For White Sox, quiet winter gives way to spring

"Where can I put my stuff?" - Christopher Hanewinckel / USA TODAY Sports

Conservative approach has prognosticators pessimistic, but what else is new?

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training today. Well, catchers not named Hector Gimenez, anyway. He'll be arriving late to Camelback Ranch due to visa issues, which means ...

THE BRYAN ANDERSON STEALTH CAMPAIGN CONTINUES!

It also marks the end of the hot stove season. That doesn't mean the Sox can't add players, because it's not a deadline or anything. It just means we'll have other things to talk about. Over the next six weeks, you'll get all of your favorite hits in a 48-disc collection, including:

  • New Guy Likes It Here
  • He Knows What Went Wrong
  • Pitcher Has A Brand New Pitch (She's A Cutter)
  • Guess Again, Bill Melton
  • Renewed Commitment To Fundamentals
  • Gettin' Work In

And no compilation would be complete without:

  • He's In The Best Shape Of His Life

Still, it's a good time to assess how the Sox spent their last three months. That song could be found on a jazz masters set. It was all about the notes they didn't play, man.

Rick Hahn's first offseason was quite similar to Kenny Williams' last. Williams was a little more active on the trade front, dealing Sergio Santos and Carlos Quentin, but he didn't sign a free agent until landing Kosuke Fukudome on Valentine's Day. Hahn, in contrast, signed a couple of serviceable free agents (Jeff Keppinger and Matt Lindstrom) while making just one minor trade (Blake Tekotte). In either case, both GMs made their biggest headlines by signing a pitcher they already had and letting go of a fan favorite.

Hahn had more incentive to seek upgrades, since his team finished just three games behind the Tigers and he didn't have three careers sitting on death's doorstep. But the free-agent pool didn't suit their needs, and the trade market seemed pretty cool all winter, so there weren't many ways to shake up the roster without forcing it. The Sox chose the most conservative route of the AL Central teams when a splash could have helped.

The result? Not many outsiders are all that excited about the White Sox this year. Neither are the machines, for that matter. Here's how Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA pegs the AL Central:

  1. Detroit: 92-70
  2. Cleveland: 82-80
  3. Chicago: 77-85
  4. Kansas City: 76-86
  5. Minnesota: 66-96

Here's where we note that PECOTA said the Sox would finish with a 78-84 record in 2012. That's par for the course, because PECOTA has undershot the Sox's record by an average of seven wins per season since 2005. Feel free to revise it upward to 84 if you're so inclined. If you want a reason, here's how the system ranks the top three teams by projected runs allowed in 2013:

  1. Detroit: 719
  2. Cleveland: 738
  3. Chicago: 757

Here's how they actually did in 2012:

  1. Detroit: 670
  2. Chicago: 676
  3. Cleveland: 845

And that was before the Indians added Michael Bourn, sooooooo ... yeeeeeeeeeeah.

The Sox exceeded expectations in 2012 because Jake Peavy, Alex Rios and Adam Dunn effectively offered an upgrade over themselves. This year, they're hoping for the same from John Danks and Alexei Ramirez, while giving themselves a chance at non-zero production at third base by signing Keppinger. That's not going to make fans salivate, but it's a legitimate vision -- keeping the product competitive now with an eye toward a much more drastic turnover over 2014-15. Pragmatism doesn't sell, but maybe it should. It's cheaper this year, after all.

One more thing

Thanks for sticking with us through our offseason programming. For those who are rejoining us, welcome back. You missed a lot of good stuff.

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