As the opening of the free-agent market nears, generalmanager Rick Hahn doesnt want to guess about where any of the White Sox threefree agents might land.As of midnight Saturday, A.J. Pierzynski, Brett Myers and KevinYoukilis are free to sign with any team they prefer. The team isnt expected tomake a qualifying offer to any, Hahn said. And though their chance to retainplayers is reduced significantly once they become available to all teams, Hahnsaid, he knows the strength of relationships means nothing is certain. I dont want to handicap it because if I were sitting heretwo years ago the last time A.J hit free agency I would have given you a reallow, low number on the likelihood of returning and then at the 11th hour wewere able to work something out, Hahn said. Free agency has a weird way withyour own guys of unfolding. Theres a fair amount of sentimentality on bothsides and you never really know a guy is gone until hes gone.After eight years on the South Side, the decision regarding Pierzynskihas the most sentimentality attached. The veteran catcher also figures to, alongwith Youkilis, be the most difficult to sign. Pierzynski earned 6 million lastseason when he hit a career-high 27 home runs and tied his career-best with 77RBIs. He and Texas Rangers free agent Mike Napoli figure to be thetop options at a premium position. Pierzynskis potential return is alsofurther muddled because the White Sox have a potential replacement in TylerFlowers, who hit seven home runs in limited play and is strong defensively.Whereas the club could be comfortable with Flowers behindthe dish -- though a fracture in his hand will keep Flowers from playing winter ballas the team hoped -- there isnt as much certainty at third base. With thehealth of Brent Morels back still in question and no prospects consideredmajor-league ready, third base seems to be of a higher priority for the WhiteSox. Whether or not they can retain Youkilis, the top free agentat the position in a thin class, remains in question. Though a major leaguesource said the White Sox have indicated they want to speak to Youkilis -- whohad 15 homers and 46 RBIs after he was acquired from Boston on June 24 -- whenits time, they may face too much competition. Youkilis is prepared to signto play either first base or third base and has received a good level ofinterest thus far, according to a baseball source.Youkilis also may prefer to play closer to home in the SanFrancisco area. Late in the season, Youkilis wife gave birth to the couplesfirst child. In early October, the veteran said family would play a significantrole in his decision.Myers, who was 3-4 with a 3.12 ERA in 35 games after he cameover in a trade from Houston, has also probably increased the size of hismarket because he would make himself available as both a starter and areliever.Late in the season, executive vice president of baseballoperations Kenny Williams said the club considered retaining Myers, who had a10 million option, as a starter. Myers, who is 89-79 with a 4.27 ERA as astarter and has a 3.36 ERA and 40 saves as reliever, said he is open to anysituation.Ive got the mentality, I want to pitch, Myers said.Whichever way a team wants me to go Ill do. I think Ive proven I can start.Ive proven I can do both. Hindsight is 2020. Some teams might like me in thebullpen. Some might like me as a starter. Its up to the team.One final -- and potentially gigantic -- factor is how muchmoney the White Sox have to spend. After the team signed Jake Peavy for 14.5 million thisseason and picked up Gavin Floyds 9.5 million option, the White Sox have nineplayers under contract for a total of 89.25 million (7 million of Konerkos13.5 million is deferred). Hahn said Thursday the club will operate on roughlythe same amount as 2012, when they began the season with a 97.669 millionpayroll. With Gordon Beckham and Alejandro De Aza both arbitration eligible,the team has a limited amount of money with which to operate. That may forceHahn to be creative in addressing his needs, including trading players off thecurrent roster.We certainly would like to have them back, Hahn said. Theyneed to see what their market is. It just wont happen as quickly as wed like.Were not closing the door on any of our free agents.
The White Sox made some adjustments to their 40-man roster ahead of Monday's deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft.
Rules stipulate that a player who signed when he was 18 or younger and has played five seasons of professional baseball is eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft if he is not on his team's 40-man roster. Because of that, the White Sox — like the rest of the teams in the league — made some moves Monday to protect certain players.
The White Sox announced Monday afternoon that they purchased the contracts of infielder Casey Gillaspie from Triple-A Charlotte, outfielder Eloy Jimenez from Double-A Birmingham, outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe and pitcher Ian Clarkin from Class-A Winston-Salem and outfielder Micker Adolfo from Class-A Kannapolis.
Simultaneously, pitchers Chris Beck and Tyler Danish were outrighted to Charlotte.
The most notable name on the list is of course Jimenez, the highly ranked outfielder acquired from the Cubs in July's trade that sent Jose Quintana to the North Side. Jimenez was a no-brainer to be protected after he slugged 19 homers and hit 22 doubles with 65 RBIs in his 89 games in the minors last season, splitting time between Birmingham and Winston-Salem in the White Sox system and Class-A Myrtle Beach in the Cubs' system. Jimenez is ranked as the White Sox No. 1 prospect by MLB.com.
Gillaspie was acquired in the trade that sent Dan Jennings to the Tampa Bay Rays. The brother of former White Sox infielder Conor Gillaspie, he hit 15 homers and 20 doubles in 125 games all at the Triple-A level. Gillaspie is ranked as the White Sox No. 11 prospect by MLB.com.
Basabe, the White Sox No. 17 prospect, was in last offseason's Chris Sale trade and hit .221 with five homers and 12 doubles at Winston-Salem. Adolfo, the White Sox No. 14 prospect, was signed as a free agent in 2013 and hit .264 with 16 homers and 28 doubles at Kannapolis. Clarkin, the White Sox No. 22 prospect, was acquired in the seven-player trade with the Yankees in July and posted a 2.60 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 86.2 innings of work at the Class-A level.
The 27-year-old Beck posted a very high 6.40 ERA in 64.2 innings out of the White Sox bullpen last season. Danish made just one appearance with the big league club last season, getting his first major league win in the second game of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers.
Only three more months till the White Sox are back in action.
The South Siders announced their spring training schedule Monday, with Cactus League play commencing Feb. 23 out in Arizona.
The White Sox have the unenviable task of opening the exhibition schedule against the defending National League champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers playing hosts to the Pale Hose in Glendale. The White Sox will be the visitors, though they share the Camelback Ranch facility with the Dodgers, so they'll still be in their home ballpark. Their first official home game comes two days later, in a Feb. 25 matchup against the Cincinnati Reds.
The White Sox will face off against the Cubs in three "Cactus Crosstown" games on Feb. 27 and March 10 in Mesa and on March 16 in Glendale.
And in a cool wrap to the preseason, the White Sox will square off against their own Triple-A affiliate March 26 in Charlotte. The game against the Knights should be a fun watch considering all the future White Sox expected to make their way to the big leagues over the next couple seasons. The Knights' roster could be loaded with highly ranked prospects depending on how things shake out.
Here's the full schedule: