Friday, December 09, 2005

2006 season White Sox Moves - Part 5

The White Sox have made a few more moves, preparing for the 2006 season.

Most significantly and most sad (IMHO) was the cutting of ties with Frank Thomas. I’ve written about my feelings towards the Big Hurt before – I think he’s a great hitter, one of the best I’ve ever seen, and his ability to hit even the best pitchers on their best day was something that I’ve seen few others able to do. But with Thome on board, and Thomas' recent history of injuries, Thomas’ days were numbered. I’m not looking forward to games where Thomas, in another uniform, faces the Sox. I hope Big Frank makes it to the Hall of Fame – I think he deserves it, no doubt.

The Sox also cut ties with Carl Everett and Raul Casanova. Everett played hard and well for the Sox. He came through with many clutch hits, was a switch-hitter, and could play a decent outfield. But again, with Thome on board, there was just no room for him. Casanova looks like he has a bright future in front of him, but it’s going to be with someone else. With Pierzynski and Widger, the Sox already have a great 1-2 punch behind the plate.

Yesterday, the Sox traded their head case, Damaso Marte, for utility-man supreme, Rod Mackowiak. He plays every position but SS, Catcher and Pitcher. His left-handed bat and his fielding are very respectable. He’s an upgrade from Geoff Blum (recently departed) and, with all the positions he can play, I expect he’ll see 200+ at-bats this year. Marte had a tremendous year in 2003, but in 2004 and this last year he tailed off. He could still bring it, but usually didn’t. When he was on, he was absolute death to left-handed hitters and pretty tough on righties as well. But he doesn’t fit with Guillen’s style and probably won’t be missed.

In addition to their 9 starting position players; Konerko, Iguchi, Uribe, Crede, Dye, Anderson (penciled-in), Podsednik, Pierzynski and Thome (as DH), they’ll have Widger, Ozuna and Mackowiak as backups. Assuming they carry 12 pitchers, this leaves just one roster spot open. Of the three candidates, Ross Gload, Timo Perez and Willie Harris, the smart money says it will be Gload. Actually, he’s my least-favorite of the three. The Sox already have 3 guys who can play first, Konerko, Thome and Mackowiak (plus Jermaine Dye, in a pinch), so Gload’s glove isn’t necessary. All three are left-handed hitters. Yes, Gload has more power, but both Perez and Harris have more speed. And, after a weak start to his career, Harris was hitting very well at the end of last season. He’s also fast enough to be a lead-off guy, the importance of which was shown in how poorly (relatively speaking) the Sox played last year when Podsednik was out.. Timo Perez didn’t hit for average but he got some very clutch hits for the team last year. Perez plays only the outfield, while Harris can play the infield and outfield. If it was up to me, I think I’d keep Harris, and try to deal the other two for another left-hander for the bullpen. But there’s no doubt that it’s a luxury when your biggest decision is who to keep for your 25th and final roster position.

With the pickup of Mackowiak, the Sox feel that they can carry 12 pitchers, yet another luxury. On the mound, the Sox will need to make a decision between Hernandez and McCarthy for the 5th starter’s spot. If they go with McCarthy and put Hernandez in the bullpen, he would join Hermanson (assuming his back rehabs OK), Jenks, Vizcaino, Politte and Cotts. This, too, leaves just one roster spot open. They can choose between Bajaneru and Sanders or else go out and try and find another left-hander to complement Cotts.

All in all, they appear to be pretty well set. Barring injuries, there is no reason at all why they shouldn’t be a favorite to get to the World Series again. On The Best Damn Sports Show last night, Rob Dibble picked the White Sox and the Mets to meet in the 2006 World Series. Nice to have the respect now – it seems that the Sox have made believers out of a lot of people.

In other Sox news, Tadahito Iguchi has agreed to play for Japan in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. This makes three Sox players in this new event; Mark Buerhle (for the USA), Freddy Garcia (for Venezuela) and Iguchi. I am truly looking forward to this tournament – I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Only 115 days until April 2nd, Opening Day, 2006 – I can’t wait.


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