Chicago White Sox: Carlos Quentin
The White Sox may have the most underwhelming group of outfielders in the major leagues after trading Carlos Quentin and not bringing back leadoff man free agent Juan Pierre.
The team waited until mid-February to sign former Cub Kosuke Fukudome as a backup for all three outfield stops. Fukudome and Brent Lillibridge may get as much playing time as the starters.
Alex Rios will be the key to solidifying right field. The Sox hope returning him to his natural position will kick-start what once was a solid career. Rios had a brutal 2011 season, hitting .221 with 13 home runs and 44 RBIs. His performance at the plate aside, Rios’ defensive drop-off was infinitely more surprising.
Alejandro De Aza will replace Rios in center. De Aza came out of nowhere last season to claim a regular spot in the outfield. The former Florida Marlin played well enough in spring training to win the job and leadoff role in the batting order.
Management was happy to finally see some improvement in leftfielder Dayan Viciedo at the end of spring training. Switching from right to left has been a defensive nightmare for the 23-year-old Cuban. Up until the final week of camp, Viciedo looked like he never played the game, as he approached each contest with a startiling lack of energy.
Lilibridge has become a fan favorite, and why wouldn’t he? He got the job done at six positions and showed surprising power (13 home runs in 186 at-bats) last season. Fukudome may end up with 400 at-bats as a defensive replacement and starter against certain bottom of the rotation pitchers.
Three keys to success
• Rios returns to his 2010 performance levels as he responds to a return to right field.
• DeAza hits .290 and steals 30 bases while playing a solid centerfield.
• After a terrible spring training, Viciedo puts up 25 home runs and plays at least average outfield defense.
That’s the message Dayan Viciedo said he took when the Chicago White Sox traded Carlos Quentin to the San Diego Padres, clearing way for the 23-year-old Cuban to take over right field this season. Viciedo feels like he’s starting a new chapter in his career.
“I feel like it is,” Viciedo said through a translator. “This is what I’ve been working for and the opportunity is there so I’m just going to fight for it and go from there.”
Viciedo admitted he’ll have to make adjustments at the plate after his numbers from last season’s call up took a dip from those he posted in 2010.
Viciedo went from hitting .308 with five home runs and 13 RBIs in 38 games in 2010, to a .255 batting average with one homer and six RBIs in 29 games last season.
“It’s one of those you kind of take into stride because as a baseball player stuff like that happens,” he said through a translator. “For the most part I was happy with the work that I did in the outfield and for this year I’ll just work on the plate.”
Viciedo said he needs to be more selective at the plate, but even with the struggles of Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham last season he doesn’t feel any added pressure.
“I think it’s just a collective effort so for the most part I’m just going to do what I’m asked to do and just go out there and be ready,” he said.
The Chicago White Sox are going to need to answer plenty of questions in 2012, but the outfield is perhaps the area where they will have to answer the most.
What will Alex Rios do after a brutal 2011? What kind of production can Dayan Viciedo deliver in his first full major league season? Can Alejandro De Aza match what he did in the second half of 2011 all while holding down the leadoff spot?
Also to be answered are where these guys will actually be playing. Viciedo figures to be the starting right fielder, but new manager Robin Ventura has admitted that Rios could end up playing left field while De Aza plays center.
Expect Brent Lillibridge to get plenty of outfield time as well as the backup to all three outfield spots. Kosuke Fukudome also figures to get some time, while also serving as a left-handed pinch-hit option off the bench.
The first goal should be to at least match the production from last year’s outfield. Getting more production from center field shouldn’t be a problem. A consistent full season could allow De Aza to at least match what Juan Pierre offered last year. Viciedo, though, will have a challenge equaling Carlos Quentin’s production while facing major league pitching for an entire season.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO IN 2012
If Rios can deliver more like he did in 2010, Viciedo settles into an early groove and De Aza gives a repeat performance, the outfield would be one less worry for Ventura. Using De Aza in center field would seem to give the White Sox their best defensive alignment. Lillibridge will continue to raise his cult-hero status if he can do what he did in 2011, all while getting more at-bats. Fukudome has the carrot of a $3.5 million 2013 option dangling in front of him and will need to make the most of his limited chances off the bench.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO IN 2012
A lot could go wrong here, especially if Rios continues to eat up payroll while helping to sink the offense, not to mention the defense. Viciedo is going to have his productive stretches, but he will also have periods of struggle and the shorter they are the better. If Viciedo can’t keep his strikeout numbers down there could be problems. One way De Aza could have issues is if he alters his game to fit the leadoff role.
KID TO WATCH
Trayce Thompson and Keenyn Walker are the outfielders of the future, while Jordan Danks is a solid offensive season away from getting a chance. But Jared Mitchell is somewhat at a crossroads as he tries to distance himself from the torn ankle tendon he suffered in the spring of 2010. After not being invited to major league camp last spring, Mitchell is back this year and will be given a clean slate in front of a whole new group of coaches.
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The Sox acquired right-handed pitcher Simon Castro, 23, and left-hander Pedro Hernandez, 22.
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Ozzie Guillen and Mark Buehrle have both set sail to Miami following a season that began with high expectations, started off with a bang and then went south in a hurry. Even some things that were worth celebrating, like Juan Pierre’s midseason resurgence and Sergio Santos’ emergence as closer, were only short lived as both will be elsewhere next season.
Had the White Sox stepped up last season and played like the American League Central title contender they were expected to be, perhaps Guillen and Buehrle are back for 2012. They aren’t, though, and sifting through what happened revealed more hard times than good, of course.
5. The kids showed they can play: When everything had all but fallen apart and playoff hopes were just about dashed, Alejandro De Aza, Dayan Viciedo and Tyler Flowers stepped up and delivered some impressive second-half showings. Flowers and De Aza actually outshined Viciedo. Not to be lost in the mix was a resurgent Brent Morel, who put on a power show in September while looking more assertive at the plate.
4. A.J. Pierzynski catches 1,000 innings: Despite a short stint on the disabled list, the villain of baseball still managed to reach the 1,000-innings caught plateau for the 10th consecutive season. Pierzynski wasn’t even supposed to be on the team but was retained after an 11th-hour contract offer. Repeating his 1,000-innings feat in what figures to be his last year on the South Side in 2012 won’t be easy with Tyler Flowers looking for playing time.
2. Konerko’s 2,000th hit: The team captain delivered yet another solid season for the White Sox and in late August he dished up a milestone with hit No. 2,000. The line-drive single against the Angels tied the game in the eighth inning, but in typical 2011 White Sox fashion, the Angels won it 5-4. It was textbook Konerko after the game: “It's cool. It falls in the category of something you'll enjoy more when you're done playing," he said.
1. Buehrle’s round numbers continue: Not even a six-man rotation for most of the season could stop Buehrle from an 11th season of 200 innings, 30 starts and double-digit victories. No other pitcher in baseball has a streak that long. In what ended up being his final season with the White Sox, Buehrle did some of his best pitching, going 18 consecutive starts without allowing more than three earned runs at one stretch.
Danks and Quentin are both arbitration-eligible for the last time before becoming free agents after the 2012 season. They have also both been the subject of trade rumors.
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Both players are eligible for arbitration for the final time and both remain unsigned.
The move isn’t expected to change the White Sox’s plan of listening to trade offers for the pair. They both will be free agents after the 2012 season.
The White Sox wanted to sign Danks to a long-term deal, but sources have indicated that Danks’ agent hasn’t been receptive to the club’s contract overtures.
The White Sox haven’t completely dismissed the notion of signing Danks to a long-term deal, but he is expected to hit the open market next winter, making those prospects difficult.
The White Sox are not believed to have interest in signing Quentin to a long-term deal.
Danks is expected to make between $7 million and $8 million next season, while Quentin is expected to make between $6 million and $7 million. The date for exchanging salary arbitration figures is Jan. 18 and arbitration hearings begin Feb. 1 in Florida.
The White Sox are either expected to trade Danks and/or Quentin or come to terms on at least a one-year deal with them and avoid arbitration hearings.
When he felt there were no satisfactory trade proposals for some of his veteran talent, especially starting pitcher John Danks, Williams not only said he wasn’t prepared to make a deal at last week’s meetings, but he claimed that he now wasn’t interested in trading any pitching before the start of the season. That comment came after Sergio Santos was dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Williams’ statement was perceived to be a bluff, though, and that once the offseason moved on and teams became more intent on trading for pitching a suitor figured to ultimately surface.
That scenario appears to be playing out now as SI.com’s Jon Heyman reported Monday, via Twitter (@Jon_Heyman), that the Yankees could be interested in trading one of their three top prospects for Danks. The White Sox reportedly asked for two of them.
The Yankees don't seem too intent on getting this deal done right now, though.
The group of Yankees prospects apparently under discussion includes right-hander Dellin Betances, an eighth-round draft pick in 2006 out of Brooklyn. Then there is Manuel Banuelos, a left-hander out of Mexico, and catcher Jesus Montero, a Venezuela native, who was ranked as the Yankees’ top prospect entering the 2011 season.
A different Danks-to-the-Yankees trade rumor during last week’s winter meetings in Dallas had the White Sox asking for both Montero and Banuelos for Danks.
The White Sox have also reportedly talked about Danks with the Boston Red Sox, but not much is known about the players under discussion in that potential deal.
Helping to move a Danks trade to the forefront was the fact that both top free-agent starting pitchers, Mark Buehrle and C.J. Wilson, found new teams late last week. Danks is not only available for the right deal, his salary in 2012, estimated at around $7 million, will be half what Buehrle and Wilson will make.
Heyman also tweeted over the weekend that the Blue Jays and White Sox were talking about a Carlos Quentin deal, but those talks are “cool now.”
Williams figures to be a busy man this week as the White Sox are ready to trade some of their established veteran talent.
When Williams returns home at the end of the week some combination of Carlos Quentin, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Matt Thornton is expected to be playing elsewhere.
The White Sox have not admitted to an offseason plan, but with the winter meetings approaching there seems to be a pretty good idea of what they are doing and there is no shortage of questions about it.
Q: Why would the White Sox trade an All-Star in Quentin, after struggling so much on offense last season?
A:Call the trade availability of Quentin a matter of timing. He will be a free agent starting next offseason and the odds of re-signing him would seem long. Add to that the reality that Dayan Viciedo is ready and waiting to take over in right field.
Quentin has shown stretches where he can be a dynamic offensive presence, but he has also shown the tendency for long slumps. He can become his own worst enemy mentally and he has struggled with injuries. For a club confident their coaches can extract good Quentin and avoid bad Quentin, he still retains solid trade value.
A: By all accounts, Danks is the pitcher the White Sox wanted to build their rotation around for the future despite his uneven season in 2011. Other teams might want to do the same, though, and Danks’ representation appears to understand that.
The White Sox have been unable to get a long-term deal done with Danks and he appears destined for the open market after the 2012 season. While not completely ruling out that Danks will be with the team next season, the White Sox want to see what they can get for him before it’s too late and if they like what they are being offered they aren’t afraid to make a deal.
Q: What are the White Sox looking for in return for guys like Quentin and Danks?
A: For as long as Williams is in the GM chair, expect this answer to always be a starting pitcher with upside. What’s interesting is the White Sox had a guy like that in 2010 when Daniel Hudson was traded to the Diamondbacks for Edwin Jackson. Back then, though, the White Sox were willing to spend a little more for an established veteran.
Hudson isn’t coming back in a Quentin or Danks deal, but the White Sox would want a pitcher that had his description two seasons ago: High upside, ready to break into a major-league rotation immediately and strong makeup.
With Chris Sale headed to the rotation and the possibility that Thornton could be dealt, the White Sox will be eyeing a left-handed reliever too. A left fielder who can lead off is also a need as are second- and third-base prospects that could push Gordon Beckham and Brent Morel.
Q: Does trading all this veteran talent mean the White Sox are heading toward a youth movement?
A: That answer isn’t so simple. Yes, the White Sox are set to give some young players a chance, but even without Quentin and Danks, they still have almost $100 million in payroll on the books for 2012.
As of now, Paul Konerko isn’t going anywhere. At the end of the 2011 season Konerko said he understood a restructuring process was a possibility before his three-year deal was up and he was fine with that. He isn’t being asked to waive his no-trade rights and all indications continue to be that he isn’t looking for an escape route.
The White Sox are trying to have it all by mixing in youth with some veterans, or rather developing talent without eliminating all chance to win. But by doing so they run the risk of not committing to either approach. That has its own inherent risks.
Q: Is there any chance that Buehrle remains in a White Sox uniform?
A: With 14 suitors lined up for Buehrle and the White Sox looking to trim some payroll, it doesn’t look good. Buehrle is comfortable pitching for the White Sox and it’s the only organization he has ever known so he might be willing to give a hometown discount, but it still might not be enough.
Buehrle was asked at the end of the season that since he is a Midwest guy if staying in the Midwest was a priority. He said, “no comment.” Maybe he didn’t want to hurt negotiations by limiting his options so he kept his true feelings to himself.
But the White Sox aren’t his only Midwest option. The Chicago Cubs and the Minnesota Twins are in the mix and either of those would be the biggest insult-to-injury for White Sox fans.
CHICAGO -- With player movement already starting around baseball just days before the annual winter meetings, the White Sox could be close to joining the fray.
Scheduled to address the media Saturday afternoon, general manager Kenny Williams canceled his conference call, a move that led to speculation that he was too involved with trade talks to break away for a short period.
The White Sox did not give an official reason for Williams’ schedule change.
Predictions are that the White Sox could be one of the busiest teams at the winter meetings, which begin Monday in Dallas, despite the fact that they aren’t expected to be a buyer on the free-agent market.
Quentin seems the most likely to be moved (I’ll give it a 90 percent chance that he’s gone before the 2012 season begins). The White Sox have enjoyed his offensive production, but he is due to make nearly $7 million in arbitration next season and becomes a free agent in 2013.
Danks (70 percent) has seen his trade probability rise sharply of late. Indications are that the White Sox have been frustrated that previous attempts for a long-term deal have gone nowhere. Danks could make nearly $8 million next season.
Thornton (60 percent) is an interesting situation because his potential departure could leave Will Ohman as the only established lefty in the bullpen since Chris Sale is moving to the rotation. Thornton is set to make $12 million over the next two seasons.
Floyd (40 percent) is unlikely to go anywhere if Danks is traded. When the offseason began, Floyd looked like the best starting candidate to be moved leaving Danks on board as the main left-handed starter if Mark Buehrle signed elsewhere. That feeling has changed dramatically.
Then there is the Buehrle situation. The fact that he has drawn so much interest on the open market is likely a shock to the left-hander himself. Before the season had even ended, Buehrle admitted to calling his wife and telling her that it’s possible that nobody would want to sign him.
So far the Marlins and Nationals have shown the most interest in Buehrle, but at least a dozen teams have been rumored to be in the mix for his services. He’s gone from uncertainty over being wanted to being too high priced for his own team.
In fact, the White Sox could field a lineup of Pierzynski at catcher, Konerko at first base, Gordon Beckham at second, Alexei Ramirez at shortstop, Brent Morel at third, Alejandro De Aza in left field, Rios in center, Dayan Viciedo in right and Dunn as the designated hitter.
General manager Kenny Williams has already said that he is seeking major league ready talent in trades and is not interested in moving experienced players for multiple prospects that could replenish the farm system.
If that is the case, the White Sox would figure to be looking for a starting pitcher, a left-handed reliever, a left fielder that can lead off and a utility infielder on the trade market.
Ventura, who participated in a conference call in advance of next week’s winter meetings, said the club’s direction will most likely be decided when team officials gather in Dallas.
Not only does left-hander Mark Buehrle appear on the verge of signing with another team, but rumors are rampant that the White Sox could trade any combination of Carlos Quentin, John Danks and Gavin Floyd. Even Matt Thornton and Sergio Santos have been named in trade rumors.
“I’ve kept in contact with [general manager] Kenny [Williams] with different things coming up,” Ventura said, referring to offers the White Sox have received for their established talent. “Obviously I would love to be able to hand the ball to [Danks] 30-plus times, Gavin Floyd the same thing and have Carlos in right.
“It’s kind of a wish list, but that’s not always going to be able to happen. I don’t think he knows, I don’t know and that’s the interesting part about going there [to Dallas].”
What made last year’s struggles even more disappointing was the fact the White Sox had put together a club-record payroll that topped $127 million. The 2012 payroll will be less than that, but how much less remains to be seen.
Shedding Buehrle’s salary would have covered raises due to players already under contract, but that didn’t include the $15 million that Danks and Quentin would combine to make as arbitration-eligible players.
Marginal savings will come from the expiring contracts of Juan Pierre, Omar Vizquel and Ramon Castro.
Ventura said the decision to trade players will be made by Williams, of course, but he isn’t just an observer in the process.
“There is a business side of the game that isn’t always fun when a season like last year happens,” Ventura said. “That’s part of the game. Guys being wanted by other teams, that will come up. You look at it two ways. For me in my situation it’s nice that people are calling asking about players. That means you have good players.
“I realize who we have and hope we have a lot of them back. But if there is a time in Dallas when we talk about certain players and it’s worth making that move, I will definitely voice an opinion.”
MILWAUKEE -- Meeting with his peers and talking deals is what excites White Sox general manager Kenny Williams and in that sense the general managers’ meetings have not been a disappointment.
On the second day of the meetings in downtown Milwaukee, Williams was asked if some new trade options have emerged since he arrived in town Monday night. A smile crept across his face.
“It was productive,” Williams said of his night out Monday with a number of long-time general managers. “We had a good time. We got caught up and had a lot of laughs. We talked a little baseball, too.”
No sooner was Williams saying that when new Red Sox general manager Ben Cherrington confirmed from the other side of the room that Josh Reddick, his likely candidate to play right field, will have wrist surgery. The White Sox are willing to move right fielder Carlos Quentin, and the teams could end up being trade partners.
In moving guys like Quentin and possibly a pitcher like John Danks or Gavin Floyd, Williams will try to walk that fine line of starting a mini rebuilding mode while also trying to win at the same time. By not committing to either he runs the risk of neither happening.
“It’s what other clubs are willing to do, that’s the bottom line,” Williams said about potential trades. “Whether they’re willing to give a veteran major-league talent or is it minor-league talent? Is it something that will allow us to grow and grow very quickly, or is it going to take a longer time to manifest itself? That’s where we are.”
But while not saying he is shopping his players, Williams certainly sounds like he’s ready and willing to deal and get some affordable talent in return.
“We’re more open to making potential moves that take us a little younger, take us a step back and live to fight another day if we can [get] what we’ve identified the type targets you want in such a deal,” Williams said. “Whether you can get those targets or not remains to be seen. So yeah, we’re more open [to trading established talent].”
“For the last 12 years, we’ve been grinding it out, trying to put forth an effort to win a championship. It’s difficult to do that for such a long period of time – rebuild at the same time as you’re trying to compete. Fortunately we’ve had some teams that have done better than others, and there have been teams that didn’t meet our expectations."
Finding a leadoff hitter who can play left field figured to be one of Williams’ desires on the trade market, but if that doesn’t emerge he sounded more than willing to having Alejandro De Aza hit from the No. 1 hole.
“Alejandro De Aza played his tail off as far as I’m concerned. Did you watch him? He’s pretty good,” Williams said. “I don’t make the lineup out. If I was making the lineup out [De Aza] would be my leadoff hitter. But Robin Ventura makes the lineup out and I have to respect that. He will be given a suggestion though as to the Opening Day lineup.”
He wasn’t so willing to hand out roles to anybody else, though, saying all but Paul Konerko will have to earn his job. He amended that to say that a few others might be safe as well.
The point, though, is that veterans like Alex Rios in center field and even A.J. Pierzynski at catcher won’t just get their old jobs back because they showed up at spring training. Young players like De Aza, Dayan Viciedo, and Tyler Flowers will get their fair chance to earn a job.
“We are very encouraged by some of the young players and pitchers that we have as well,” Williams said. “Things aren’t as bleak as some people make them out to be.”
The White Sox’s GM is likely to make some moves this winter in the form of trading established talent. The most obvious guy to be playing elsewhere in 2012 seems to be right fielder Carlos Quentin.
As it turns out, the four teams that had the worst run production from their right fielders last season are known to spend a little money. The Chicago Cubs had just 47 RBIs from their right fielders, the lowest total in baseball. Just above them were the Seattle Mariners (51), the Boston Red Sox (58) and the Atlanta Braves (61).
We can probably eliminate the Cubs from this list. If Dayan Viciedo struggles to find a foothold in the major leagues in 2012 and Quentin is crushing the ball for the cross-town team, that would simply be a bad business move for the White Sox.
The Mariners have Ichiro Suzuki in right field for one more season, but they are so starved for offense that they might be interested in Quentin anyway for the designated hitter role or perhaps to play a little left field.
The Red Sox are an interesting option. They are set in left and center field with Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury, respectively, but are looking at the unproven Josh Reddick in right.
The Braves also present an interesting option because if Quentin went to Atlanta, he would be paired with hitting coach Greg Walker once again. Walker, who resigned his post with the White Sox at the end of the season, was named the Braves hitting coach in October.
But the Braves have a hugely talented right fielder in Jason Heyward, who did go through a sophomore slump in 2011, but is still considered to have an extremely high ceiling.
Williams isn’t expected to move a guy like Quentin at the GM meetings, but the next few days could help lay more groundwork for a deal leading up to next month’s winter meetings in Dallas.