Where Do We Go From Here?

I never got around to posting a South Side Sox Official Off-Season Plan this year mainly for two reasons. One, I couldn't really see the White Sox being players in the free agent market. And Two, any plan I would have come up with simply would have been a collection of guidelines on what not to do.

It almost goes without saying that trading Nick Swisher would have violated our rule #1, Don't Sell Low on Swisher/Konerko/Vazquez.

I'm appalled by the reasoning used by some to defend the Swisher deal; the idea that Kenny Williams (and his scouts) have come out on top of other deals so we should just assume that they'll eventually end up smelling like roses on this one, the idea that Jeff Marquez is two bullpen sessions and a Don Cooper cutter away from turning into a mid-rotation starter. It requires a dizzying form of circular logic which I (thankfully) lack.

Maybe Marquez gives the Sox years of league average work from the rotation all for a below market price tag. Maybe Wilson Betemit takes over at third base full time. Maybe Jhonny Nunez becomes an integral part of the Sox bullpen. But none of that will change the fact that the Sox turned 3 of their top 5 prospects in '07 into two years of a below average defensive utility man with an OBP below .300 in the AL and two prospects who couldn't crack the Sox current top 10 (according to Baseball America). The Sox return for Swisher, and thus the '07 prospects, was inadequate. Period.

If Williams and company were as smart as some are making him out to be, then they should have been able to pry away the utility player and two mid-to-low level prospects for similar package of scraps, but scraps the super-smart Sox scouting staff was positive wouldn't amount to anything in the future. The Sox get their guys and still have Swisher, who can be held onto, or, with patience, dealt for a more palatable higher-upside return.

Back to the point, though I suspect that ripping on the Swisher deal will become a recurring theme around here, what happens now that the Sox have dispatched The Awesome? Jim asks essentially the same question, though he wants to know what happens to The Swagger.

* * * * *

With the acquisition of Betemit, the White Sox entire infield appears set. Konerko will hold down first, obviously, and Ramirez has been handed the shortstop job. That leaves four players (Chris Getz, Jayson Nix, Betemit, and Josh Fields) to compete for (probably) 3 spots; though Betemit is assured of a job, his role is undetermined. As I see it right now, Betemit will be the primary back-up at every infield position, with the opportunity to beat out Josh Fields and play everyday at 3B. Getz has the inside track to the 2B job, where the loser figures to be sent to the minors.

The Betemit acquisition has all but ended Juan Uribe's career on the south side, and although a similar move has yet to be made at back-up catcher with each passing day it appears more likely to be Cole Armstrong's job. Initially, I didn't think the Sox buyout of Toby Hall meant anything more than they didn't want to pay him $2+M for his pieing capabilities, but after the Swisher trade I think the Sox might be looking to purge a large part of their non-Pierzynski goofball demographic. Armstrong appears to be a late bloomer, and impressed in the Arizona Fall League, hitting 7 homers and nearly matching his '08 regular season total.

But Armstrong is a left-handed hitter who posted a .290 OBP against LHP in the minors and has not displayed any patience at the plate. He hardly seems like a compliment to Pierzynski's skill set. But unless the Sox can get Henry Blanco to sign a 1-year deal on the cheap, the job appears to be Armstrong's.

Swisher's departure is felt most in the outfield, where the Sox hope to deploy a true center fielder next year. Right now, that would probably mean Jerry Owens (whose groin was the Sox '08 MVP). Thankfully we've got a few months before spring training opens. Carlos Quentin isn't going anywhere, and the Swisher trade makes a Jermaine Dye deal seem much more unlikely. Unless the Sox make an unexpected splash at free agency, or ship out a valuable arm for an outfielder, any deal that included Dye would have to bring an outfielder in return, and thus wouldn't make much sense for either party.

In the rotation, Javier Vazquez seems like the only player with a chance to change uniforms. Plenty of teams might be interested, but a market won't develop until after CC Sabathia, Derek Lowe, AJ Burnett, and Jake Peavy have all found new homes. Bobby Jenks may represent Williams most valuable trade chit, but the Mets have backed off interest citing his declining strikeout rate; and like the Vazquez situation, most teams will want to wait until the top free agent options (Fuentes and K-Rod) have been exhausted).

All of which is a way of me saying, I'm bored and had to write something, why not a little stream-of-consciousness on the Sox situation?

And... Where the heck is the Dayan Viciedo News?

He was supposed to be signed last weekend, for sure by Monday. But here it is Thursday, and I haven't seen anything about his workouts--not a single leak hit a major newspaper--or any real updates on the teams interested in pursuing him. The most recent thing I can find is a blurb from the East Valley Tribune (AZ) which states "some believe he will get a contract similar to the four-year, $4.75 million deal [Alexei] Ramirez signed last year." But even that seems more like a guess than an informed opinion.

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