White Sox’ band trying to make stand
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org May 26, 2013 8:04PM
Updated: May 26, 2013 10:33PM
The White Sox are playing to keep the band together. Theirs is a cohesive, relaxed and tightknit assemblage of players who like playing and hanging out together.
They don’t want to see this team broken up, and they’re doing their best lately being decent or better, the kind of team they expected to be before they forgot how to hit a cutoff man or cover a base for a perplexing first six weeks of the season.
The more the Sox play like they are in their current 9-3 streak that has brought them to .500 for the first time since April 10 — albeit against the struggling Twins, Angels and Marlins in that time — the better the chances general manager Rick Hahn keeps them around till the end. Having 22 of the next 32 games through June against teams with losing records bodes well for continued momentum, but the fact remains that a lot of big money is pouring out without adequate returns: John Danks’ $65 million extension, Adam Dunn’s $56 million contract and Jeff Keppinger’s $12 million free-agent deal signed this past offseason, for example.
With attendance staying flat despite price reductions in tickets and parking, trimming the $111 million payroll will be more tempting than adding to it, unless the Sox prove to Hahn and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf they’re worth more investment.
Hahn said his scouts are looking for players who can help now, and with Gordon Beckham due back soon from a six-week absence and Danks back in the rotation for the first time this year, Hahn is closer to having the team he envisioned when he signed Keppinger to play third and traded for Conor Gillaspie to balance a right-handed-heavy every-day lineup. Having Beckham will shore up the middle of the defense and add depth and flexibility to manager Robin Ventura’s lineup.
Memorial Day is the first benchmark for sizing up your team, and since three divisions in each league came into play in 1995, about 60 percent of teams leading their divisions or wild-card races on Memorial Day have reached the postseason. If Hahn, in the next month or so, decides the Sox have no shot to catch the Tigers or earn a wild card, he’ll have plenty of players to trade with movable contracts who’d have value to contending teams and would net good prospects or young major-leaguers in return, including Jake Peavy, Jesse Crain, Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez and Matt Thornton:
Peavy: Signed through next year at $14.5 million for each season, he’s pitching like an All-Star (6-2, 2.97 ERA). He would be a huge piece for any contending team’s rotation. Peavy turns 32 on May 31.
Crain: In the last year of a three-year deal paying him $4.5 million, Crain has seen his value climb with 20 consecutive scoreless relief appearances to go along with an ERA of 0.78. He turns 32 on July 5.
Rios: He’s signed for $13 million this year and next with an option for 2015, a contract that was unmovable before he became the Sox’ best every-day player since last season. Fans would hate to see Rios, 32, go, but the sizable return would be tempting.
Ramirez: The shortstop is under contract control through 2016 ($7 million this year, $9.5M next, $10M in 2015, club option for ’16). Consistently one of the top offensive players at his position with range and a strong arm in the field, Ramirez, 31, would net plenty in return.
Thornton: He’s signed at $5.5 million through this season with a club option for next. Power-armed left-handed relievers will be in demand at the deadline. Thornton, 36, is the Sox’ all-time leader in holds and relief appearances.