Will the White Sox make a move to improve on a slumping offense that did not hit very well during the 2012 season or will they rely on the younger players from the Minors to do everything again?
-- Rob, Chicago
I'm probably going to take some criticism on this thought, but the offense was solid far more often than it struggled in 2012. Yes, it was a dismal finish, especially with runners in scoring position, an area where the White Sox excelled overall. And it was a little too home run-based at times, but you need long ball threats when playing 81 games at U.S. Cellular Field.
Kevin Youkilis and A.J. Pierzynski both were major parts of that offense. If they both leave, the White Sox almost certainly will bring in a veteran at one spot to compete with their younger guys in line for the job.
Is there a possibility that Trayce Thompson makes the Opening Day roster as a backup outfielder for the club? From what I've heard about him, he seems to be in the White Sox future plans.
-- Andy, Elmhurst, Ill.
According to MLB.com's most recent rankings, Thompson is the White Sox top prospect, followed by Courtney Hawkins, the club's top pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. The White Sox have a number of intriguing young outfielders, with Jared Mitchell and Keenyn Walker also in the mix. But don't look for any of them, aside from Mitchell later in the season, to come up in a reserve role when they can continue developing through daily Minor League playing time. Thompson remains firmly in the White Sox future plans.
Do you think there is any possibility for the White Sox to add big names like Josh Hamilton or Mike Napoli? Or any other veteran player?
-- Jorge, Chicago
Napoli doesn't really fit, in that he's not a full-time catcher anymore. Hamilton doesn't fit in the team's payroll projected at near $100 million, with $89.95 million already committed to 10 players. Remember, though, the White Sox are looking at the team more as putting together a big puzzle. So they might add a couple veterans who aren't as big of a name but their pieces improve the team overall.
That plan worked in 2005. Of course, adding a big name such as Jim Thome also worked in '06.
If Youkilis or another big name third basemen is not on the roster next year, who will bat second in the lineup? I'd love to see Gordon Beckham in that spot -- he seemed to hit well in the two-hole at the beginning of the year in 2012.
-- Eric, Decatur, Ill.
Beckham batted .258 with seven homers and 27 RBIs in 194 at-bats last year out of the lineup's second spot, and I think he would be a good fit in that lineup location. It's also too early to set the lineup when it's not even certain who will be playing third base or catching for the team.
Do you think there will be any consideration given to the idea of Beckham moving back to third, where he was his rookie year? An internal, affordable option to hold on to a player the White Sox don't seem ready to give up on yet, and it lets Carlos Sanchez come up and show us what he's got.
-- Justin, LaGrange Park, Ill.
Sanchez definitely is projected more as a middle infielder, although the White Sox would like to see him get more Minor League time. General manager Rick Hahn talked on a conference call Thursday about consideration being given in moving Beckham back to the position where he started his big league career, but it seems even less likely than Dayan Viciedo moving there: especially when factoring in Beckham's stellar defense at second.
Do you realize what signal you would be giving longtime White Sox fans if you do not bring A.J. Pierzynski back for 2013?
-- Edward, Frankfort, Ill.
I'm guessing this question was meant directly for the White Sox, since the last time I had a hand in team personnel decisions was never.
If Pierzynski departs via free agency for another team, which looks somewhat likely to happen at this point, I fully understand White Sox fans won't be happy. But Mark Buehrle, one of the most popular players to suit up on the South Side of Chicago, left for the Marlins, and while there was disappointment, the team moved forward. Albert Pujols left the Cardinals, and yet somehow the Cardinals still made the playoffs.
Great players, and great players who are fan favorites, leave all the time in this day and age. There just might not be a contractual fit on both sides, and the White Sox feel comfortable in Tyler Flowers handling the everyday catching duties. And remember, Pierzynski isn't gone yet, and the move to Flowers isn't written in stone. Much like third base last year, if for some reason Flowers doesn't work out, the situation remains fluid into the season.
We know we have to beat the Tigers. Can we beat the Royals? The Orioles? The teams that give us trouble every time?
-- Brian, Chicago
Before the 6-12 debacle this past season against the Royals, marking a second straight season series loss, the White Sox didn't lose a season-series to Kansas City in the previous 10 years. They hadn't lost consecutive season-series to the Royals since 1993 and '94.
Kansas City has a talented group of young hitters and young relievers. With the addition of another frontline starting pitcher or two, the American League Central only will get tougher.