Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2010
By Brett Ballantini
As the coals in the hot stove are just beginning to get stoked up, its time to rank the current Chicago White Sox, in order of importance for 2011 and beyond. Its not intended to be a strict list of merely the best players, or best values, on the White Sox. Rather, it takes into account team depth, the free agent market, or answering the question of which player would hurt the most not being on the team?
This is meant as a precursor to longer, individual profiles that will appear on CSNChicago.com between now and the end of the year. Thus the list could take different shape over the coming weeks, due to current players being cut loose or new ones acquired.
The second installment of the White Sox Top 30 features many of the stalwarts fans have come to rely on over the years, including free agents Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski, J.J. Putz and Andruw Jones. But leading things off is the potential staff ace who could nevertheless enter spring training at No. 6 on the rotational depth chart.
11. Edwin Jackson, SP
Jacksons salary doubles in 2011 to 8.4 million, so the promise he showed under pitching coach Don Coopers tutelage in the second half of 2010 had better hold. However, Jacksons average game score (essentially a more detailed version of quality starts) was the highest of any White Sox pitcher in 2010 (57, six points better than the league average). Jackson could be looked at as anything from staff ace to No. 6 starter this offseason, thus its almost impossible to think that with Chris Sale waiting in the wings, the eight-year vet isnt on the trading block once more.
12. Juan Pierre, LF
Another player who is easy to take for granted is Pierre, but the left-fielder was a miraculous find for the White Sox in 2010. Pierre almost completely offset his arm in the field by getting to every ball hit his way, compiling a UZR of 13.4, ninth-best in baseball, sixth among outfielders and third among left fielders. Pierre was also one of the best pressure hitters in baseball, with a 1.15 Clutch rating that was tied for eighth among all players. Pierre brought 9 million in value to the White Sox, who paid him just 3 million for the season. Williams and Guillen so gush over what Pierre brings to the field that it would not surprise if the soft-spoken speedster ascends to the role of team captain if both Konerko and Pierzynski fail to return.
13. Paul Konerko, 1B
Yes, Konerko is woefully undervalued here, and his importance to the team in 2010 cannot be overstated. However, Konerko will never again reach his 2010 levels age and sheer luck conspire against him. Even in the late prime of his career, Konerko failed to outperform his 60 million deal over the past five seasons, so a future commitment even something as innocuous as 20 million over two seasons comes with massive risk and almost certain disappointment. Konerko is in so many ways the heart of the team, but as an average first baseman destined to see more time at DH, hes more replaceable than you might think. For a tight-budgeted team, there are smarter buys out there.
14. J.J. Putz, RP
Putz appears to be a kinder, gentler and less expensive version of Bobby Jenks looking toward 2011, with one caveat: Putz cannot close. While it was Jenkss stretch of blown saves that opened some cracks in the hull, Putzs BSs soon thereafter started letting the water in. Unfortunately for Jenks, he was overpaid for his work and Putz underpaid, finishing tied for 19th in WAR among relievers (1.5) and providing double the value of his 3 million contract. For all the talk that in a thin relief market, Putz is sure to jump to a team that offers a closer job (not to mention big bucks), dont be so sure; he is terribly tight with Matt Thornton, appreciates the lessened travel burden that comes with playing out of Chicago and could be well pleased with a modest raise and continued setup duties.
15. Dayan Viciedo, IF
If not for Konerkos free agency, Viciedo would be fall father down this list. But if Capn Paul doesnt return and Williams is unable to broker a big fish at first, Viciedo steps in as the first-sacker.
16. A.J. Pierzynski, C
The free agent Pierzynski will be looking for a raise, one that, as in the case of Konerko, cannot possibly pay off for the White Sox. The catcher and first base markets are pretty fluid this offseason, so its not inconceivable that both players leave Chicago and if so, the leadership void for the White Sox could be a bigger loss than any from the production standpoint.
17. Andruw Jones, OF
The White Sox took a flier on Jones in 2010 and he paid off handsomely (a 7.4 million value on 500,000 contract), to the point of rendering right fielder Carlos Quentin disposable. Jones no longer brings a Gold Glove to the outfield, but his defense is not a liability, unlike Quentin. Jones could be re-signed at a friendlier price than CQ, even if again reduced to a fourth outfielderDH role in 2011.
18. Brent Morel, 3B
Morel impressed White Sox brass with his readiness during a relatively late September call-up, especially in the field. With another spring of seasoning, it appears the third-base job is Morels to lose, even with higher-priced veterans like Mark Teahen and Omar Vizquel on the club.
19. Carlos Quentin, RF
As a DH-only, Quentin might rank as a more important cog in the machine for the Chisox, in that it gets his glove out of right field and probably buys him close to a full season of games with him no longer lumbering through the outfield. The White Sox love Quentins intensity, but that wont keep them from shopping 2008s near-MVP in an effort to increase roster efficiency and flexibility.
20. Bobby Jenks, RP
How Bad Bobby has fallen. While Jenkss 2010 wasnt outright bad (tying for 19th among relievers with a 1.5 WAR and 6.2 million value), the closer was paid 7.5 million and continued to struggle with his conditioning. Short of Jenks shocking the White Sox by asking for, say, 10 million over three years, the Jenks era is over in Chicago.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.