The biggest concern for the White Sox has to be solidifying the weak bullpen, which at the beginning of the season looked to be a strength. Newly acquired closer Billy Koch lost 5-6 MPH on his fastball while Gary Glover lost all signs of the "potential" he once had. What looked to be a good bullpen at the beginning of the year is now a two-man show (Damaso Marte and Tom Gordon).
Beyond them, the Sox have Billy Koch, who has pitched much better of late -- despite the blown save in Tampa Bay -- but unreliable through it all, Dave Sanders, a mediocre lefty at this stage of the game, Gary Glover and Rick White. Kelly Wunsch has been sidelined the past few weeks and was recently shutdown, but still should be back in the coming weeks, which will be a huge lift. However, it won't be enough.
Now that the weakness has been located, lets find a way to fix it.
When it comes to relief their isn't one definitive answer of who to get, because so many guys are out there. While some teams or scouts would prefer getting a big name guy like Ugeth Urbina, I'd prefer going for a "no-namer" who will produce. Sure Urbina can close, but his ERA is high (for a closer) and the cost in terms of prospects is even higher. Really, what is the difference between a guy that can dominate in the seventh inning compared to a go that does solid in the ninth? An opportunity. Closers are over-rated unless their names are Eric Gagne, John Smoltz, Troy Percival, Billy Wagner or Mariano Rivera.
Now that I've talked about the type of player I like, lets talk about the options the Sox have.
The Sox could trade soley for a reliever. If that's the case I'd look no further then Southern California, home to many talented-middle relievers. While the names Paul Shuey, Brandon Donnely and Paul Quantrill come to mind, they won't be who I'd focus on, mostly because they'd be to expensive to acquire. Therefore Ken Williams should focus on Scott Shields of the Angels or Guillermo Mota of the Dodgers.
Scott Shields is a talented right-hander that has done a great job with the Angels the past few seasons. He has stamina and could fill in as a spot-starter (Sox don't need that), but more importantly he would come in with the idea of being a seventh inning/long guy which is exactly what the Sox need. We all know that Marte, Gordon and Koch will control the eighth and ninth innings (yes, Koch is shakey, but he's gonna be pitching in those situations). Mota would be able to do the same thing. Shields, 27, is 2-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 27 games (2 starts). He has given up 53 hits in 65.1 innings of work, striking out 53 while walking 21. In case you think he's a one-year wonder, here are his 2002 numbers: 5-3 with a 2.20 ERA in 29 games. Mota, 29, is 2-2 with a 1.71 ERA and has pitched in 37 games. He has struck out 46 while walking 12 in 52.2 innings of work. Mota's best pitch is an upper 90-MPH fastball and many scouts believe he could one day become a closer.
A bullpen of Wunsch, White, Shields/Mota, Gordon, Marte and Koch would be quite a upgrad when compared to one that contains both Glover and Sanders.
The Sox could opt to acquire a starting pitcher and reliever in a package. The logic behind this move would be to move Dan Wright into the bullpen, where many believe he can excel. Wright has great stuff and should be able to succeed whether he's in the rotation or the pen.
The one deal I really like that fits this bill would be a Sidney Ponson and Kerry Lightenberg trade for a package of Carlos Lee/Paul Konerko, Gary Glover and Arnie Munoz or another prospect. The Orioles have made it known that Ponson and Lightenberg are on the block and that they are willing to take on the salary of a guy like Konerko if they were to get a prospect in return. There were talks of a Ponson for Konerko deal a few weeks ago, which apparently died down.
In Ponson, the Sox would get a guy on pace to win 20 games. Ponson is having a break-out year and is an innings eater. When on, he throws a lot of ground-balls and can shut down an offense. Unlike the Sox earlier moves (Alomar/Everett), this would be a long-term acquisition. Ponson may be a free agent, but at 26, he's just entering the prime of his career. He could fill in admirably in the upper portion of the rotation if the Sox lose Colon via free agency. This season Ponson is 11-5 with a 3.85 ERA.
Lightenberg is a talented reliever that has post-season experience (Braves) and can get guys out. He would be comfortable pitching in the eighth or even ninth innings of games, but would also be a great fit in the seventh. This season Lightenberg is 1-1 with a 3.34 ERA.
There is no doubt in my mind that a team with a rotation of Loaiza, Buehrle, Colon, Ponson and Garland, and a bullpen of White, Wright, Lightenberg, Wunsch, Marte, Gordon and Koch would be able to go deep into the playoffs for not just this year, but many years to come.