CHICAGO -- For a team always looking for that one more move, for a team deemed by some outside the organization as one or two players away from true playoff contention, the White Sox enter Spring Training with almost no position battles.Alexei Ramirez's seven-year run as the team's shortstop (eight
CHICAGO -- For a team always looking for that one more move, for a team deemed by some outside the organization as one or two players away from true playoff contention, the White Sox enter Spring Training with almost no position battles.
Alexei Ramirez's seven-year run as the team's shortstop (eight years overall) came to an end when the White Sox declined his $10 million option for 2016. Tyler Saladino and Carlos Sanchez will compete for the job, although Saladino's defense and a return to his natural position make the high-energy utility player from '15 a favorite.
Manager Robin Ventura mentioned at SoxFest during the last week of January that Adam LaRoche would have to earn his at-bats as a designated hitter after a dismal '15 performance, with general manager Rick Hahn talking about no scholarships for anyone on the roster. But with the White Sox in need of left-handed power and no other viable everyday option apparently in-house, LaRoche's bounce-back possibility seems to be the answer.
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The fifth starter's slot stood as a somewhat open competition, with Erik Johnson holding an edge over Jacob Turner. The team then agreed to terms with veteran hurler Mat Latos last week on a one-year, $3 million deal, seemingly rounding out the rotation.
Even the bullpen, with closer David Robertson, Nate Jones, Zach Duke, Matt Albers, Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam and Dan Jennings, seems to be set barring something unexpected from the Cactus League. About the only uncertainty resides at the final bench position, with Jerry Sands, Leury Garcia and Mike Olt standing as the top candidates on the 40-man-roster.
Take all these predictions as less than gospel, though.
If the White Sox were to add free-agent shortstop Ian Desmond or free-agent outfielder Dexter Fowler or make some sort of trade in one of those areas, as examples, the roster alignments change quickly. The market remains fluid, as Hahn stated at SoxFest, meaning the club still could make a significant addition or bring in more of a complementary piece at some point in the next few days or the next few weeks.
Chicago looked markedly improved with the plethora of moves made entering last Spring Training. That improvement turned towards offense for '16, with Todd Frazier now at third base, Brett Lawrie at second and the combination of Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro at catcher as Hahn's latest changes.
So with Hahn's ongoing actions since 2013, employing a revamping while competing mode, there shouldn't be a great deal of positions open by this point.
"Frankly, as we sit here today, we feel we are a stronger team now than we were at that time," said Hahn, comparing his team's standing from SoxFest to SoxFest. "Obviously some of the players, some of the things we were counting on last year didn't quite measure up to their potential, which does not mean that's going to continue to be the case."
"I like this team. I like the atmosphere I can feel here," left fielder Melky Cabrera said at SoxFest, through interpreter and Spanish language broadcaster Billy Russo. "It's a matter of translating from Spring Training to the season."
Pitchers and catchers report
Full squad reports
First Spring Training game
Away vs. Dodgers, March 3, 2:05 p.m. CT
Away vs. Athletics, April 4, 9:05 p.m. CT
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.