The Chicago White Sox lost 99 games last year and according to most projections, will not be very good this year either. Most projections I have seen have them coming in with about 88 losses this season. That being the case, it seems to me that the White Sox best course of action at this point is to go young, stay young and build the next good White Sox team. But…they won’t.
Why? Because teams and managers get hung up on veterans. Experienced players are more trusted and are more of a known entity. Managers like Robin Ventura, a former player, would naturally side with regulars from the past. Ventura himself hung on for years after his best days were gone and that becomes part of the fabric of how things work.
The thing is, you can lose with the veterans or you can lose with the youth. Either way, you lose. So you have to go deeper than that and determine the benefits of either. Let’s weigh them out.
Losing with veterans: Fans are familiar with the players and have some contextual feelings of rooting for the familiar. Is this going to make enough fans happy to reverse recent attendance losses? Not really. Keep young players in the minors long enough to delay their clocks and maintain their rights longer. Does this really work?
What if the latest research is right in that a ball player’s peak isn’t 28 like previously believed, but rather 24? Aren’t you risking leaving some of the player’s best time in the minors by delaying them?
I suppose you could also add that young players cannot get discouraged by failing in their early years in the Majors. Do you buy that? I don’t.
Losing with youth: The young learn in the Majors and with live game experiences. They get used to playing together as a unit and build in unity and develop into a unit that can learn how to win together.
If you go with young, you need some veterans around to help, right? Sure. One or two maybe. Teaching young players how to handled themselves in the big leagues does help. But do you need a bunch of also-rans who cannot win for you to teach that? I don’t think so.
All that said, if I ran the White Sox, this is what I would do. First, I would ditch or try to trade Adam Dunn and Jeff Keppinger. Both players provide little or no value and in both cases, hold up roster spots for the young guys. Dunn has hit 75 homers combined over the last two seasons. Great. But he has been worth 0.9 rWAR in that time. Big deal.
Dunn became moot with the signing of Jose Abreu. How many lumbering 1B/DH types do you need on one team? He is also in the last year of his contract. Jettison him to Seattle or just dump him. What difference does it make?
Jeff Keppinger is signed through 2015. Egads! That was a bad signing. Keppinger has not had an on-base percentage over .300 in two of his last three seasons. He was worth -2.0 rWAR last year. His shoulder is toast and it shows this spring. He will not an cannot help the White Sox. Why hold back a roster spot for that? Cut your losses and DFA him.
Trade Alexei Ramirez. Ramirez is still a decent player. He was the eighth best shortstop in baseball last season. There is value in that. But again, the White Sox are not going to win. Ramirez is 31 and at a peak in value for other teams desperate for a shortstop. The Tigers come to mind. Trade him for something that can help down the road.
If I ran the White Sox, Matt Davidson would platoon with Conor Gillaspie and rotate in the DH position with Paul Konerko (who needs to play and be celebrated in this his last season). Install Marcus Semien at short and see if he is your guy and if not, then move on to Tim Anderson in 2015 if Semien doesn’t cut it.
I thought it very discouraging to see the team send down left-handed starter, Eric Surcamp. He misses bats and he does not walk people. No, his two cups of coffee with the Giants did not work out well, but the guy can win in the Majors. Does anyone really think John Danks is going to turn it around any time soon? I don’t. Surcamp is 25-years-old. Another stint in the minors is unnecessary.
The depth charts do list Erik Johnson as part of the rotation. That is good at least. It is definitely time to see what he can do.
The White Sox are not going anywhere either way. So why not go young and get these guys Major League experience, let them grow together and build something that can make the White Sox relevant two or three years from now? And for the fan experiences, it sure seems better than watching Adam Dunn and Jeff Keppinger grow old.