The White Sox have been fairly busy in the early stages of the off-season, signing slugging first baseman Jose Abreu to a six-year, $68 million contract and hiring Todd Steverson out of the Oakland A’s organization as their new hitting coach.
But as general manager Rick Hahn said at U.S. Cellular Field on Oct. 29 after the Abreu deal was officially announced, much more work needs to be done on the heels of a 99-loss season.
“Obviously, we have a number of areas where we need to improve and we will explore all of them, whether it’s free agency or trade,” Hahn said. “It’s probably more likely that trades are next but at the same time we haven’t even hit true domestic free agency yet, so it’s not anything we’re ruling out until we do our similar due diligence on some of the players that are available there.”
The rumor mill has already started to crank up, and here are three things to watch with the White Sox:
Hahn, chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, and possibly executive vice president Kenny Williams and manager Robin Ventura, are going to meet with the Sox’ longtime captain in Arizona, either over the weekend or right after the GM/owners meetings that run Monday-Wednesday in Orlando, Fla.
Konerko has not responded to an interview request from the Daily Herald, which is hardly surprising. The first baseman kept a low profile when he was a free agent following the 2005 season and he followed suit in 2010.
With Abreu now on the roster and Adam Dunn under contract for one more season, the White Sox appear set at first base and designated hitter.
But if Konerko does decide he wants to play one more year — and that appears likely — he could fit as more of a bench player.
As it stands now, the Sox could again play Alexei Ramirez just about every day at shortstop and do the same with Gordon Beckham at second base. That currently leaves Jeff Keppinger and Marcus Semien to platoon at third base, with Keppinger also able to play second and Semien able to play second and short.
If Konerko wants to play one more year, the White Sox would have to decide if last season’s subpar numbers (. 244, 12 home runs, 54 RBI) were a fluke or a sign that time has caught up with one of the greatest hitters in franchise history.
Konerko, who will be 38 on March 5, was limited to 126 games due to lower back soreness, so his health is another concern.
Tyler Flowers was the starter to open last season, but he failed to hit and lost his job to Josh Phegley in early July.
Phegley, in turn, failed to hit, and now the Sox have to find a proven veteran.
If they go the trade route, and Hahn has starting pitchers Hector Santiago, Andre Rienzo and possibly closer Addison Reed to offer, the Sox could try acquiring Milwaukee’s Jonathan Lucroy, who would be a huge upgrade. If they go the free-agent route, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is coming off a solid season with Boston and he’s going to be much cheaper than Brian McCann.
The Gordon Beckham to the Blue Jays trade rumor is making the rounds again, and there is a chance the 27-year-old gets moved this off-season.
His .267/.322/.372 hitting line last season hardly inspires confidence moving forward, but Beckham was sidelined from April 10-June 2 with a fractured hamate bone and he suffered a strained quad in early August and literally limped to the finish line.
Beckham was batting .313 in mid-August before hurting his right leg, but the White Sox could opt to go with Semien or minor league speedster Micah Johnson at second base next season.
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