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Oct 3, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura (23) stands in the dugout in the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

What The Heck Are The Chicago White Sox Doing This Off-Season?

Fresh off an 85 win season and a second place division finish, the White Sox were perhaps in position to tweak their roster, add a piece or two, and get back in the 2013 hunt, but it seems like they’re not all that interested in competing next year.

There’s still plenty of off-season left – it’s not even January yet – but the White Sox are going to have to be active at some point. Either that, or be content to flirt with the .500 mark and probably finish behind the Kansas City Royals in third place. The White Sox aren’t bad right now, they’re just not good. It’s certainly hard to see them improving on last year’s record.

Here’s my perception of the White Sox’s off-season to date:

They re-signed Jake Peavy for two years and $29 million, picked up Gavin Floyd’s $9.5 million option, signed Jeff Keppinger for three years and $12 million, allowed Kevin Youkilis to sign with the New York Yankees, and allowed A.J. Pierzynski to sign with the Texas Rangers.

None of these moves look like bad moves by themselves. Kevin Youkilis was valuable while he was in Chicago last year, but he’s not a long-term solution and might not be worth the $12 million he got from the Yankees. A.J. Pierzynski simply isn’t going to reproduce his offensive numbers from a season ago – he had a career high .827 OPS at age 35. The problem with their offseason hasn’t been the moves they’ve made (they’ve been decent enough decisions), the problem is that they’ve done nothing else.

Using FanGraph’s 2012 WAR numbers as a quick guide, by swapping out Pierzynski (3.4 fWAR) and a half-season of Youkilis (1.2 fWAR) for Keppinger (2.8 fWAR), they’ve gotten worse by about two wins. That’s not so bad considering Pierzynski himself likely would have regressed by two wins, but, either way, it doesn’t represent improvement over last season.

The Tigers can’t be so far out of reach that Chicago feels like adding a few wins would be hopeless. I mean, teams actually have to play the games and an injury or two might bring Detroit right back to the pack. The White Sox have over $102 million committed for next season (and still need to figure a few million for arbitration increases for Gordan Beckham and Alejandro De Aza), so they’re already looking at a near $10 million increase over last season’s $98 million opening day figure. I wouldn’t pretend to know the payroll restraints that ownership has placed on their front office (they certainly don’t draw the crowds the Tigers do), but perhaps they’re simply no money available to make a splash of any magnitude. It looks like their best chance to shake things up is to trade Floyd for a bat, but that’s likely to end up as a sideways move.

Perhaps they’re content to play the waiting game; to hold onto some of their chips until July to see what kind of position they’re in (and what their team most desperately needs) before pushing their final stack to the center of the table. But, if they give the Tigers a three month head start, there might not be much left to play for once we’re on the other side of the All-Star break.

The Tigers look like one of the best two teams in the American League, so it would be hard for Chicago to top them, but they play in an otherwise weak division and could hope for a bit of luck to come their way if they were to inch their way toward the (expected) 86 win mark. But, as it looks right now, they’re not putting themselves in position to even attempt to “steal” the division, and they’re not looking like a team that would be in the Wild Card hunt.

There are times to stand pat, certainly, but the White Sox weren’t out of contention last year and don’t look to be bad this next year. So why doesn’t it look like they’re trying to make a push for any sort of improvement?

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