12/04/09 12:00 AM EST
Leadoff, relief questions pressing for Sox
If team desires, Jenks could be hot trade commodity
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Leadoff man: Scott Podsednik, who arguably became as valuable of an offensive presence as anyone on the team in 2009, continues to look for a multi-year deal, but the White Sox are not biting. The questions remain as to whether Podsednik will find that multi-year deal or will the White Sox have moved on if he doesn't and decides to reconsider? The South Siders could turn to Gordon Beckham at the top of the order but would rather not put that sort of pressure on the second-year player.
Left-handed reliever: Five veteran hurlers are in place for what figures to be a seven-man bullpen, but Matt Thornton serves as the only southpaw. Manager Ozzie Guillen likes to mix and match in the late innings, so finding a second left-hander would be important. Randy Williams, the 34-year-old left-hander with 63 games of Major League experience, impressed the White Sox with his increased velocity from Spring Training during his 25-game, late-season stint last year, but he also allowed 28 baserunners over 17 2/3 innings.
Backup catcher: Tyler Flowers stands as the catcher-in-waiting behind the ultra-durable A.J. Pierzynski, but the White Sox still might prefer to have the 23-year-old continue to sharpen the defensive side of his game on an everyday basis with Triple-A Charlotte. The team is looking for a right-handed-hitting backstop, whose first priorities are game-calling and handling a top-notch starting rotation.
Who they can or need to trade
Closer Bobby Jenks: General manager Ken Williams said he's not actively shopping the burly right-hander, who ranks third on the franchise's all-time saves list with 146. But despite what was considered a down year by Jenks' standards, with 29 saves and a 3.71 ERA, he still holds as much trade potential as anyone on the roster. As an arbitration-eligible pitcher, Jenks also figures to get a bump from the $5.6 million he earned last season.
1B Paul Konerko: The White Sox captain possesses a value on this team far beyond and even greater than his ongoing steady contributions on the field. He's a fan favorite and a leader in the clubhouse, through the way he carries himself as a professional and just the way he prepares for a game. Konerko also has full no-trade veto power but is in the final season of his five-year, $60 million deal. He probably wouldn't block a potential move if it benefited the White Sox and sent him to another contender.
INF/OF Brent Lillibridge: Although the fleet-footed 26-year-old has loads of to-date untapped ability, there doesn't seem to be a spot on the roster for him -- definitely in '10 and possibly beyond. He might benefit from a change of scenery.
OF Jordan Danks, RHP Daniel Hudson, C Tyler Flowers, 3B Dayan Viciedo, OF Jared Mitchell, 3B Brent Morel. Williams has proven time-and-time again how he's not afraid to ship out a top young player or two in order to greatly enhance the White Sox chances to win in the present. See last year's Jake Peavy deal with San Diego as an example. But Williams has focused more on building a mix of both raw and experienced talent on his roster over the past few years.
Big contracts they might unload
Jenks, RHP Tony Pena, RHP D.J. Carrasco, LHP John Danks, OF Carlos Quentin, 3B Mark Teahen.
Approximately $75 million already has been committed to 14 players on the White Sox roster, and that total doesn't include the six arbitration-eligible players. Include them, and that should bring the White Sox to their payroll target in the mid-90 millions, much like last year, without any further additions. Williams admitted the White Sox are in a budgetary-induced holding pattern, but the team has found creative ways in the past to add on when spending big wasn't an option.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.