Spring Training is little more than two months away. In recent weeks free agent signings and trades have hit a feverish pitch. With big names moving around teams like the White Sox, who were cellar dwellers last year, are now considered contenders for their division.
With the Tigers getting weaker – losing Max Scherzer and Torii Hunter – and the Royals seemingly staying in neutral, the White Sox have been active this offseason and could quickly become a favorite for those who know how to bet parlays in baseball.
The White Sox were 13th in ERA across the American League last season. Aside from Chris Sale their rotation was a patchwork mess that saw career minor leaguer Scott Carroll made 19 starts. Quickly general manager Rick Hahn moved to fix the rotation picking up Jeff Samardzija from the Athletics. As the White Sox were picking up Samardzija they also were moving to sign closer David Roberterson – who had 39 saves after taking over for Mariano Rivera in New York last season. If the White Sox wanted players who could thrive on the big stage then mission accomplished.
Left hander John Danks and Jose Quintana figure to occupy two of the remaining spots in the White Sox rotation with Hector Noesi the favorite for the fifth spot.
One of the deals that the White Sox pulled off under the radar was the acquisition of reliever Dan Jennings from the Marlins. Acquired for Andre Rienzo, the 27-year-old Jennings is a left hander who has pitched well out of the bullpen for the Marlins over the last three years. In 2014 he appeared in 47 games posting a 1.34 ERA. Jennings is your unconventional left handed reliever as his numbers against right handers have actually been better than those against lefties in his career.
With Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn off the roster, the White Sox went to work improving their offense. Already equipped with AL Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu the White Sox worked on deals to compliment the Cuban who hit 36 home runs and 107 RBI across 145 games.
Enter Adam LaRoche who will take over the role of the teams designated hitter. The 35-year-old LaRoche will offer the White Sox ample power and provide a batter who owns a lifetime .340 on-base percentage. That will be a improvement over what Dunn and Konerko provided there last year and the decrease in strike outs alone from the spot will be welcomed by many on the south side.
The White Sox also improved their outfield landing free agent Melky Cabrera. Cabrera is coming off a fine season with the Blue Jays which saw him hit .301/.351/.458 with 15 home runs and 81 runs scored. His bat will offer more consistency in place of the talented Dayan Vicideo who has shown glimpses of power yet an inability to be a stable offensive threat. Vicideo now becomes a viable trade chip for the White Sox or at worse depth in case of an injury.
With all of these moves the White Sox have re-worked a roster that won just 73 games in 2014 and finished fourth in the AL Central. With inactivity in the form of the Royals and Tigers the White Sox look like a legit contender for the division and should Samardzija live up to expectations he could form a 1-2 punch with Sale that drives the team into the post season.