A Deeper Look: What Should Kenny Do?

Lets be honest, who expected the White Sox to be 6.5 games out of first place with a 25-29 record? This team was a team expected to contend for the playoffs and in my mind the World Series.

Obviously, I, and many others, misjudged this team. During the off-season Ken Williams acquired Bartolo Colon, Billy Koch, Tom Gordon, Rick White and Esteban Loaiza to bolster the pitching staff. This is what was considered the big weakness with last year's team. With a newly vamped pitching staff and what was a great offense in years past the Sox expected to dominate and as we can see, that's not the case. It isn't the pitching that's failed, although Rick White and his 9.47 ERA is the exception.

The two huge problems with the Sox have been the hitting, where everyone other then D'Angelo Jimenez has been a disappointment, and the defense – rated eighth in the American League.

The question management and Sox fans should be asking is what should this team do. To me there are three options: you could go with another White Flag deal, retool – meaning move one or two players, or acquire an additional player to improve the team, or stay put. The answer is rather simple in my mind and that's to have another White Flag.

While I think the ability is there, rotation wise, I realize that this offense/defense isn't build with the right mix of players. With Konerko, Valentin and Thomas clogging the middle of the lineup and showing little to no ability to pitch in defensively, it leaves a great void.

Since Konerko and Thomas are tough to move due to their large salaries and poor play, the Sox are going to have to find a way to get new talent in and make this a much more balanced attack. We know Reinsdorf isn't going to go the free agent route and just pour money at the problem and I can't blame him for that. Plus going the free agent route solves nothing in regards to this season.

To me the White Flag trade is the way to acquire the talent, lower the payroll (something Reinsdorf is going to want to do; especially when you have Valentin, Colon and Carlos Lee hitting the open market). The big question is how will the Sox go about solving their problems. Sadly, I'd like to see two of the big three of the rotation go (Loaiza, and Colon).

Personally I feel that Loaiza is one of the most valuable trading commodities in the majors because of his great numbers and affordable contract (3.5 mill option for next year). For this reason people could call me nuts to trade him, but the amount of talent we could get far exceeds his worth to a team, that in my mind is only getting worse and wouldn't be contending anyway next year. If the Sox plan to spend the money and contend next year, I'd have a different solution.

Now lets get to the fun stuff - the trades.

The Trade: Sox Deal Esteban Loaiza, centerfield Aaron Rowand, and Kelly Wunsch to the Angels in exchange for Alfredo Almazega (SS), Bobby Jenks (SP) and Earvin Santana (SP).

Why: The Angels do this because they have a huge hole in the rotation. John Lackey and Ramon Ortiz have been a shadow of what they did last season, while Kevin Appier and Aaron Sele (both due big bucks) have been disappointing, especially this year. They also have a hole in the outfield where Erstad is missing. There have been talks about adding Beltran, but the offense isn't really the Angels problem and they can't really add Beltran's contract financially. This move would make sense cause it gives them a quality backup outfielder and a starting pitcher that could step in and be their ace without costing much money.

The White Sox do this deal because of what they get in return. Its no secret that the Angels have a very talented minor league system, thanks to new General Manager Bill Stoneman, former GM Bill Bavasi and now White Sox minor league director Bob Fontaine Jr. The Sox would fill an immediate need with shortstop Alfredo Almazega. Almazega is a 25-year-old switch-hitter that was rated by Texas League managers as the best defensive SS, best base runner and most exciting player in their circuit. Currently he has a .352 AVG with 14 walks and 25 strikeouts. He isn't known as an offensive wiz, although the ability is there. He is older then a typical prospect, but the talent is there and he is ready to contribute.

In Jenks and Santana that Sox get two guys that have some of the best talent in the entire minors. Jenks has been known to hit 100 MPH and possesses a knee-buckling curve. The big question with him, like most power pitchers, is his control as he's walked 19 in 23 innings of work this year. When scouts talk about Jenks, comparisons to Roger Clemens come up because of his "rocket" arm and great curveball. Jenks, 22, is also working on a changeup. He is currently in AA and the sky is the limit with him. In the Arizona Fall league he started utilizing a sinker much more and had immediate success. Jenks would be the top guy in most organizations, but he's had a few issues in the past and seems to have gotten over them. Either way, he is the type of guy that could come in and make an immediate impact.

Santana is a 19-year-old pitcher that is currently in high-A. He is a young foreign-born player that is still filling out. He already possesses a 93 MPH fastball and everyone believes it should reach the mid 90's as he develops. Unlike most youngsters he has very good control as he showed off a 3:1 K/BB ratio last season (His first full season). Thus far this season he's 4-1 with a 2.58 ERA and has struck out 72 in 69 innings of work walking just 20. He's prime for a promotion and him and Jenks would provide a great influx of starting talent with the Sox.

The only concern in this trade is the Sox only get one guy for immediate help. The other question is will the Angels be willing to give up these two young and talented players. I think they are willing, mainly because they have quite a few other pitchers that are exceptionally well and closer to the show. The only thing with them is none of them have the upside of these two kids.

The Trade: Sox trade Bartolo Colon and Flash Gordon to the Giants for Jerome Williams (RHP), Boof Bonser (RHP) and one from a list of: Jesse Foppert (RHP), Kurt Ainsworth (RHP) and Ryan Hannaman (LHP).

Why: This would be a tough deal for GM Brian Sabean to make. He has some great prospects in the minors, but with the opportunity to win the series he'll be willing to part with a few prospects (maybe not three like I'm requesting, but at least two of them) and he's shown this willingness in the past. Colon would immediately bolster the rotation with him, Schmidt, Kirk Rueter and Damian Moss and one of their youngsters (Most likely Ainsworth). Flash would then enter the bullpen as a potential closer if Worrell falters in replacement of the injured Rob Nenn. With this trade the Giants would be able to feel much more comfortable in the race with the Dodgers and still wouldn't be mortgaging the future as they could afford to bring Colon back in at a reasonable price while Flash makes basically nothing.

Its simple why the Sox do this deal … the pitching. While I know they already would of acquired two great arms in Jenks and Santana, those are arms that aren't ready for the show. Both Williams, Bonser are ready for the majors, while Foppert and Ainsworth are already in the majors; Hannaman is a work in progress, but a lefty.

Bonser, 21, is pitching in AA but is ready for a promotion and could easily make the jump to the majors. He features a mid-90s fastball, a great curve and a good changeup. Control is definitely an issue with him, but he has the size, stamina and stuff to be a front-end pitcher. Thus far he is 2-4 with a 3.16 ERA. He's pitched 57 innings giving up just 43 hits, striking out 42 while walking 28.

Williams, 21, has already been on the major league roster this season. Currently he's in AAA where he's dominating. He has a 2.52 ERA in 50 innings of work giving up 47 hits while walking 16. Williams not only possesses a mid-90s fastball (anyone starting to notice a trend in the guys I like) but he also has a plus curve, slider and changeup. At 21 he is extremely young, yet so major league ready.

Of the other list, two are ready for the majors. Ainsworth is starting for them right now and doing very well while Foppert has been up and down thus far this season. The key to this deal would be getting the first two guys, but I'd try to work on acquiring another pitcher or position player if possible. If the Giants didn't want to give up one of the first do, then the Giants would have to include Foppert or Ainsworth. Hannaman is a lefty who was in A ball last season.

The Trade: Sox trade Jose Valentin and Billy Koch to the Cardinals for J.D. Drew

Why: The Cardinals make this trade because it gives them a much deeper bullpen. The Cardinals would be interested in Buehrle, but the fact is the Cards just don't have what it takes to get him. Instead they settle for Billy Koch, who can combine with Izzy (once healthy) to give St. Louis a formidable bullpen. Valentin, part of his salary paid for by the Sox, would fill in for the injured Fernando Vina. Once Vina comes back, Jose would fit in as the perfect utility player, and La Russa is known to like having those type of players.

The Sox do this because they are able to dump salary while picking up a stud outfielder. Drew hasn't lived up to his hype and there is risk involved, but he can come in and provide the Sox with a rather young, talented player who should only get better. Plus he'll provide a left-handed stick near the top of the revamped lineup.

The Trade: Padres trade Phil Nevin to the White Sox for Paul Konerko and a PTBNL

Why: The Padres make this trade because Nevin is out for the year and most feel he will be gone. He is owed money just like Konerko, but Konerko is a much younger player and would fit in better with the Padres down the line.

The Sox do this because Nevin, unlike Konerko, is a much more versatile player. He can play third, left, and first or DH which gives the Sox plenty of options. The Sox would only hope that Nevin makes it back, but either way he is nowhere near as slow as Konerko and gets on base.

The Untradeable One: Frank Thomas

Why: No team will be willing to pick up his contract, which guarantees him $22.5 million, unless he starts hitting. At times Thomas has shown signs of waking up, and even though he's struggling, he still is hitting for homers and has one of the better OBPs. The big thing is, Frank can no longer continue hitting in the 3-hole where he is too much of a liability.

The Aftermath

2B – D'Angelo Jimenez
1B – Carlos Lee
LF – JD Drew
RF – Magglio Ordonez
DH – Frank Thomas
CF – Joe Borchard
3B – Joe Crede
C – Miguel Olivo
SS – Alfredo Almazega

Bench: Brian Daubach, Aaron Miles, Armando Rios, Tony Graffanino, Sandy Alomar Jr.

Mark Buehrle
Jon Garland
Danny Wright
Jerome Williams
Jon Rauch

Damaso Marte – closer
Royce Ring
Arnie Munoz
Gary Glover
Edwin Almonte
Dave Sanders

The White Sox fire manager Jerry Manuel and hire Wally Backman. Backman takes over the club with around half a season left to play. The Sox can use this six-month period to evaluate the current team and all the newcomers. You can definitely see some weaknesses in the fact that this team would be extremely young and that the bullpen would definitely have some flaws early one, but I say this team would solve many problems of the current regime.

First off, the defense would no longer be suspect. Magglio Ordonez is an average to above average rightfielder. Joe Borchard is an average to above average centerfielder while JD Drew (who would occasionally DH to rest his knee) is an above average leftfielder. We already know that Crede is great defensively, while Almazenga has great range, a strong arm, and great fundamentals. Jimenez is average while Carlos Lee should be an average first baseman and could be better then that while we have the human gun, Miguel Olivo behind the plate. Folks, there is no position where you could say we have a really bad fielder and that will be really helpful to the young pitching staff.

This is a pitching staff that has a guy that won 19 games a season ago, and two guys that are right on the brink of turning into real gems. Then you have two others that have all the potential to be aces.

In the off-season the general manager would have to fill a few voids via free agency, but the team wouldn't be in need of a star and would have plenty of flexibility to sign both Buehrle and Ordonez to long-term deals. I'd expect them to sign two veteran relievers as well as some veterans to come off the bench. I'm a firm believer in having a couple veterans in the pen who are proven and comfortable, and I think the bench is a place for veterans. Look at the winning teams and their benches are full of vets that have bounced from place to place, but flat out get things done in limited time.

This team wouldn't be expected to win right away, although it could – considering the division - but it is one that could contend next year, especially considering the additions that would be made via free agency. Well that's my plan. Let me also say that I wouldn't make these moves until mid-June, giving the Sox plenty of time to show whether this team could contend.

Note: Typically A Deeper Look contains in depth analysis of an individual player, but in this case I felt it would be best to analyze what I would do as the general manager to solve the team. My next installment will go in-depth on the problems with the Sox. If you have any suggestions please email me at Jason@soxnet.net

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