Chicago White Sox 2015 preview: Step forward might not be enough
It’s been a season of loss on the South Side of Chicago. For the first time in the 21st century, Paul Konerko won’t be in the White Sox clubhouse. And if losing this century’s face of the franchise was hard, the death of Minnie Minoso — Mr. White Sox — was another shock to the franchise. But spring is here, and the next chapter of the franchise’s history is waiting to unfold.
While Konerko was the last link to the White Sox championship team of 2005, the sweatshirts and the hats from that season will live on forever. And why not, because time can ease the players from that team out of the game, but the hardware still remains at 35th and Shields.
The Sox made a big splash in the offseason, signing Adam LaRoche to a two-year deal worth $25 million. They also picked up Jeff Samardzija, before he hits free agency next year, and David Robertson to be their closer. Throw in a deal for Melky Cabrera and the White Sox are poised to enjoy a better season than the 73-win team of a year ago.
Whenever you can lead with the Rookie of the Year, that’s a good thing. Jose Abreu is a solid building block, and will benefit from LaRoche hitting behind him in the lineup. Adam Eaton also is locked up until 2019, and if he stays healthy, he’ll be setting the table for Abreu and the others.
The Sox have essentially swapped one big-hitting Adam for another by picking up LaRoche to replace the now-retired Adam Dunn. This promises to be a big upgrade over the Big Donkey, as LaRoche’s .260 average is considerably higher than Dunn’s .220. And having Avisail Garcia back in right field after missing most of the 2014 season with a torn labrum will provide another boost. Cabrera’s .286 lifetime average is in the upper rank of active players, and his presence in left field further solidifies the outfield.
The Sox infield is serviceable, with Alexi Ramirez at short and Conor Gillaspie at third. Rookie Micah Johnson appears to have locked up the second base job, and Tyler Flowers is back for another season as the regular catcher. The return of Gordon Beckham will also add some defensive strength to the Sox infield.
Chris Sale leads the way, of course, but he’ll start the season on the disabled list with an injured right foot. Jose Quintana is another good option and Samardzija is pitching for a nine-figure payday starting next season, so you know he’s motivated to pitch well. And will John Danks come close to earning the $15 million plus that the White Sox will pay him this year? Hope springs eternal, doesn’t it?
The Sox start the year off with Robertson as their closer, and Zach Duke has been brought in from Hazzard County — or make that Pittsburgh — to add some veteran presence. If Jesse Crain can stay healthy after spending all of last season on the disabled list, that gives Sox manager Robin Ventura one more option in the bullpen. You can never have too many of those. Add in Dan Jennings, Zach Putnam and Jake Petricka, and this year’s staff should be an upgrade from years gone by.
Opening day lineup
Adam Eaton CF
Melky Cabrera LF
Jose Abreu 1B
Adam LaRoche DH
Avisail Garcia RF
Alexi Ramirez SS
Conor Gillaspie 3B
Tyler Flowers C
Micah Johnson 2B
Remember when Lee Majors played the Six Million Dollar Man on TV? Well move over Steve Austin, you’ve got company by the name of Carlos Rodon. The Sox drafted him third overall in 2014, and with a $6.5 million bonus already in the bank, he’s looking to prove that was a wise investment. Look for him to end up in Chicago sometime this summer.
86-76, third in the AL Central. This will be a solid upswing year, with Abreu and LaRoche keying one of the better offenses in the American League. They probably won’t make the playoffs, but they’ll give their fans reason to believe in their future. And a 10-year title drought isn’t the worst thing in the world, either.
Special thanks to Jeff Laws for his input on this article. Be sure to check out his blog, My Sports Obsession.