He wouldn’t go so far as to predict a 2016 playoff appearance, but Robin Ventura is pleased with recent upgrades to the White Sox roster.
Ten months after he opened spring training with the suggestion his 2015 club was postseason worthy, the White Sox manager said Thursday he likes the additions of infielders Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie. Both were traded for in an eight-day span in which the White Sox have dramatically overhauled their infield. Those additions came on the heels of the signings of catchers Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro.
Even though fangraphs.com’s early projections have the teams’ four newest players providing 8.1 Wins Above Replacement, a significant increase over last season, Ventura wouldn’t go overboard with any White Sox predictions.
“We’re improved, definitely,” Ventura said on a conference call. “We’re also in the division that has the World Series champion. We know it’s a tough division. Everyone in that division is getting better and this is our way to improve and make ourselves a viable candidate, so we’re much improved from last year. Just look at the people that we got. And again, you’re going to have to play to be able to make an impact and make it happen because it doesn’t happen on paper.”
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Until they can prove it on the field, the White Sox only have projections and scouting reports upon which to base their moves.
So far, the White Sox have done well in that arena.
A number of scouts and a National League executive praised the White Sox on Wednesday for their acquisition of Frazier, even though they had to part with three major league ready (or close to) players, including outfielder Trayce Thompson.
Responses ranged from “love Frazier” to “fantastic” to “real good deal for Sox.”
Frazier is expected to provide the White Sox with a middle of the lineup presence behind Jose Abreu and a strong glove at third base. The two-time All-Star projects for 3.7 WAR next season just one season after White Sox third baseman combined for minus-1.3 WAR.
Lawrie is predicted to provide 15 home runs at second base and 1.8 WAR, a number the White Sox hope is low given they believe he’ll benefit from a change of scenery.
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Last season, White Sox second baseman hit five homers and were valued at minus-1.3 WAR.
Navarro and Avila — who signed for a combined $6.5 million — are expected to produce 2.6 WAR, according to fangraphs.com, an increase of 1.1 WAR over Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto in 2015.
Though Ventura wants to see it on the field first, it’s reasonable to expect improvement over an offense that scored 3.89 runs per game and hit an American League-low 136 homers last season.
“We haven’t offensively got production out of some areas (on the infield),” Ventura said. “You have to try to go at it and try to improve it. This is one of the ways to do it. We did give up some young talent to be able to do it, but you have to give up something to get something. That’s the way it works in this game. Todd was definitely a target, and when you start to look around and look at the landscape of what you can do and the moves you can make and how you are going to do it, Rick (Hahn) is the one who went through it and figured out how to make it all work.”