The White Sox enter this offseason at once pleased with the way 2008 ended and also wondering what might have been. And sure, you can say that for any team that makes the playoffs and falls short of the ulimate prize, but it's particularly so for the Pale Hose, who lost their best hitter by a country mile, Carlos Quentin, for the season in early September.
Would things have gone differently had Quentin been in Chicago's lineup for the ALDS? We'll never know. What we do know is that the South Siders aren't about to rest on their laurels after winning the AL Central.
No one will ever accuse general manager Kenny Williams of being timid or cautious as he attempts to reshape his roster -- that's why many consider him one of the better executives in the game -- and he's already begun to do just that this winter.
Who May Leave?
Orlando Cabrera, SS, free agent
Joe Crede, 3B, free agent
Ken Griffey Jr, OF, free agent
Toby Hall, C, free agent
Horacio Ramirez, RP, free agent
Juan Uribe, IF, free agent
Paul Konerko, 1B, Jermaine Dye, RF, Bobby Jenks, RP, and Javier Vazquez, SP, could also be traded
What Do They Need?
The Nick Swisher experiment has officially come to an end now that he's been shipped off to the Bronx, so the Sox are once again looking for a reliable regular center fielder. The trio of Brian Anderson, DeWayne Wise and Jerry Owens certainly isn't going to cut it for a team that is planning to contend next year.
On the pitching side, the starting rotation is in good shape heading into next year, even if Vazquez is shipped out of the Windy City as expected. The bullpen could use depth (what team's relief corps couldn't?), particularly since it posted a 5.60 ERA in the second half of 2008.
What Should They Do?
To quote Ken Rosenthal, Williams is "up to something." I probably wouldn't have dealt Swisher with his value close to an all-time low, particularly since Konerko or Dye could go too, but that ship has sailed. The White Sox are in for a major offensive and defensive overhaul, and Chicago's GM seems intent on wheeling and dealing to accomplish that goal.
It's hard to see the White Sox actually trading Dye or Konerko since their lineup is already so shallow. What they are almost certain to do is deal Vazquez and maybe even Jenks. No matter what, they need to get a third baseman out of the trade(s). Colorado's Garrett Atkins and Boston's Mike Lowell (should the other Sox enter the Teixeira fray) would both be nice fits.
A center fielder would be nice too, but that might be a little much to expect as a haul for a starting pitcher on bad standing in Chicago and an overweight closer with injury concerns. Mark Kotsay or Jim Edmonds on short money would give the lineup a left-handed presence beyond designated hitter Jim Thome.
As for the middle infield, Williams should steer clear of the guys who will require a long-term deal (Orlando Hudson, Felipe Lopez, Rafael Furcal), opting for a cheap option that could be pushed aside once 2008 top pick Gordon Beckham is ready for the majors, which could be by the middle of next year. Mark Grudzielanek wouldn't be a flashy pickup, but he wouldn't require a long commitment and he's still solid.
What Will They Do?
Probably something similar to what is outlined above. Trading season has only begun in Chicago, and the Sox haven't really been connected to the big third baseman on the market, Casey Blake, so Williams has to be looking at the hot corner as he lines up potential partners for a deal. Vazquez is still viewed as very valuable because of his durability -- he's been a 200-inning pitcher four years running and eight out of the last nine -- so he'll be a nice chip to cash in for Williams.
There's been a lot of talk about dealing Dye and Konerko. It seems like one of them might go, which will require the Sox to go after one of the many corner bats on the market since Swisher is gone. Adam Dunn, Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu are potential replacements in right or at first base, making a Konerko trade more likely. Dye is no longer one of the best right fielders in the game, but he's better defensively than all three of those free agent options.
Kenny Williams isn't one to stand pat -- it's just not in his nature. The White Sox were a playoff team in 2005 and 2008 and disappointing, to varying degrees, during the seasons in between.
In many ways, the South Siders mirror the man who has constructed them. Williams seems to have an affinity for high-risk, high-reward moves, and that seems to be the story of the Sox over the past four or five years. Williams isn't going to stop making gambles now.