Winter Meetings Preview: Chicago White Sox

The Chicago White Sox have made it clear that they not only want to be very active during this offseason, but that they also are ready to contend in 2015. That’s right, after a disappointing, but expected 73-89 season, team Owner Jerry Reinsdorf is ready to win now. Management wants to say goodbye to the rebuilding process, and start competing in what should be a very lively AL Central next season. While the team has made two moves already to support that fact, that seems to have just been the beginning.

The White Sox still have some gaping holes in their attempt to return to relevance in 2015. The most notable would have to be the team’s bullpen. The signing of Zach Duke for $15 million over 3 years was a great step in the right direction, as well as designating Ronald Belisario for assignment. While the team made these two key moves, there is still much more that needs to be done. The team is still without a proven closer, and that should be something that General Manager Rick Hahn makes a top priority.

While the bullpen was the most worrisome of the team’s problems in 2014, the rotation was not very far behind. The team currently has a plethora of left-handed pitching talent, especially thanks to drafting Carlos Rodon 3rd overall.

Still, the rotation is in need of at least one more right-handed pitcher. Hector Noesi was tendered a contract last week, and will have another chance at breaking the rotation again in 2015 after posting a 4.39 ERA and 88 ERA+ through 166 innings with the team. He also had a career high 1.3 WAR while with the team, numbers that are respectable for any #5 starter that was claimed off of waivers.

While Chicago may not be in the market for a big name like Max Scherzer, another right-handed arm like James Shields, Ervin Santana, or even Brandon McCarthy is very possible. Another possibility that has been talked about is the team trading for Jeff Samardzija, but talks have died down recently with the likelihood of Samardzija going to free agency following the 2015 season.

Assuming Carlos Rodon does not start the season in the rotation, this would be the potential rotation to start the season.

1. Chris Sale LHP
2. Jose Quintana LHP
3. Shields/Santana/McCarthy/Samardzija RHP
4. John Danks LHP
5. Hector Noesi RHP

A combination of the team’s already impressive offense, and a rejuvenated bullpen/rotation, is key for the team’s success in 2015. A new bullpen and a right-handed starter should be at the top of GM Rick Hahn’s wish list.

While the team’s offense had a very nice season with new acquisitions Adam Eaton leading off, and Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu, they continued to get better quickly this offseason. On November 25th, Chicago signed Adam LaRoche for $25 million over the next two seasons. The 35-year-old 1st baseman will serve as the primary DH in 2015, as well as the occasional replacement 1st baseman for Abreu. He is currently the superior defender, but Abreu will still be the everyday starter at 1st base. His power should transfer extremely well in the well-known hitter’s park that is U.S. Cellular Field. The team finished tied for 7th in home runs in 2014, and should be right back in the top 10 next season.

Now that the DH position has been filled, other needs for the team include a new left fielder. The team has expressed interest in free-agent outfielders Norichika Aoki and Melky Cabrera, and have been involved in trade talks with multiple teams for their All-Star shortstop Alexei Ramirez, which would potentially include an outfielder. The Seattle Mariners are showing very strong interest in Cabrera as well, and have been the most vocal about how badly they want him, according to Ken Rosenthal with Fox Sports.

Seattle is hoping to sign him to play left field, so their recent acquisition of Nelson Cruz can be the team’s primary DH. The 30-year-old switch-hitter is looking for a 5-year deal in the range of $60 million, and could be signed to one of the teams interested in him before Winter Meetings are over. Another potential left fielder that could be acquired by the White Sox via trade is Matt Kemp, who split time in all 3 outfield spots in ’14 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. While Kemp had just a 1.1 WAR last season (mainly due to lack of defense), he had his first full healthy season since 2011, a season where he finished with an 8.2 WAR and finished 2nd in the NL MVP race.

There are still a few other needs, including a catcher, and possibly a 2nd and 3rd baseman, but the focuses of this offseason are seen as much more urgent, and much more accessible than the other needs. Expect these needs to be dealt with later next season, and in the 2015 offseason. While all of the necessities for the team will likely not be met during the 3 days of Winter Meetings, expect the team to be aggressive in their pursuit for what they’re looking for. The team has a lot of money left to spend, and if they can pull off a few signings and trades, they will be on the fast track to playoff contention in 2015.

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