It's time for Sox to look ahead

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Alexei Ramirez will be a big part of the White Sox' future, but at shortstop, not second base.

      Alexei Ramirez will be a big part of the White Sox' future, but at shortstop, not second base. Ed Lee | Staff Photographer

 
 
Published10/8/2008 12:05 AM

The White Sox said they were in it to win it this season, but deep down they knew better.

The Sox knew they were up against it when left fielder Carlos Quentin went down Sept. 1 with a busted wrist and third baseman Joe Crede exited the next day with a bad back.

 

And don't forget another key season-ending injury - starting pitcher Jose Contreras' torn Achilles' tendon during his Aug. 9 start against the Red Sox.

To their credit, the White Sox never played the injury card as they struggled through September and squeaked into the playoffs.

Their season ended Monday with a 6-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in the opening round of the playoffs, and now it's time for general manager Kenny Williams to get to work on 2009.

Williams said he has been looking ahead to next season's roster for the past three months, and he's preparing for another busy winter. Here's a look at the GM's likely list of priorities.

Shore up second base

Alexei Ramirez quickly blossomed into a superstar while playing second base for the Sox this season, so why mess with success?

Ramirez is going to be a fixture on the South Side for the next three seasons for sure, and probably a lot longer than that.

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But the 27-year-old former Cuban standout is a near lock to be playing shortstop - his natural position - next season. Thanks for dropping by, Orlando Cabrera.

Ideally, the White Sox would like to add a second baseman who has speed, which is the club's biggest weakness.

The Orioles' Brian Roberts is the obvious target, but Williams was unable to pry the all-star leadoff man away from Baltimore at the July 31 trade deadline.

Williams offered Cabrera to the Orioles, but Williams would need to assemble a much more enticing package to get Roberts, who is eligible for free agency at the end of the 2009 season.

Williams might take a look at Orlando Hudson and/or Robinson Cano, with minor-leaguer Chris Getz (. 302 at Class AA Charlotte) also in the mix.

Center cut

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Williams has to sort out a logjam in center field this off-season.

Ken Griffey Jr. wants to come back, but he is approaching his 39th birthday and is clearly nearing the end of the line.

Nick Swisher is another option, but Williams would likely jump at the chance to trade the switch hitter, who batted .219 overall, .164 in September.

Maybe Jerry Owens, a legitimate speed threat, gets another look in center field. Williams also considers Brian Anderson a possible solution.

As for trade possibilities, Williams might ask about the Pittsburgh Pirates' Nate McLouth.

Who's on third?

Joe Crede is headed for free agency, and hopefully for him he is healthy enough to get a decent offer from another team.

There's no chance the classy Crede returns to the White Sox, given the back trouble that sidelined him for 180 games over the last two seasons.

Juan Uribe did a nice job filling in at third base, but he is not the long-term answer. First-round draft pick Gordon Beckham is, but his ETA is 2010.

Rotation roulette

The Sox have three solid starting pitchers (Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd) and a lot of questions marks.

Javier Vazquez still is under contract for two more years at $11.5 million per. The right-hander lost 16 games during the regular season and then completely lost his confidence in the postseason.

If the White Sox can't move Vazquez, he's likely the No. 4 starter, with Clayton Richard and another big left-hander, Aaron Poreda, in the mix for the final slot.

Take a seat

Bench coach Joey Cora is the leading candidate to take over as manager of the woeful Seattle Mariners.

His departure would be a huge loss for the Sox. Cora does most of his work behind the scenes, but he's involved in every aspect of day-to-day operations.

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