MLB Trade Deadline: Questions Surrounding the White Sox Players and the Manager

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Looking at the White Sox, the main thing preventing them from making huge changes at the trading deadline is that, objectively, they don’t have many things that other teams would want. Or at least they don’t have many players that teams are going to give anything worthwhile to get.

Jake Peavy, if he was healthy, would attract interest. He’s not. If Peavy returns from his fractured rib and pitches well, he’ll get through waivers in August due to his $14.5 million contract for 2014, so someone would take him if the White Sox pick up a portion of his contract. It’s unlikely but possible. John Danks is still recovering and finding his groove after shoulder surgery. A potential trade chip, Gavin Floyd, is out for the year with Tommy John surgery. No one’s taking Adam Dunn. Someone would take Alex Rios and they’re going to get an overpay for Jesse Crain. Nothing earth-shattering is coming back for any of these players.

The big question is whether they’ll trade Paul Konerko. They could get something for Konerko, but that opens up another issue: how could they make Konerko the player-manager if they trade him?

No. I’m not kidding.

Ken Williams was willing to do anything when he was the everyday GM and now that he’s been moved up to executive VP of baseball and Rick Hahn has taken over as GM, Hahn will take his cue from Williams and listen to whatever is floated. The problem they have now is that there’s really not much of anything to do to improve their fortunes in the near future. Williams was serious when he said he considered Konerko as player-manager prior to hiring Robin Ventura and Ventura is not going to be the White Sox manager for much longer. It’s not because they’re going to fire him, but because he took the job as a “let’s see if I enjoy this” test endeavor and he certainly didn’t sign up for a team that’s going to lose 95 games in 2013 and has a few years of retooling ahead of them. There was talk earlier this year that Ventura wasn’t planning on managing for very long and he sort of “aw shucksed” it as a brush off without a fervent denial when he turned down the club’s offer of a contract extension. He might enjoy managing, being around the players and the competition, but he doesn’t need it and that attitude can tend to get on the players’ nerves. He’s signed through next year, but I think it’s iffy that he manages in 2014.

If Ventura leaves and with Konerko a free agent at the end of the year, I could easily see them pulling the trigger and making Konerko the manager if he retires or player-manager if he wants to do it. It would distract from the retool/rebuild, give Konerko experience in handling a media circus and managing for when the White Sox are ready to contend again because, by then, he’ll almost definitely be retired. There hasn’t been a player-manager since Pete Rose and it would be a juicy story to watch and distract the masses as to how bad the White Sox promise to be for the next several years as they move on from this group and reload.

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American League Central—2012 Present and 2013 Future

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I recently looked at the AL East, how they’re faring now and their prospects for the future. Now let’s look at the AL Central.

Chicago White Sox

There are few baseball executives for whom their statements should be taken at face value, but White Sox GM Ken Williams is one. Because of that, when he says he misspoke about blowing the whole thing up at the conclusion of the 2011 season, then didn’t blow the whole thing up and instead made moves to try and win while getting younger and more flexible, I believe him.

The White Sox success can be chalked up to: manager Robin Ventura’s calm demeanor in stark contrast to the raving lunacy of Ozzie Guillen; Jake Peavy coming back from injury and pitching like a top tier starter; Chris Sale’s development as a starting pitcher; Adam Dunn’s and Alex Rios’s comebacks; and the parity around the American League.

Ventura and Mike Matheny have become a regular “example” that managers don’t need to have managerial experience to be successful. Of course it’s nonsense and taken greatly out of context. Ventura’s done a good job and his cachet as a former All Star player and popular person in Chicago has helped him greatly, but anyone other than Guillen would’ve been taken as a welcome respite from the daily haranguing and controversy that surrounded the former manager’s big mouth and followed him—with disastrous results—to Miami.

As long as Williams is the GM, the White Sox have a chance to be competitive because he has no patience for long rebuilds and makes aggressive maneuvers accordingly.

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers have been inconsistent in every facet. Their defense, while not being as bad as predicted, still isn’t good; the offense is 7th in the AL in runs scored despite having two MVP candidates Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, plus Austin Jackson having a fantastic year; the bullpen has been shaky; and Justin Verlander has been excellent and is still a Cy Young Award candidate, but has taken enough of a step back from his CYA/MVP of 2011 back to humanity to account for the Tigers fighting for a playoff spot.

There’s been talk that manager Jim Leyland, in the final year of his contract, could be in trouble if the Tigers don’t make the playoffs. It’s silly. Leyland can still handle the egos in that clubhouse and the very last thing the Tigers need to do and, tying in with the concept of a manager with zero experience, is to hire someone young just to make a change.

The Tigers dealt away several prospects including Jacob Turner to get Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez, but they’ve held onto Avisail Garcia and Nick Castellanos. The farm system is not barren and as long as they have Fielder, Cabrera, and Verlander, they’ll be competitive. Changing managers for the sake of it makes zero sense.

Kansas City Royals

It’s ludicrous how those who felt the Royals were going to parlay their loaded farm system into a leap to legitimate contention jump off the train as soon as a rebuild doesn’t adhere to the “plan”. Young players sometimes hit speedbumps on the way up. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are still two players around whom to build; Alex Gordon is a solid presence at the plate and in the field; Billy Butler is emerging as an unknown star; and Salvador Perez and several young pitchers got hurt.

The talent is still there. As long as they don’t panic, there’s no reason they can’t contend in 2013.

They do need to show improvement for manager Ned Yost to keep his job past next May/June; and GM Dayton Moore will probably get one more managerial hire if Yost has to be replaced, then the onus will be on him.

Cleveland Indians

2012 went completely wrong with 2013 not looking much better. They got off to a good start and were hovering around contention through mid-season until they collapsed completely and, since being 50-50 on July 27th, have gone 10-36. Manny Acta has a contract for next season, but since the Indians don’t have much money to spend and are openly ready to listen to offers for one of their few marketable players Shin-Soo Choo, there’s no point in sending Acta back out there as a lame duck when they have a managerial prospect in the popular former Indians’ hero Sandy Alomar Jr. on the coaching staff.

Closer Chris Perez ripped the organization from top to bottom recently and will presumably be shipped out of town for his candor. Considering that Perez is a slightly better-than-average closer, it’s not his place to be opening his mouth. The Indians are short on foundational talent. Asdrubal Cabrera is a very good player; Carlos Santana doesn’t appear to be an everyday catcher and his skills are less impressive as a first baseman; and their supposed top two starters, Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson, haven’t pitched well.

The Indians have a long road ahead of them and may have to restart their rebuild.

Minnesota Twins

The Twins were competitive for a decade after a decade of being so terrible that they were a target of contraction. Now instead of being a target, they built Target Field and spent money to try and win in 2010. To that end, they traded away a top prospect Wilson Ramos for a mediocre reliever Matt Capps; they signed Tsuyoshi Nishioka and repeated the Mets’ mistake with Kazuo Matsui, except Nishioka isn’t as talented as Matsui was; and they brought back their old GM Terry Ryan who still hasn’t had the interim label taken from his title.

Ownership has said that they want Ryan to take the job on a permanent basis. We’ll see. If Ryan isn’t fully committed or ownership wants to go in a new direction with an outsider, manager Ron Gardenhire could be in trouble as well.

Offensively, they’ve rebounded from an injury-plagued 2011 with Joe Mauer back to being Joe Mauer; a tremendous year from Josh Willingham; and Justin Morneau finally returning to form after his concussion problems.

They’re still severely short in the pitching department and are running into identical issues as the Mets did when they moved into their new park after contending for several years and building a canyon instead of a ballpark. The Mets moved the fences in and started a full-blown rebuild. The Twins have yet to do that, but they’re going to have to infuse the organization with more talent to get back to competitiveness.

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American League Mid-Season Award Winners

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Normally I don’t like doling out awards for half-a-season, but everyone else does it so someone has to do it right when they’re more than likely doing it wrong.

Here’s the American League along with the people I selected in my book before the season started.

MVP

1. Mike Trout, OF—Los Angeles Angels

The Angels recalled him in what appeared to be a desperation maneuver similar to the way the Yankees recalled Robinson Cano in 2005. The difference being no one knew who or what Cano was. That’s including the Yankees since they’d offered him to the Rangers in the Alex Rodriguez trade a year earlier and the Rangers said no.

Trout was a star-in-waiting and has delivered. It’s no coincidence that the Angels’ ship righted when Trout joined the team and provided what the front office wants with pop and what manager Mike Scioscia wants with speed and defense.

2. Josh Hamilton, OF—Texas Rangers

In May it looked as if Hamilton was going to make a viable (and ironically a presumably clean) run at the “legit” home run record of 61.

No, I don’t advocate an asterisk or blotting out of the Barry Bonds record, but it can be discussed as if the modern records were achieved dubiously. Hamilton’s faded in June and July.

3. David Ortiz, DH—Boston Red Sox

Without him the Red Sox would probably be 4-5 games under .500 and pretty much buried.

4. Robinson Cano, 2B—New York Yankees

Quite simply there is nowhere to pitch to him to consistently get him out. With A-Rod, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira degenerating into one-dimensional, occasional threats, without Cano and Curtis Granderson the Yankees would be a pedestrian offensive club, if that.

5. Mark Trumbo, OF/1B/3B/DH—Los Angeles Angels

The day is going to come when he hits a ball and it never comes down.

Before the season I picked Jose Bautista. He’s having a big power year with 27 homers but his other numbers are down and the Blue Jays are a .500 team.

Cy Young Award

1. Justin Verlander, RHP—Detroit Tigers

He’s leading the Majors in strikeouts, innings pitched and has 5 complete games. For the second straight season the Tigers would be non-contenders without him and in 2012, they haven’t been all that good with him.

2. Chris Sale, LHP—Chicago White Sox

There are seamless transitions to the starting rotation from the bullpen and there’s blossoming into an ace. Sale has done the latter.

3. Jered Weaver, RHP—Los Angeles Angels

He’s 10-1 with a 1.96 ERA.

4. David Price, LHP—Tampa Bay Rays

He’s leading the league in wins and has the ability to dominate every time he goes out to the mound.

5. Jake Peavy, RHP—Chicago White Sox

Peavy is almost—not quite, but almost—back to the dominant pitcher he was in his best years with the Padres. His fastball isn’t as fast and his stressful motion is a constant concern for another injury, but he and Sale have saved the White Sox.

My preseason pick was Price.

Rookie of the Year

1. Mike Trout, OF–Los Angeles Angels

See above.

2. Jarrod Parker, RHP—Oakland Athletics

He has a great hits/innings pitched ratio of 65/85, has 67 strikeouts and only allowed 4 homers.

3. Will Middlebrooks, 3B—Boston Red Sox

Middlebrooks’s emergence expedited the departure (and essentially giving away) of Kevin Youkilis.

4. Jesus Montero, DH/C—Seattle Mariners

He’s struggling in his rookie year, but has 20 extra base hits while learning to catch a good pitching staff.

5. Addison Reed, RHP—Chicago White Sox

His ERA was blown up by one awful game in which he allowed 6 earned runs, but he’s stabilized the White Sox closer’s role and without him they wouldn’t be in first place.

My preseason pick was Montero.

Manager of the Year

1. Robin Ventura—Chicago White Sox

The absence of managing experience at any level made me a skeptic, but his laid back attitude is diametrically opposed to the former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen which has relaxed the clubhouse from its hair-trigger and has notably helped Adam Dunn and Alex Rios.

2. Buck Showalter—Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles are playing Buckball.

3. Bob Melvin—Oakland Athletics

Having that team with their ballpark issues and influx of youngsters has proven Melvin to be what he always was: a good manager.

4. Joe Girardi—New York Yankees

Girardi’s never gotten the credit he’s deserved. They’ve survived the aforementioned decline of A-Rod and the season-ending injury to Mariano Rivera.

5. Ron Washington—Texas Rangers

No he’s not a strong strategic manager, but the players play hard for him and they win.

My preseason pick was Manny Acta of the Indians.

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Girardi Should Quit The Politically Correct Dance

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If he was given suitable time to acclimate himself to the role, perhaps in save situations Yankees’ reliever David Robertson wouldn’t be so tight that a guitar could be strummed across his chest. He’d learn to handle the different mentality and perception-induced pressure of pitching the 9th inning instead of the 8th.

Maybe he’d be able to do the job.

But in the crisis-a-day atmosphere of the Yankees, they aren’t predisposed to giving anyone time to do anything. Replacing a legend in Mariano Rivera only exacerbated Robertson’s plight; that he was supposedly the key to the whole season laid the entire roster and organization on his shoulders and he was neither ready nor equipped to deal with it.

Given his shaky start, it’s a moot point how long the Yankees would’ve moved forward with the Robertson-as-closer charade since he got hurt and was replaced by the man they should’ve placed in the job as Rivera’s replacement to begin with, Rafael Soriano.

Soriano, like Robertson, has looked like a different pitcher in the 9th inning. With Robertson that was bad; with Soriano it’s been great. The confidence and desire to be the person on the mound at the end of the game reverted Soriano to the pitcher the Yankees signed for $35 million to be Rivera’s set-up man; the pitcher he was with the division-winning Rays of 2010.

In retrospect the Yankees were lucky that Robertson strained a muscle in his side and the decision was made for them.

What was most laughable was the reaction—mostly on Twitter and in the media—of those who spend much of their time quoting statistics as a means to bolster their own self-created expertise and would prefer, instead of the designated closer pitching the 9th inning and the 9th inning alone, to have a manager go with the pitchers based on matchups and high-leverage situations while refraining from the Tony LaRussa innovation of defined roles for the relievers.

Those same would-be “experts” were roasting Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi for not having Robertson start the 9th inning—as if that would’ve mattered; as if Robertson hasn’t earned the nickname “Houdini” because he gets himself into trouble seemingly for no other reason than to get out of it.

Soriano was getting the night off after having pitched in four of the previous five days including Tuesday night and a hairy save on Wednesday afternoon.

Girardi did what the stat guys want. He went with the numbers and used pitchers who, on the surface, were better-suited to do the job in a save situation or otherwise. Sidearmer Cody Eppley started the inning against Alex Rios and allowed a single. Rios, by the way, is a career 3 for 4 vs Robertson. Girardi pulled Eppley for Clay Rapada. Rapada got a comebacker from A.J. Pierzynski and threw wildly trying to get the double play. Then Girardi brought in Robertson who promptly allowed a 3-run homer to Dayan Viciedo to lose the game.

Girardi invited the second-guessing by saying that he didn’t want to use Robertson too heavily after his injury but also said that he intended to use Robertson even if the double play had been completed. Only he knows if that’s the truth or if he didn’t want to put Robertson in too dicey a mess not of his own making. Girardi won’t come out and say he doesn’t think Robertson can close, but empirical evidence and Girardi’s experience as a manager, coach and player—experience that you don’t have—says exactly that.

So he went another route, protected his fragile pitcher’s psyche, and it didn’t work.

Do you want a designated “closer” or do you want mixing-and-matching?

Do you want to keep putting Robertson in a situation where he’s clearly uncomfortable and in whom the manager and pitching coach don’t place a great deal of faith to do the job? Or do you want to have him start the inning?

Do you want to stick to your faulty outsider theories or do you want to come to the conclusion—as hard as it may be—that you don’t know as much as you think you do?

Robertson might be able to close eventually, but it’s not going to be this year and it’s probably not going to be for the Yankees as they’re currently structured.

This is the truth whether your inexplicably bloated egos can accept it or not.

Girardi might be well-advised to stop being a politician trying to keep everyone happy and say what I just said. Maybe then people would leave him alone and let him do his job as he sees fit.

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MLB’s James Bond Villain Issues A Threat And Other Deadline Stories

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“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!!”

With Kenny Williams as Soxfinger; Jack Zduriencik as Dr. Evil; Joel Sherman as Mini-Me; and Billy Beane as Brad Pitt as Billy Beane.

An empty threat?

I put nothing past White Sox GM Ken Williams, so despite the fact that his statement of possibly “turning over the entire roster” seems crazy, it’s possible that he’s going to do something drastic.

The White Sox are currently 50-51 and 3 1/2 games out of first place in a bad division. I can’t see him cleaning house with them that close to first place even if they do play poor-to-mediocre baseball over the next week.

As the linked MLBTradeRumors piece says, he could trade Edwin Jackson, Matt Thornton, Carlos Quentin and other pieces; but he’s not going to be able to move Adam Dunn or Alex Rios.

In other words, what’s the point?

The one thing about Williams that can be seen as simultaneously good and bad (or evil) is his single-mindedness. He had his sights set on Jake Peavy two years ago, Peavy rejected a trade to the White Sox, Williams tried again and got Peavy. They’d have been better off taking Peavy’s no for an answer.

He was also enamored with Ken Griffey Jr., traded for him and Junior was winding down by the time he got to the White Sox.

In other circumstances, he loved Gavin Floyd when there was no reason to love Gavin Floyd and Floyd’s become a solid and sometimes spectacular starter.

Warnings aside, I can’t see the White Sox blowing it up unless they lose all their games this week. Then everyone should duck.

A cheaper patch-job.

Varying reports have the Giants still after an outfield bat—B.J. Upton (WHY?!?); or Carlos Beltran—but they’d be better-served in filling their current hole in the lineup and behind the plate by going after the Mariners’ Miguel Olivo.

Olivo has power (14 homers); handles the pitchers well and can throw.

Yes, he’s signed through next year at $3.5 million with a club option for 2013, but so what? The Giants don’t know when Buster Posey‘s going to be ready to return and Olivo is a good replacement considering the weak market for catchers.

One would assume the Mariners will be very willing to move Olivo.

Then again, the Mariners wanted an “impact bat” for journeyman reliever David Aardsma before he got hurt, so reality might not be part of the plot in Seattle.

After 16 straight losses, it’s just as well.

Tra-la-la-la-la!!!!

Wag the dog.

If you check out the clearinghouse websites with writers attributing their “rumors” to various sources—and are truly reading what they’re writing rather than indulging in fast food for the mind while you’re sitting at your desk at work or staring at your smartphone—you’ll notice something interesting: within one piece, you’ll see 7-10 different reporters quoting 7-10 different “insider” sources saying 7-10 radically different things. Many times, they’re diametrically opposed to what the other “experts” and “insiders” have said.

Are you getting my point?

It’s circular self-indulgence and is likely to be completely inaccurate but justified as a “fluid situation”.

What that means is the stories are planted to maintain attention, keep the readers coming back to see what happens next (which won’t, in most cases, actually happen in reality), or gauge the reaction of the public-at-large.

But you keep on eating your Big Macs; go to Subway because it’s where “winners eat”; drink your Big Gulp.

You’ll be fine.

(No you won’t.)

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For The White Sox, It Makes No Sense To Sell

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Circumstances have to be aligned for teams that have a veteran core and massive payroll commitments to make the decision to try and sell at mid-season.

The White Sox have that veteran core and their payroll has skyrocketed to $127 million. But they’re not in a position to clean out the house for several reasons.

Apart from Chris Sale, Gordon Beckham and John Danks the White Sox—to be blunt—are old. In addition to that wear on their tires, they’re ridiculously expensive with contracts that are almost totally immovable.

Jake Peavy, Adam Dunn and Alex Rios are locked in with the White Sox and are going nowhere. Short of taking on another club’s prohibitive contract/headache along the lines of Barry Zito, Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano, Chone Figgins or Jason Bay, they’re stuck with those players.

The more marketable types like the free agents-to-be Mark Buehrle and Edwin Jackson would absolutely be in demand, but it makes little sense for the White Sox—5 games out of first place in a weak and winnable division—to trade them for the “future”.

If they can improve now by making a deal with one of those players, that’s a different story.

If there are going to be a wholesale set of changes, it’ll be after this season as Juan Pierre, Jackson and Buehrle all come off the books. At that point, the White Sox can start to listen to offers on Carlos Quentin and even Gavin Floyd to restock their farm system.

GM Kenny Williams has been loathe to surrender a season in the interests of the future and mid-season 2011 won’t be any different not only because he doesn’t want to, but because he can’t.

A retool/rebuild is also contingent on what happens with manager Ozzie Guillen. An entirely new direction with a different core would likely include a new manager. There’s been speculation forever about Guillen’s job security and he’s still there; the Marlins are known to have interest and want a “name” manager to take over as they enter their new ballpark; Guillen is signed through next year, but Williams was willing to discuss an exchange that would let Guillen leave last winter when the Marlins came calling. After the 2011 season and the way things have come apart, perhaps he’d like to make a change once and for all.

If they were in the American or National League East, I’d say the White Sox should dispatch anyone and everyone they could. They’re not. They’re well within striking distance of first place and one hot streak from jumping right over both the Tigers and Indians.

They shouldn’t sell because it’s unwise and it wouldn’t do them any good anyway.

Stand pat or add and see what happens.

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Shielded

Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Players

The controversies surrounding the White Sox generally center around manager Ozzie Guillen because, well, because he’s Ozzie. The roster is the creation of GM Kenny Williams and he’s been shielded from criticism to a remarkable degree.

I’m wondering why.

Is it because he’s won a World Series?

Is it because he puts forth the image (which I believe) that he doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him or what he does?

Is it because of Ozzie?

Why?

If you look at the series of moves he’s made in recent years, many would be accurately described as mistakes—you could refer to some as disastrous.

They don’t have legitimate big league third baseman; Adam Dunn is eventually going to hit, but he’s been an expensive (4 years, $56 million) train wreck so far with a .175 BA, .637 OPS and 7 homers; Alex Rios‘s contract was taken off waivers from the Blue Jays and he’s been terrible this season too after rebounding in 2010—his deal has a guaranteed $38 million after this season; Edwin Jackson and Jake Peavy were acquired in trades for inexpensive young arms that included Daniel Hudson and Clayton Richard—arms with whom the White Sox would be better and cheaper in place of what they got.

This isn’t an indictment of Williams. I think he’s a terrific GM and agreed with all of the moves except for Peavy. I admire his deep-strike mentality in going after what he wants regardless of perception and consequences.

That doesn’t alter the fact that the White Sox are a $128 million mediocrity with rampant infighting among the manager and the GM.

That infighting has gone on forever and doesn’t affect the club in any significant way; the White Sox main troubles have come from the combination of a lack of offense from Dunn and Rios; the struggles/injuries of Jackson and Peavy; and from failing to close games they should’ve won early in the season.

I maintain that the White Sox as the best team in the AL Central; they’ll right the ship to get back into legitimate contention, but how did Williams turn to teflon? He deserves and should receive his share of the blame while things are still going poorly.

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