White Sox' good and bad, with look to 2014
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For White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, it was a mixed bag this season. He committed a career-high 22 errors but led all American League shortstops with 181 hits.
As White Sox fans heard countless times over the final four months of the franchise's worst season since 1970, a promising pitching staff provides at least a glimmer of hope for 2014.
You can't blame general manager Rick Hahn for being bullish on Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Addison Reed, Nate Jones and hard-throwing rookie Erik Johnson, who won his final 3 starts after coming up from Class AAA Charlotte in early September.
The Sox' offense, however, is a mess.
Finishing dead last in the American League in runs scored (598) and walks (411) and near the bottom in batting average (.249), home runs (148) and on-base percentage (.302) cost hitting coach Jeff Manto his job.
Hahn is well aware that major changes need to be made around the infield and outfield this off-season.
"We're going to enter this off-season knowing very well that we have multiple areas where we need to improve," he said. "Our desire is to make that improvement and get this right as quickly as possible."
Let's take a closer look at the White Sox, position by position:
Hahn said the Sox have enough money to acquire a high-priced player, and free-agent catcher Brian McCann would be a very good fit.
Not only does McCann have a sturdy bat — he had a .256/.336/.461 hitting line for the playoff-bound Braves this season along with 20 home runs and 57 RBI — the 29-year-old catcher plays the game with an edge missing from the White Sox this year.
Josh Phegley looked like the long-term solution when he came up from Charlotte in early July, but his numbers after the all-star break (.200/.221/.251, 1 home run, 13 RBI) cannot be ignored. At best, Phegley projects out as a backup catcher.
Do the White Sox make a run at Jose Dariel Abreu, who defected from Cuba to Haiti and is now free to sign with a major-league team?
Yes, they do. But if the Sox are serious about the 6-foot-3, 250-pound slugger, they are going to have to outbid teams such as the Red Sox, Rangers, Giants, Mets and Nationals.
Abreu, 26, likely would give the White Sox instant power, a huge need.
If they fail to land Abreu, it looks like another platoon situation with Paul Konerko back for one more season and Adam Dunn, who has one more year on his contract.
The numbers hardly jump off the page — .267, 5 home runs, 24 RBI — but Gordon Beckham actually had a productive season when he was healthy.
He missed most of the first two months with a fractured left hamate bone, and he was batting .313 in mid-August before a strained right quad hampered him the rest of the season.
Like the rest of the White Sox, Beckham had a tough year with the glove. Injuries took a toll on Beckham on the defensive side as well, but when healthy he's Gold Glove caliber.
Alexei Ramirez's name surfaced in trade rumors in July, and there's a chance Hahn moves him over the winter.
Ramirez committed a career-high 22 errors and dropped to career lows in home runs (6) and RBI (48), but he did lead all American League shortstops with 181 hits and ranked ninth in the league with 30 stolen bases.
Jeff Keppinger and Conor Gillaspie were not the answer this season. Not even close.
Rookie Marcus Semien looks to be the best bet heading into 2014 unless Hahn can swing a trade. A lackluster free-agent crop (Jhonny Peralta, Juan Uribe, Michael Young) provides little relief.
Like Beckham, Dayan Viciedo had trouble staying healthy, so maybe he gets a mulligan after putting up a .265/.304/.426 slash line along with 14 homers and 56 RBI.
Viciedo also could land at first base or designated hitter if Hahn adds an established outfielder.
Alejandro De Aza likely played himself off the White Sox' roster this season.
De Aza finished second to Dunn in home runs (17) and RBI (62) while batting .264, but he struck out 147 times, made mistake after mistake running the bases and was a defensive liability.
If Leury Garcia shows anything with the bat in spring training, he could take over for De Aza, but the Sox would be better served going outside the organization for help.
Avisail Garcia is the lone sure thing coming back next season.
Acquired from the Tigers on July 30 in the three-way trade that sent Jake Peavy to the Red Sox, Garcia quickly showed he has five-tool ability while batting .304 with 5 homers and 21 RBI in 42 games.
Dunn still is owed $15 million for 2014, and there appears to be zero interest on the trade front. He had a nice stretch from June 8-Aug. 17, batting .318, but he was awful early and late.
The best-case scenario could be Dunn hitting well enough next season to be traded before the July 31 deadline.
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