CHICAGO -- Let's get right to this week's questions from the White Sox Inbox, starting with a Happy Thanksgiving wish for everyone.
What do you think are the chances the White Sox bring back A.J. Pierzynski? He's the most consistent player we have!!
-- Steve, Harriman, N.Y.
I'll take my cue from White Sox general manager Rick Hahn on this one, and admit that it's difficult to handicap the eventual landing place for certain free agents at this point of the offseason. The White Sox want Pierzynski back, and Pierzynski has made it clear he wants to come back.
Sometimes, though, those two goals don't wind up in a multiyear contractual extension. As of now, I would say Tyler Flowers begins the 2013 season as the White Sox everyday catcher and the club looks for veteran help behind the plate to join Flowers.
Regardless of what happens with Pierzynski, two things are no-brainers concerning this catching situation. Pierzynski has transformed from an enemy during his time with the Twins to a true fan favorite/organizational fixture during his eight years with the White Sox. Pierzynski's unknown status stands as the main point of focus for many of the emails and tweets I've received this offseason. His hard-working approach resonates with the fan base, but in using Mark Buehrle's departure from Chicago as an example, even the most popular of players could end up changing uniforms.
It's also time for the White Sox to see what they have in Flowers, as he stated during a recent interview with MLB.com. If Flowers isn't penciled in as the team's starter or backing up Pierzynski, where a working bond has been formed, then he doesn't seem to really make sense with the White Sox.
Don't completely rule out Pierzynski's return. Remember, it went down to the 11th hour and 57th minute before he came back before the 2011 season.
Will we see Brent Morel or Kevin Youkilis back at third base in '13, or an outside solution?
-- Mike, Wheaton, Ill.
The White Sox definitely want Youkilis back, liking everything from his presence high up in the lineup to his veteran presence in the clubhouse. But once Youkilis hit free agency, interest from numerous other teams arrived immediately and that interest just might price him out of the White Sox market.
Morel has to have heard or read reports about the White Sox making third base a priority, even though he's still there. When he was healthy, Morel was a serviceable option with the bat at third and above average defensively.
Because of his back problems, dating back to last Spring Training, the White Sox just can't rely on Morel going into the new season. His back improved, to the point of Morel getting consistent at-bats with Triple-A Charlotte. Until Morel gets out on the field in February in Arizona, the White Sox won't totally add him into the equation.
I'm still thinking third base will be filled through a trade, although a free agent such as Jeff Keppinger also could be a huge boost to the cause.
Any chances at all the White Sox can trade Gavin Floyd for Mike Moustakas or Chase Headley?
-- Caleb, Zion, Ill.
I would be surprised if Floyd is traded before the start of Spring Training. The White Sox have six quality starters in place, but they need to see what they have in John Danks as he rehabs his way back from season-sending arthroscopic shoulder surgery. Young pitchers such as Jose Quintana and Hector Santiago proved themselves and then some during their rookie campaigns, but they aren't absolute locks to duplicate such high levels of success.
Teams win titles on pitching, so a valuable veteran hurler such as Floyd won't be given up because they have a perceived excess. It would indicate to me that the White Sox have the ultimate trust in the untested pitchers in their system, such as Andre Rienzo and Simon Castro, if Floyd is moved and no other veteran starter is added.
To pry loose Headley or Moustakas would take more than Floyd in a deal. Padres GM Josh Byrnes said in a weekend interview that if Headley is good and the Padres are good, then why would they trade him? He's either completely unavailable or would require a major talent package.
Do you think Robin Ventura is underrated as a Major League manager?
-- Marty, Chicago
Ventura was highly respected as a player, but he was unknown as a manager because of lack of past experience upon taking the job. After finishing third in the 2012 American League Manager of the Year balloting, as voted on by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Ventura is no longer unknown.
He was just what the White Sox needed in 2012, to really the surprise of nobody. Most people I talked with always thought Ventura would be great: they just didn't know if he would want to be a manager. He took the job and excelled.
Is there any chance Carlos Sanchez gets a shot to make the team in Spring Training?
-- Sam, Champaign, Ill.
Sanchez has quickly climbed the list of White Sox prospects to near the top, following his combined .323 Minor League effort in 2012 and .299 average with 11 stolen bases during Arizona Fall League action. At 20 years old, the White Sox would like a full season at Charlotte for Sanchez, but as Hahn has mentioned, they will break camp with the best players, so he has a shot.
Can the White Sox legitimately catch the Tigers in 2013 or should they rebuild?
-- Tammy, Schaumburg, Ill.
With the addition of Torii Hunter and the all-important return of Victor Martinez, the Tigers should be an improved model of their 2012 American League Central title version. But the White Sox had that team seriously on the ropes in '12 and believe they can win this division.
This mix of contending while developing young players, which the White Sox expertly pulled off last season, is the path to continue traveling.