August 11, 2009

That can't be good...

Warning, this is very 'out in left field' post. And not to mention scatter-brained.

For those that either read this site or know me, you already know that I rarely say anything nice about the White Sox. Honestly, it's nothing personal. I just don't like them. They're the Twins' biggest rivals and since they were the last A.L. Central team to hoist the Commissioner's Trophy, I have a reason to dislike them, don't I? But right now, I'm finding it hard to find anything bad to say about the White Sox, which is something that has never happened to me. The franchise is in a great position to be very good for a long time, which is something that should frighten Twins fans.

Most Twins fans are about to enjoy the best year of Twins baseball yet. The ball club has arguably the best player in the world, another player that is a former MVP, one of the best lead-off hitters in the game, a rarely-talked about DH that is putting up All-Star numbers and a brand new stadium that will host its first game next spring. Obviously, it's an exciting time to be a Twins fan.

But the White Sox are doing their best to piss on the Twins' parade by loading up on players that will certainly make them the favorites to win the A.L. Central not only this season but in 2010 also. And no, it is not only because they got Alex Rios yesterday for... nothing.

With an already talented roster, the White Sox didn't have to surrender any players to acquire a good outfielder in Rios. Rios was claimed by the White Sox off of waivers by the Blue Jays who were looking to dump salary. The problem is, although he's making a lot of money, the Blue Jays basically gave away a 28-year-old with great potential and who is still not making a disgusting amount. He's set to make around $60 million between now and 2014. But to me, the contract shouldn't pose a problem.

Rios will be 33-years-old in his last year of his contract. In other words, he'll likely have already hit his peak and will be on the slight decline. But if Rios plays to his potential with the White Sox, he'll make that $12 million look like nothing.

Rios is moving into U.S. Cellular which has about the same dimensions as his former home in the Rogers Centre. The two ballparks are very similar, in fact, the Rogers Centre averages 2.37 home runs per game while U.S. Cellular averages 2.35.

Rios is a developed version of what the Twins' Carlos Gomez could be. He's a toolsy outfielder who plays good defense. His bat is light-years ahead of Gomez's, but many believe Gomez should be able to put up similar offensive numbers to Rios as well, perhaps with a little less 'pop' and a little more base running. But nonetheless, the White Sox acquired a very talented outfielder, for again, nothing.

Even with the addition of Jake Peavy and his large contract and Rios now on board, the White Sox are still in a very good place financially. "How?" you may ask. Well, this off-season the White Sox could have almost $50 million coming off the payroll.
  • Jim Thome - $13 Million
  • Jermaine Dye - (Mutual Option - $12 Million/$1 Million buyout)
  • Jose Contreras - $10 Million
  • Octavio Dotel - $6 Million
  • Ramon Castro - $2.5 Million
  • Mark Kotsay - $1.5 Million
  • Matt Thornton - (Club Option - $2.25 Million/$250,000 buyout)
  • Bartolo Colon - $1 Million
That's a lot of money that could come off of their hands this off-season. And remember, they play in the third largest market in baseball. And the other team that is in their same market is spending nearly $40 million more this season. Obviously that doesn't mean that the White Sox could/should spend that much more, but they certainly could up their payroll if needed.

Both Thome and Dye are integral parts to their offense and they'd certainly miss both. But that leaves the ball club open to going out and acquiring a few serious free agents. Although the list of 'top' free agents is limited, they'll be aggressive and will likely land at least one high-impact free agent.

My early prediction: Matt Holliday

Why? Because even though Carlos Quentin is 'locked' in left field, he's terrible there defensively (career -8.7 UZR/150 in LF) and with his reoccurring foot problems, he'll benefit offensively from a move to DH where he'd fill Thome's spot just fine. Holliday is an upgrade defensively (career 6.6 UZR/150 in LF).

Many believe the Cardinals will lock up Holliday long-term, but he's a Scott Boras client and I'll be surprised if he doesn't test the free agency market. And if he does hit the market, I expect the White Sox to be one of his likely suitors.

And if that fails, the White Sox have always been very aggressive in acquiring players via trade and reports are running rampant that Carl Crawford could be dealt this off-season. A player the White Sox have been connected to in the past.

The White Sox don't have a lot of depth in their farm system. But even though they've traded away A LOT of their top prospects in the past couple years, they still have a few valuable chips in their system. Most notably: Tyler Flowers, Jordan Danks, Dayan Viciedo and Dan Hudson. The White Sox probably wouldn't trade Flowers with A.J. Pierzynski coming off the books in 2011. Viciedo is probably too expensive for the Rays liking. With Rios being the only outfielder (at least in my mind) who is a lock to stay in the outfield, they might also want to hold onto Danks. But Hudson will surely entice the Rays and would be a good centerpiece for a Crawford trade. Obviously, Jared Mitchell should also be mentioned, but he's not allowed to be traded until next summer.

Either Crawford or Holliday are certainly realistic possibilities for the White Sox for the outfield.

And then there's the rotation. With Peavy, Mark Buehrle, John Danks and Gavin Floyd, the White Sox now have one of the best 1-4 in the American League. And with Jose Contreras leaving after the season, that leaves the White Sox with the possibility to add an impact pitcher like Rich Harden or John Lackey.

Now, just about everything from the middle of this post-on is purely speculative and basically moot to my overall meaning of this post. So what is my meaning? In case you haven't figured it out yet...

The White Sox have a great shot of winning this season and with a lot of financial flexibility, they have a lot that they can do not only this off-season, but in 2011 when guys like Pierzynski and Paul Konerko come off the books as well. They've dealt many of their top prospects but they still have a couple good players in their system that should help within the next couple years.

That should worry the Twins who are currently three games under .500 and don't look to have what it takes to win this season, and maybe not next either. Obviously we can all say, "the payroll should go up when we move into Target Field." And while that should definitely be the case, I don't think anyone should get their hopes up of it taking a drastic turn north from the get-go. Obviously it'll spike if they do re-sign Mauer, but I don't see them going on a spending spree in free agency and I also don't see them acquiring an impact player via trade. The Twins do play in a larger market than the St. Louis Cardinals who are spending roughly $33 million more than the Twins. That's not to say the Twins need to spend that much, but it's more so of a reference of where I someday see the Twins payroll peaking.

I can't stand the White Sox, but it's hard not to be impressed with the way Kenny Williams and Jerry Reinsdorf have built that franchise. As a Twins fan, I'm envious to not have a GM like Williams who is as aggressive as it gets, yet he has a great grasp on the finances. And Reinsdord is a reason enough that Twins fans should be envious of the White Sox.

Now Twins fans just need to hope that the White Sox fail to live up to the billing like the Tigers did in 2008.