Commentary

White Sox's changes should be minimal

Originally Published: November 6, 2008
By Jonah Keri | Special to ESPN.com

Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko, Mark Buehrle and others still remain from the White Sox's 2005 championship team. But breakout seasons by Carlos Quentin, John Danks, Alexei Ramirez and Gavin Floyd were the difference-makers as Chicago snagged another AL Central flag.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
GM: Kenny Williams
Manager: Ozzie Guillen
'08 record: 88-74, T-1st in AL Central
Chicago White Sox '08 payroll: $121.1M, 5th MLB
Runs scored: 811, 5th AL
Runs allowed: 729, 8th AL
OPS: .780, 4th AL
ERA: 4.06, 6th AL
Fielding percentage: .983, T-10th AL

Three of the four breakout stars came via trade, while Ramirez was a hidden gem plucked from Cuba, underscoring the talent evaluation and deal-making abilities of general manager Kenny Williams and the White Sox's front office. They'll need better production from 20-somethings Nick Swisher and Josh Fields as their core of plodding sluggers grows a year older.

Primary needs

Speed and athleticism. When the White Sox faced the Rays in the ALDS, they got exposed as an aging, station-to-station team that couldn't keep up with the Rays' versatile attack.

Not that there's anything wrong with relying on starting pitching and three-run homers. But bringing in better baserunners and defenders (the White Sox finished just 20th in Defensive Efficiency in '08) would give the Pale Hose, in poker parlance, more outs.

Free agents

3B Joe Crede, C Toby Hall, SS Juan Uribe, OF Ken Griffey Jr., RHP Esteban Loaiza, LHP Horacio Ramirez

Lots of potential losses, but none that figure to hurt much. The White Sox will need a healthy season from Fields to replace Crede. Other than that, the other departing players were largely nonfactors, including Griffey, who generated a ton of headlines for someone who hit .260 with three homers after coming over via trade.

Trade bait

There's outfield depth here, with Dewayne Wise likely to return to a fourth outfielder role after starting in the playoffs. The Sox could also dip into their bullpen depth and move a reliever if necessary. The team has few glaring needs, though, with next year's everyday lineup and the top four spots in the rotation all but etched in stone.

Farm aid

No truly elite prospects in the high minors, but the White Sox do have a number of contributors on the way. Aaron Poreda, Lance Broadway and Jack Egbert could help bolster both the back of the rotation and the bullpen. Chris Getz should provide middle-infield depth.

Outlook

Few teams figure to change less from last season to the next than the White Sox. The question is where the team might find sources of improvement. Quentin, Danks and Floyd took such huge steps forward that a season of consolidation wouldn't be a surprise. Dye, Konerko, Thome and A.J. Pierzynski will all be another year past their primes.

The Sox could approach last season's 88 wins with a similar cast of characters. The question is: Will that be enough for a repeat?

Jonah Keri is a regular contributor to Page 2 and the editor and co-author of "Baseball Between the Numbers." You can contact him at jonahkeri@gmail.com.

Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) is a staff writer for Grantland. His book, The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team From Worst to First, is a national best seller. His new book Up, Up, and Away, on the history of the Montreal Expos, is now available for preorder.