Unfinished Business in AL Central

2 of 2

There is a bit less going on in Chicago – but the issues are similar.  It was considered critical, though I can’t quite figure out why, to resign aging veterans Konerko and Pierzynski rather than seeking other options on the open market.  Well, the Sox have accomplished those goals and are now reportedly broke.  I should add, of course, that the second goal was finding a DH to mash alongside Konerko and that has been accomplished.  Konerko’s career year in 2010 helped the Sox contend, and at his age and with his track record he is a long shot to repeat.  The addition of Dunn should roughly offset the expected drop in production from Konerko, so at the plate the White Sox offseason has been a wash.

Chicago’s rotation is set, and very good.  Rumors that the White Sox will try to dump salary or trade key cogs (such as Carlos Quentin or Mark Buerhle) are probably unfounded.  However, the lack of cash in the Windy City will probably force them to let their bullpen crumble.   Bobby Jenks – a very good closer with who had an unimpressive 2010 – has been non-tendered.  Scott Linebrink has been traded to the Braves, and J. J. Putz has signed with the Diamondbacks.  Those three combined for 3.7 WAR last year.  The Sox know their bullpen could be an issue, and before the Konerko deal was done they were mentioned in connection with several free agent relievers – but after the deal public statements out of Chicago are that the team is tapped out.  Like the Twins, the Sox bullpen won’t be a barren wasteland next year – for example, they still have Matt Thornton and Sergio Santos – but it loses depth and it doesn’t look like the team has many options to fill those vacancies other than giving unproven arms more high-leverage innings.  The Sox could easily lose 3.0 WAR out of the pen next year, unless something unexpected happens.  With the exception of seeking budget bullpen arms (or, I suppose, trading vets…) the White Sox may be done.

At this point in the offseason the signs look encouraging.  Our biggest weakness compared to Chicago and Minnesota in 2010 was our bullpen.  Last years Tigers are a prime lesson in the consequences of letting veteran arms depart and hoping for the best from within.  Now the shoe is on the other foot.  The Tigers have added 3 wins, while the Twins have lost 5 and the White Sox have lost 3.  We have not made up enough ground yet to consider ourselves anything like favorites:  we still lag the Sox by a game and the Twins by five.  But we’re gaining.