Offense a White Sox focus at Meetings
CHICAGO -- Rick Hahn already has changed over the White Sox catching personnel with the free-agent additions of Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro. But the White Sox general manager certainly still has more work to do as the 2015 Winter Meetings begin Monday in Nashville, Tenn.
Hahn was one of the prime-time players at last year's get-together in San Diego, acquiring Jeff Samardzija from the A's via a six-player trade and left-handed reliever Dan Jennings in a deal with the Marlins. He added closer David Robertson through free agency and laid the groundwork to bring in left fielder Melky Cabrera. There's a chance Hahn won't be quite as busy this time around, or at least a different sort of busy, with trades to fill voids more likely than pursuit of big-ticket free agents.
As has been the case for the last three seasons, the White Sox are trying to strengthen their core during an ongoing reshaping process but still trying to contend. Hahn will be looking at both directions with potential additions and subtractions.
MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2015 Winter Meetings from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, with the Network launching 35 hours of live Winter Meetings coverage on Sunday at 7 p.m. CT. Fans can also catch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, as well as the announcement of the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration Era Committee inductees on Monday at 10 a.m. CT and the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 9 a.m. CT.
Shortstop: A $10 million option on Alexei Ramirez was declined and a $1 million buyout was executed, meaning the White Sox stand without an experienced shortstop for the first time since Ramirez took over in '09. Tim Anderson, the team's top prospect per MLBPipeline.com, is getting closer to Major League-ready at this spot, but almost certainly won't be there at the outset of 2016. So, the White Sox could return Tyler Saladino to his natural position or try to find a one- or two-year replacement.
Offense: With the addition of Navarro behind the plate, this issue already has started to be addressed. But for a team that had the fewest runs scored, lowest slugging percentage and lowest OPS in the American League, almost any change short of replacing Jose Abreu could be in play.
Third base: Saladino had a '15 shot at the hot corner and performed admirably. Mike Olt also received extensive playing time at the position throughout September. Figuring out this position remains one of the team's focal points.
Rotation: This area remains the White Sox strong suit, barring any unforeseen or unexpected trades. Hahn gave the indication that Erik Johnson will get a shot to fill out the rotation with the four southpaws, but he also could explore "second-tier" sort of free agents.
Who they can trade if necessary:
OF Avisail Garcia: To give up on Garcia, i.e. move him now, after just one full season in the Majors seems a bit premature with the talent he possesses. But the White Sox grew frustrated with his inability to adjust offensively and his expanding of the strike zone, meaning Garcia could fall into the "give up something good to get something good and even more needed" category. The emergence of Trayce Thompson also could make an outfielder expendable.
RHP Robertson: The White Sox added Robertson for four years to solidify a shaky back end of the bullpen. But with closers being at a premium and Nate Jones looking healthy, the White Sox could bring back a decent prospect haul in a Robertson move.
LHP Chris Sale /LHP Jose Quintana: There's certainly no desire to trade either of the most consistent and most contract-friendly starting pitchers in the game. They also stand as far and away the team's greatest trade chips for those exact reasons.
Minor League pitching: If Sale and Quintana stay put, as expected, the White Sox could package a few of their developing young arms such as Frankie Montas, Tyler Danish and/or Spencer Adams in search of a third baseman. Just examples, of course, and the White Sox, like many other teams, are reluctant to give up their prospect currency.
Of the Top 10 White Sox Prospects, per MLBPipeline.com, only Micah Johnson and Montas are poised to help the team in '16. Anderson and right-hander Carson Fulmer, the No. 2 prospect and the team's top pick in the 2015 Draft, could arrive during the season or by '17. Thompson sits at No. 14, although he hit close to .300 over 122 Major League at-bats last season.
Rule 5 Draft:
With the White Sox 40-man roster currently at 36, prior to the Navarro deal becoming official, the team has room to make a Rule 5 pick. Its last selection in the Major League portion came in 2013 in catcher Adrian Nieto, who is no longer with the organization.
Big contracts they might unload:
Players such as Sale, Quintana, Abreu and Adam Eaton all are working under affordable multi-year deals and probably won't be going anywhere. Adam LaRoche has one year left on his deal, but at $13 million and coming off a dismal year offensively, he'd be tough to move. The most moveable would be Robertson because of the need for quality closers.
There has been just over $90 million committed to 11 players, with arbitration-eligible players Garcia, Jennings, Zach Putnam and Jones still to be addressed. The White Sox don't discuss their payroll target, but as has been the case in the past, they are not shy about spending when a player fits their plan.