White Sox general manager Rick Hahn was very transparent in how he wanted to approach the offseason, and specifically, the winter meetings, and left Florida last week sticking to the script. It was all about adding youth to a lineup that was one of the worst in baseball in 2013, and Hahn at least did that.
Will it change what the Sox can do offensively? That remains to be seen, but Hahn at least made the effort to accomplish that.
It really started during the season for the Sox, adding outfielder Avisail Garcia, 22, at the trade deadline in sending right-hander Jake Peavy to Boston. Then in November, the Sox outbid the competition to sign Cuban slugger Jose Abreu, 26, to play first base, throwing a six-year, $68 million contract at him.
During the winter meetings, it was about adding a presence at the top of the lineup, as well as another lefty bat, acquiring Adam Eaton in a three-way trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Eaton is 25, and will likely take over center-field duties from Alejandro De Aza. And while it took lefty starter Hector Santiago to grab Eaton, the Sox were flooded with lefty pitching, so they could afford it.
Three new faces that are all under contractual control for years to come.
"Someone said all we have to do is (add another three quality players) in the next six months and six months after that, and we'll be in great shape," Hahn said jokingly at the end of the winter meetings. "That was only partially tongue in cheek. We don't have that much work to do, but we certainly have some other priorities we hope to hit."
Catching was addressed, but not with a veteran presence that many were hoping. Tyler Flowers was brought back with a one-year deal, and the Sox grabbed Adrian Nieto from the Washington Nationals in the Rule 5 draft.
Right-handed starter Felipe Paulino was signed during the meetings, with the hope that he can challenge for a spot left open with Santiago shipped out. But third base is still a concern, and there's still the poor defense shown by the Sox last season. Hahn will still shop for what could be a "short-term solution" at third, while the Sox feel that the defense was more aberration than concern, considering it was tops in that category just a year earlier.
"We've made progress, but we're not finished," Hahn said. "We've balanced out the lineup some, we've brought some youth and athleticism, improved our defense and baserunning and ability to get on base. ... It's a process, and it's going to take some time. But we've added three pieces we feel good about. We're a work in progress; we know that."
--DH/1B Paul Konerko's future was very up-in-the-air at the start of the offseason, as the team captain was weighing retirement or playing elsewhere. But in signing the free agent to a one-year, $2.5 million contract, it was a win-win for both sides. The Sox have a veteran leader in the clubhouse and a guy that can mentor 1B Jose Abreu, while Konerko gets to be a part-time player and walk off into the sunset on his terms. "I'm excited about it because, truthfully, I wouldn't be coming back to any situation if I knew I was slated to play a lot," Konerko said. The veteran, who will turn 38 on March 5, will play against lefty pitchers in his reserve role.
--LHP Chris Sale was the trade rumor of the winter meetings, and one that wasn't accurate, according to board chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. "I only had one player in my 33 years of sports who couldn't be traded," Reinsdorf said. "He wore No. 23 -- and 45 when he played baseball (Michael Jordan). I never had another player that couldn't be traded. ... But I would be very surprised." Sale is considered the face of the organization moving forward, and signed a favorable contract that could keep him on the South Side through 2019.
--RHP Felipe Paulino was signed to a one-year, $1.5 million deal with a $4 million club option for 2015 during the winter meetings, and is being penciled in as a guy that will enter spring training in the rotation. "When he's right and healthy, we see him as a power arm with four pitches and a guy who can be a quality starter in a big-league rotation," general manager Rick Hahn said. "Based on our medical reports and where he has progressed to, we have every reason to believe he'll be able to help us come Opening Day." What the Sox like is if Paulino is needed as a long reliever, he is versatile enough to do that as well.
--C Adrian Nieto, 24, was selected by the Sox with the third pick in the Rule 5 draft to close out the winter meetings, and there is a starting job there for him to win. The Sox brought back Tyler Flowers with a one-year deal and have homegrown Josh Phegley looking to compete behind the plate again, but the Sox were definitely weak behind the plate. In 110 games with Class A Potomac last season, Nieto hit .285 with 29 doubles, 11 home runs, 53 RBIs, 68 runs scored and a .373 on-base percentage. He threw out 33.3 percent (42-of-126) of attempted base stealers during his 86 starts behind the plate. "Obviously, we've talked about wanting to upgrade or potentially have some competition at the catcher's position," Hahn said. "This is just another avenue to bringing someone in. Any time you take a guy in Rule 5, you are rushing his development a little bit, so it's a longer shot of it working out. But this kid made some real nice strides in 2013."
--OF Alejandro De Aza could be the odd-man out, or at least out of a starting job if the Sox don't trade him, after the team acquired OF Adam Eaton during the winter meetings. Hahn already indicated that Eaton will be given the chance to start in center field -- De Aza's spot -- as well as win the leadoff spot -- also De Aza's spot. With Dayan Viciedo in left field and Avisail Garcia in right, De Aza is a fourth outfielder at best right now for the Sox.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think of myself as a Lenny Dykstra-Kenny Lofton mix, a scrappy dirtbag who gets after it day in and day out. It's a new beginning, new club, new city. I'm really looking forward to it." -- OF Adam Eaton, on what type of player he is and what he hopes to bring to the Sox after being acquired in a three-team trade.
General manager Rick Hahn knew he had a rebuilding project this offseason and took steps in doing so by adding three young offensive players since last July. Right fielder Avisail Garcia, 22, was acquired at the trade deadline in sending right-hander Jake Peavy to Boston, and then in November, the Sox outbid the competition to sign Cuban slugger Jose Abreu, 26, to play first base, throwing a six-year, $68 million contract at him. Center fielder Adam Eaton was acquired in a three-team trade during the winter meetings, and all three are already penciled in to be starters to a new-look offense.
What Hahn really liked was he didn't have to sacrifice much pitching to improve, only sending lefty Hector Santiago out in the Eaton trade. The Sox still feel like they have the payroll to add players during the season if the team is challenging, but this is definitely a rebuilding year.
BIGGEST NEEDS: The bullpen still needs some help in middle relief, and the biggest concern is still third base with Conor Gillaspie and Jeff Keppinger both competing for playing time there. Considering the Sox finished 14th in the American League in home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and 15th in runs per game, really no spot in the starting lineup should be safe heading into spring training.
ARRIVALS: 1B Jose Abreu (free agent from Cuba), RHP Ronald Belisario (free agent from Dodgers), RHP Felipe Paulino (free agent from Royals), CF Adam Eaton (trade with Diamondbacks)
DEPARTURE: LHP Hector Santiago (traded to Angels)
FREE AGENTS: RHP Gavin Floyd, RHP Dylan Axelrod
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: 2B Gordon Beckham, OF Alejandro De Aza, OF Dayan Viciedo
Beckham, De Aza and Viciedo likely will return to the Sox, despite their inconsistent seasons. Beckham started off red-hot, despite injuries, but crawled to the finish line, while De Aza had a slow start as the leadoff hitter before having a better second half. Viciedo was solid but unspectacular in his fourth season.
IN LIMBO: DH/1B Adam Dunn
With 1B Paul Konerko deciding to play one more year, and with 1B Jose Abreu coming to the South Side, Dunn is a trade candidate. However, moving $15 million for a player with Dunn's recent stats won't be easy.
--INF Jeff Keppinger (exploratory right shoulder surgery in September 2013) did not need structural repairs. He is expected to be ready by spring training.
--C Tyler Flowers (right shoulder surgery in September 2013) has an expected recovery time of three to six months, but is ahead of schedule and should be ready for spring training.
--RHP Brian Omogrosso (right elbow surgery in August 2013) had bone spurs removed.
--RHP Felipe Paulino (shoulder surgery in September 2013) should be ready for spring training.
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- Adam Eaton
- Alejandro De Aza
- Rick Hahn
- Felipe Paulino
- Avisail Garcia