CHICAGO - Here's a challenge for readers of the White Sox Inbox.
E-mail me your top White Sox moment from 2012 and your key for White Sox success in 2013. I'll put the two lists together and run them on my blog in the next week or so. Let's first look at this week's batch of questions.
What are the chances the White Sox trade for Jason Kubel? That would solve the left-handed bat problem. He's a solid veteran hitter that could play either corner outfield spot.
-- Duane B., Chicago
Kubel certainly qualifies as a solid left-handed bat, with an .800 career OPS and a .334 on-base percentage, but trading anything but decent prospects for one year of Kubel's service with a 2014 option doesn't make much sense. The White Sox can't really think about trading from their surplus of starting pitching until they see John Danks in action during his recovery from August arthroscopic shoulder surgery, and giving Dayan Viciedo fewer at-bats in the equation wouldn't seem to help the cause either. Viciedo is not moving to third base, even on a part-time basis, so bringing in Kubel would warrant the platoon.
Yes, Viciedo hit a mere .225 over 382 at-bats against right-handed pitching in 2012, with 16 homers and 103 strikeouts, and he's far from the most disciplined hitter in the game. But Viciedo, who will be 24 on Opening Day, also has the chance to be the sort of impact hitter that can carry a team for an extended period, possessing the raw, natural talent you can't teach. Don't give up on him or let him go after just 711 Major League at-bats, even if Kubel is a .279 hitter against right-handers.
Adding Kubel, or another left-handed hitter, helps the team, but it's more about who is subtracted in the process to judge the full value.
Your gut feeling: who is more likely to be traded between Matt Thornton and Viciedo?
-- Chris, Peoria, Ill.
An accomplished late-inning reliever such as Thornton, who has pitched everywhere from the sixth inning to save situations, would benefit numerous contenders. Viciedo, as a younger, explosive talent, probably would require a little more of a talent package in return.
Thornton also is in the last season of a two-year extension, with a 2014 option at $6 million. Factoring in team control, I would say Thornton is more likely to go, although both are currently integral parts of the team's 2013 picture.
Does Carlos Sanchez, Tyler Saladino or Angel Sanchez play in the Majors next year as a utility infielder?
-- Thomas, Birmingham, Ala.
Angel Sanchez presently stands as the utility infielder for the White Sox. Carlos Sanchez is one of the team's top prospects overall, and as a middle infielder, gives the White Sox an option if they trade Alexei Ramirez or if Gordon Beckham doesn't build on last year's step forward offensively. But with just 803 career Minor League at-bats, the White Sox really prefer to have Carlos Sanchez get another full year of experience -- probably at Triple-A Charlotte.
After sitting out most of 2012 with injury, what kind of season do you think Danks will have in '13?
-- David, Des Plaines, Ill.
Danks' bounce-back ability becomes one of the major questions for the team's success, but it's hard to guess exactly what they will get. His arthroscopic shoulder surgery came on Aug. 6 and he stayed on rehab schedule to be ready to go when pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training on Feb. 12. Pitchers usually are stronger the second season following surgery, and Danks' endurance will have to be watched, with his throwing program starting earlier and his previous season cut short.
Knowing his competitive fire and his overall talent, I'm guessing Danks will be a .500 pitcher at the least. I'm just not sure if 30 starts and 200 innings are in the picture.
What are the chances that Rick Hahn signs or trades for a veteran catcher? Would signing someone like Kelly Shoppach or even trading for the Nationals' Jesus Flores make sense?
-- Nick, Park Ridge, Ill.
As I've mentioned before in the Inbox, the White Sox have the utmost confidence in Tyler Flowers and Hector Gimenez. So, that combination enters Spring Training as the catching tandem.
I know that SoxFest has not even started, so to say the White Sox are out of it already would be insane but ... We need a lot to go right for them to be in the mix. I think now is a good time to flip Alexei (Ramirez). Your thoughts?
-- Nick, Justice, Ill.
Your perspective is refreshing, Nick. On paper, the White Sox don't match up favorably against the defending AL Champions from Detroit and the Royals might have drawn even. It's still too early to write this team off with the talent on the roster.
I'm in total agreement, though, that numerous things have to fall into place for the team to stay in competition. Not huge reaches, but Danks has to bounce back from injury, Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Jake Peavy have to pick up where they left off in 2012 and the young players need to take another step forward after last year's playoff-pressure experience. All highly possible, but not a guarantee.
In regard to Ramirez, see my answer on Viciedo above. This is one of the AL's best overall shortstops, and you don't move him unless the return is significant.
Do you think there is an interest for Giancarlo Stanton? There is always room for another big hitter on the lineup, especially when losing A.J. Pierzynski.
-- Anthony, Las Vegas, Nev.
If Pierzynski would have stayed in Chicago, there still would be room for a player of Stanton's caliber. I'm sure the White Sox will check in, as they do with all difference-maker sort of talents, but they probably don't have the high-end prospects to acquire someone such as Stanton.