Chicago White Sox offseason preview: 2012 rotation up in the air

Peavy needs to have a full healthy season.

The Ozzie Guillen era has come to an end in Chicago. Last season, the Chicago White Sox didn’t quite meet expectations after going all-in during the 2011 offseason, and, because of it, Guillen and the organization parted ways. While the offense was easily the biggest disappointment, the starting rotation didn’t exactly light it up either.

On paper, the five of Mark Buehrle, Jake Peavy, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Edwin Jackson was supposed to be one of the best in the American League. Instead, Peavy battled injuries, Floyd and Jackson (before he was traded) were inconsistent and Danks got absolutely no run support for most of the season. Only Buerhle performed at a high level last season. Now coming into 2012, decisions need to be made. With general manager Kenny Williams looking to scale back payroll, Buehrle is likely to be lost to free agency and both Danks and Floyd have been made available. It will be guys like Chris Sale and Philip Humber who will have to play a big part if new manager, and former White Sox great, Robin Ventura expects to have succes next season. In the end, the rotation should look something like this:

John Danks

2011: ($6MM) 170.1 IP, 8-12, 4.33 ERA, 135 K, 46 BB, .274 BAA, 1.34 WHIP
2012: Projected $8MM (arbitration)

Danks is about due for a contract extension and Williams has yet to commit to the left-hander. Just about every MLB team would love to have Danks, but the asking price is will not be cheap. With the asking price rumored to be too high, I expect him to remain in Chicago. Danks should rebound a down year and step up as the lead man in the rotation in 2012.

Jake Peavy

2011: ($16MM) 111.2 IP, 7-7, 4.92 ERA, 95 K, 24 BB, .268 BAA, 1.26 WHIP
2012: $17MM

Injuries continue to haunt Peavy as a member of the Chicago White Sox. When he is healthy, he is one of the best pitchers in baseball. But what we have seen is a guy who has yet to fully recover from a detached lat muscle in 2010. The hope is that the offseason will be kind to Peavy and allow Williams to finally benefit from what many feel was one of his worst moves as a GM.

Chris Sale

2011: ($425M) 71.0 IP, 2-2, 2.79 ERA, 8-10 SV, 16 HD, 79 K, 27 BB, .203 BAA, 1.11 WHIP
2012: $425M

All signs point to Sale moving into the starting rotation next season. With the odds of Buehrle resigning looking slimmer by the day, Sale is the ideal replacement for the veteran. He is a power arm with a upper-90s fastball, electric slider/slurve and an improving changeup. The bullpen was the teams best asset in 2011 and Sale had everything to do with that. Now he has to prove he can get it done for longer than just an inning of work.

Gavin Floyd

2011: ($5MM) 193.2 IP, 12-13, 4.37 ERA, 151 K, 45 BB, .247 BAA, 1.16 WHIP
2012: $7MM

Patience may be running thin for Williams when it comes to Floyd. Overall he has the best “stuff” on the team but just has yet to find consistency in his major league career. Once teams determine what the market will be for free agent starters, the calls should start rolling in for the services of Floyd. While he could very well be moved this offseason, I think he gets one more shot to prove himself because of Buehrle’s situation. If he struggles, he becomes a casualty at the trade deadline.

Philip Humber

2011: ($500M) 9-9, 3.75 ERA, 163.0 IP, 116 K, 43 BB, .243 BAA, 1.18 WHIP
2012: $500M

Humber was one of the biggest surprises in baseball last season. A former first-round pick who bounced around from team to team finally put it all together pitching in place of an injured Peavy. He was so good, in fact, the White Sox decided to use a six-man rotation just to keep Humber around. Due to the fact he had never pitched a full season in the majors, Humber faded at the end of the season. With over 160 innings under his belt, he should hold up much better in his second full season in the rotation.

What’s left?

The trade of Jackson brought over starter Zach Stewart from Toronto. He pitched 50.1 innings with the White Sox going 2-5 with a 6.22 ERA in 10 games (eight starts). At the minor-league level with both Toronto and Chicago, he posted a record of 5-6 with a 4.20 ERA in 17 starts, so I don’t see Stewart being trusted just yet in the rotation. Another guy in the White Sox future plans is Dylan Axelrod. He made three starts (and one relief appearance) after being called up in September and played well posting a record of 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA. His minor-league stats in 2011 include a 9-3 record with a 2.69 ERA in 26 games (24 starts). While Stewart is likely next in line if a starter was to be moved, a strong spring from Axelrod could mean extended time in the majors next season.

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