
That more than anything signals that this year of transition is headed in the right direction.