The 2013 Chicago White Sox had every reason to believe it would get better from a year before. Heck, they finished 85-77 in 2012, finishing a mere three games behind the eventual AL Champion Detroit Tigers in the division. The club had a winning record in early April and that was it. Here is a team which actually had a winning record for the months of May and August. June, July and September, however, was anything but kind to the South Siders. To sum it up, they only had winning records against two teams. The Chi Sox were 4-2 against the Texas Rangers and 4-3 against the Toronto Blue Jays. To cap it all off, the team went 0-4 against the Cubs in the Crosstown Classic of 2013.
Best Case Scenario
2014 is Paul Konerko’s last in uniform. Perhaps he can find a way to exit gracefully. The offense hopes to be improved with the signing of Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu and making a couple of trades with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The team welcomes outfielder Adam Eaton and third baseman Matt Davidson. If not immediately, the team could benefit from them making an impact really, really soon. If Eaton hits for Chicago like he did in the Minors, the Sox have a good one on its hands. Davidson was MVP of the All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field in 2013. He very well could be playing hot corner for this club for the next decade.
To get Davidson, the club traded closer Addison Reed, who saved 40 but blew 8 last year. Now is the chance for the team to find his replacement. Nate Jones is very durable and could be a good option. Matt Lindstrom is also in the running. The team inked Ronald Belisario to a contract and in the past he has shown good relief for the Los Angeles Dodgers. If the team can find a closer who blows fewer saves, it’s only going to help them.
Most Important White Sox
Paul Konerko has been the heart and soul of this franchise for nearly the next two decades. Now, Chris Sale looks like a good candidate to carry that torch. If one negates his win-loss record from a year ago, it shouldn’t be hard to see that the other numbers indicate he was one of the best pitchers in baseball in 2013. He’s a workhorse who goes the distance. He had 4 complete games last season while pitching 214.1 innings. Sale improved his strikeout to walk ratio on both ends of the spectrum in 2013 and also improved on his WHIP (1.073) from the previous year (1.135 in 2012.) He finished 5th in the AL Cy Young voting, one place higher than the previous season and even garnered a first place vote. If he was on a better team and got more run support, perhaps it would be Sale, and not Max Scherzer, who has a Cy Young to his resume.
The Cubs aren’t the only team in town currently going through a rebuilding process. Perhaps the most important piece to the puzzle in that rebuilding stage is Jose Abreu. He absolutely tore the cover off the ball while in Cuba. If he can hit Major League pitching well, this team got a bang for its buck by inking him for 6 years, $68 million. For the White Sox to want to improve on its last place season from a year ago, Abreu, Davidson and Eaton all have the potential to play pivotal roles in that.
Potential Breakout Players
Aside from the seemingly obvious choices in the aforementioned Abreu, Davidson and Eaton, 2014 could be the year Avisail Garcia takes off. The club landed him last July from the Detroit Tigers in a three team deal which also involved the Boston Red Sox. According to a Feb. 23 Chicago Sun-Times report, Konerko sees the 22-year-old right fielder as being capable of hitting 40 home runs. Hey, that same story did report he batted .304 with five home runs and drove in 21 in 42 games for the Sox in 2013. If this team wants to return to the postseason for the first time since 2008, Garcia breaking out and hitting 40 home runs would definitely move that goal forward.
Worst Case Scenario
There’s no reason why White Sox fans shouldn’t be excited at the fact this team is acquiring lots of young talent. However, just like with the Cubs, there’s always the possibility that young talent shows regression. Davidson and Eaton can be very important players for them, but with the small sample sizes they had while up with the Diamondbacks, there is room for improvement, especially from the latter. Garcia looked good in Chicago last season, but played 30 games in Detroit and showed to struggle before being dealt away. It’s not the biggest deal in the world if this team fails to qualify for the playoffs. If, however, the young guns don’t show improvement and build on the potential they possess, then that is mostly certainly of concern.
Areas of Concern
John Danks has three years left to go on a $65 million contract. That’s quite a bit of money. One has to ask themselves if he is giving the Sox a good return on its investment. He only went 53.2 innings in 2012, while not posting the greatest numbers. Furthermore, when the lefty hurled 138.1 last season, his numbers weren’t that impressive either. For instance, he gave up 28 home runs and walked 27 batters. Danks had a pedestrian 90 ERA+. He posted a 1.287 WHIP. It just was not a good year for him, and a pitcher making $65 million on his contract should be able to reach 200 innings like Danks has before.
Who Needs to Bounce Back From a Down 2013
John Danks is certainly one of them, should he even make the roster in the first place. Adam Dunn is in the last year of his contract. If he improves and the Sox are out of it, his name could come up during trade deadline discussion. He struck out fewer times last season than he did in 2012, but also took fewer walks and didn’t hit as many out or drive as many in as the previous year. Dunn didn’t struggle in 2013 as mightily as he did in 2011 for this ball club, but certainly he would like to make another trip to the All-Star Game while playing in Chicago.
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