Inbox: Are White Sox serious about Tanaka?
Beat reporter Scott Merkin answers White Sox fans' questions
CHICAGO -- SoxFest sits just two weekends away, meaning Spring Training can't be too far behind.
White Sox pitchers and catchers report to Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 15, providing the first live look at the organization's reshaping process. Before the festivities begin, let's take a look at the first batch of questions for 2014 in this week's Inbox.
Are the White Sox really after Masahiro Tanaka? Is it a serious pursuit?
-- Ann, Highland Park, Ill.
Tanaka would be perfect for this reshaping process, and the White Sox have never struck me as a team to show cursory interest just to say they were there.
Of course, having serious interest and being the frontrunners are two different things. I don't see the White Sox getting into any sort of bidding war for Tanaka's services, with reports projecting the bidding to range into the five-year, $100 million range. Tanaka would have to want the White Sox almost more than they wanted him to pitch for them, as I've written previously, and he certainly could choose them with this new posting system in place.
Some recent reports out of Japan have indicated the Dodgers, Yankees and Angels are finalists for Tanaka's services. I've also learned over the years to never count the White Sox out in these sorts of high-profile situations -- see the Freddy Garcia trade with Seattle in 2004 or Jose Abreu signing last year as examples. I just don't see Tanaka happening.
Regardless of this result, the White Sox seem ready to add difference makers even if they aren't thought to be prime championship contenders at this point. The players simply must fit the blueprint, at least for now.
Do you think the White Sox are done making moves? Do they have a couple of more up their sleeve?
-- Sean, Chicago
I'm never really sure how to take a team saying it's done making moves. I guess they do say it on some level -- I remember Ken Williams walking into the first Winter Meetings I covered in New Orleans and basically telling us the White Sox almost certainly weren't going to do much, if anything, that weekend. And if I remember right, he was true to his word.
Then again, we are just talking about a four-day period out of an entire offseason in that particular example from 12 years ago.
The White Sox have accomplished a number of their offseason goals, an offseason that extends back to June or July due to the difficult 2013 season.
They added depth and competition at positions that they were lacking overall last year, which left manager Robin Ventura and his staff fewer options for change when things went bad. They added athleticism, they added a little attitude, and they began to build a core that not only will help the team be more competitive in 2014 but sustain them for many years.
With that said, general manager Rick Hahn isn't finished and has spoken on a number of occasions that there's always one more move to be made.
Finding another catcher remains on that list, even with a healthy Tyler Flowers, a more experienced Josh Phegley and Adrian Nieto as a Rule 5 Draft selection in place. The goal would be to find someone they are more certain of as an everyday player at the heart of this reshaping process, and don't be surprised if a starting pitcher is still what's needed to get that trade done. I don't see that move happening through free agency.
Remember that this reshaping stands as a work in progress. Trades could come down in February or Spring Training, and almost certainly will happen around the non-waiver Trade Deadline in July depending on what direction the team travels during April, May and June.
Do you see them moving Adam Dunn?
-- Bobby, Elkhart, Ind.
Dunn will start the season as part of the White Sox, and as one of the team's true sources of power, he should play an important part offensively in the middle of that lineup. The slugging left-hander also will be worked into the mix with Paul Konerko and Abreu, with a focus on helping Abreu gradually adjust to Major League life and competition.
A good start to the season for Dunn, who is in the final season of a four-year, $56 million deal, would make him more of a trade candidate in June or at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. To repeat a much-talked-about point, anyone aside from Abreu, Chris Sale, Avisail Garcia and now Konerko is a plausible candidate to move if the deal represents the right fit and a necessary upgrade.
Will Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham be the double-play combo in 2014?
-- Danny, Chicago
They will be, and while both have been targets of criticism over the past few years, it's still a steady combination up the middle. I really believe that Beckham will make a major move forward offensively if he stays healthy, as he was doing in 2013 before a myriad of injuries.
One benefit for the White Sox is having this duo in their everyday lineup. A secondary benefit is that they might eventually be tradable, with the White Sox gaining prospect strength in this particular area through Marcus Semien, Micah Johnson, Leury Garcia and Carlos Sanchez.
Over/under 80 wins?
-- Arge, Chicago
As the roster is constructed right now, I'm going right around that mark. Let's say anywhere from 78 to 82 victories, which represent a sizable jump from 63 last season. The moves made by Hahn to add competition, youth and energy, coupled with a solid pitching staff, will make a difference.
To be honest, it's a bit too early to make predictions. If the White Sox somehow pull off the unexpected and add Tanaka, then that starting rotation has to make the team a contender.