Mailbag: Sox still after Rowand?
Beat reporter Scott Merkin answers questions from fans
Another Winter Meetings now sits behind us, and this particular get-together in Nashville certainly was the most physically grueling of the five I've covered.
It wasn't as if we were put through morning calisthenics every day or had a required two-hour workout. But the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center seems to be about 10 miles long, so getting from one place to another involved a daily, if not hourly, hike.
When all was said and done, Johan Santana still was with the Twins, Kosuke Fukudome still was in Japan and Aaron Rowand's next baseball location still was undecided. All three situations could change in the next few weeks.
The White Sox also added outfielder Carlos Quentin via the Meetings' first trade, a potentially outstanding addition, if Quentin is healthy. Let's open the White Sox mailbag for the first time following the Nashville trip and check out the various concerns.
There's a lot of speculation out there saying that the White Sox have stopped pursuing Rowand because they don't want to give him a five-year deal. What are the actual odds that Rowand returns to patrolling center on the South Side?
-- Patrick, Melrose Park, Ill.
Just as Rowand told me in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, he has not given up on the White Sox and I don't believe they have ruled out trying to bring him back either. Neither side has really said a direct word concerning the specific negotiations, but according to two sources I spoke with recently, the length of the potential deal sounds as if it would be the sticking point.
Rowand legitimately remains the biggest free agent still available on the open market and will draw interest from other teams -- including some who might have their center field situation changed via trade in upcoming weeks. The South Side cult hero also doesn't sound as if he has to make a decision in the next week or has to rush to find a suitor.
But with all of the above explanation, I still would put Rowand's return to the White Sox at 50 percent. Sure, it sounds like a copout, going right down the middle, but too many unknown factors exist to address the prediction with anymore certainty.
Isn't it time to pull the plug and rebuild and load up with young talent? Let the Indians and Tigers battle it out, and we'll see you in a couple of years.
-- Mike, Orland Park, Ill.
Rebuilding is not in general manager Ken Williams' plans or even part of his vocabulary, nor has it ever been as long as I've covered the White Sox. Williams was adamant, to the point of semi-defiant, when speaking to the media during the final days in Nashville. He feels confident that the improvements made during this offseason will help the White Sox contend in the American League Central.
I agree that Orlando Cabrera stands as a sizeable upgrade at shortstop, and the same goes for Scott Linebrink in the bullpen. But the team is taking a chance by moving a steady starter such as Jon Garland and replacing him with a somewhat inconsistent hurler such as Gavin Floyd. That underlying level of uncertainty, coupled with Detroit's acquisition of Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, have White Sox fans concerned, judging by the mailbag e-mails coming in this past week.
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Remember how the Tigers were a Central cinch in 2007 after adding Gary Sheffield to the defending AL champs' lineup? The same held true for the White Sox in 2006, adding Jim Thome and Javier Vazquez to the potent attack already possessed by the defending World Series champs. Neither team reached the postseason.
Williams also hasn't finished revamping this team, with the upcoming season not decided in December, as far as I recall.
Why does it seem we have so much trouble developing middle infielders in our farm system? We seem to have much better outfielders come out of our system (Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Lee, Rowand, Chris Young).
-- Troy, Wadsworth, Ill.
I'm not sure if there's an exact reason, aside from the fact that the middle infielders the White Sox have targeted simply haven't progressed as they planned. Take Robert Valido, as an example.
It was just a few Spring Trainings back when manager Ozzie Guillen was raving about Valido, as Valido was coming off a 2005 season with Class A Winston-Salem in which he picked up 52 stolen bases and hit .288. He was projected as a contributor to the Major League team in 2007 and a possible starter at shortstop in 2008.
Instead, the 22-year-old Valido was back at Winston-Salem for part of a third straight year and the White Sox were left to decide Juan Uribe's fate once again. If you need a middle infield name to watch for the future, Troy, check out Chris Getz. He has moved himself into utility role consideration for the White Sox, possibly by some time next season.
What are the odds of Kenny bringing in a low-cost, quality back-up for Danny Richar, such as Marcus Giles? I love Richar and understand that he could be the future of the organization at second base, but his 2007 numbers were unimpressive despite showing a great deal of promise. Giles is still relatively young, and his mediocre 2007 stats are due in large part to the fact that he played in a terrible hitter's ballpark.
-- R.C., Lake Forest, Ill.
I have not heard Giles' name mentioned once and really haven't heard much talk at all concerning the White Sox adding a veteran infielder. Unless a trade happens, the White Sox have a quality backup in place in Uribe, and a healthy Pablo Ozuna also could get some infield work.
Devin Hester has said that former two-sport star Deion Sanders is his idol. Maybe the White Sox should sign him to hit leadoff and play center field.
-- Brett, Griffith, Ind.
Well, Hester won't have much to do in another three weeks except to enjoy the offseason, so maybe the White Sox could make a few inquiries. If opposing NFL kickoffs are any indication, hitters will purposely hit White Sox pitches to left or right in order to avoid Hester.
In all seriousness, Hester stands out as such a highly-charged and entertaining athlete that he probably could succeed in baseball. Hester will be sticking with kick and punt returns and learning the wide receiver position for the foreseeable future.
With the pitching rotation still questionable, why hasn't Charlie Haeger or Nick Masset been given any consideration for the rotation?
-- Brandon, Romeoville, Ill.
As of now, the White Sox seem sold on John Danks and Floyd as the final two starters in the rotation based on their 2007 performances. Floyd also is out of options, so the fifth starter's job is his to lose. If one of those two starters seriously falters, both Masset and Haeger would be back in competition, but I think pitchers such as Gio Gonzalez, Jack Egbert and Lance Broadway have jumped Masset and Haeger in the pecking order.
Haeger and Masset could compete for relief work, although the front six in the bullpen looks to be fairly well set barring a trade. This duo has slipped a bit in the organization after both were unable to take advantage of their respective big league opportunities last season.
I heard that Miguel Olivo was let go by the Marlins, so what are the chances that Kenny brings him back as our back-up catcher. I know we still have Toby Hall, but he was one of my favorite players before we traded him for Garcia.
-- Lawrence, Indianapolis
Joe Frisaro, MLB.com's beat writer covering the Marlins, said the team will release Olivo this week, as they planned to non-tender the catcher. Olivo certainly was a good guy to cover, along with featuring an immense amount of talent, involving a laser-like throwing arm, 20-home run potential and very good speed for a catcher. But don't expect Olivo back with the White Sox any time soon.
The main priority for White Sox catchers, as dictated by the team, is handling the pitching staff, and Olivo and the White Sox starters didn't always seem to be on the same page when he was the starting backstop. It's not that there wasn't a rapport there, but suffice it to say the White Sox are set with A.J. Pierzynski and Hall.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.