Editor’s note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason of every MLB team before spring training begins in mid-February. Our series continues with the Chicago White Sox.
2008 record: 89-74
Finish: Won the AL Central in a one-game playoff with Twins, lost to Rays in division series
2008 opening-day payroll: $121 million
2009 estimated opening-day payroll: $100 million
The winter started with observations from rival general managers that Kenny Williams either was aggressively shopping or willing to move (depending on the source) many of the big contracts on his roster.
Some were easy to avoid. Ken Griffey Jr.'s $16 million option was declined.
Nick Swisher batted .219 (and .225 with runners in scoring position) in his first season away from Oakland and was due at least $22 million over the next three seasons. He was traded to the Yankees, who at the time didn't know they'd have Mark Teixeira as their first baseman. Now, of course, the Yankees wouldn't mind disposing of Swisher themselves.
Javier Vazquez is a fair enough pitcher who almost never misses a start and has good stuff. But he's had one winning season in his last four and didn't quite live up to Ozzie Guillen's view of the big-game pitcher, a spectacle that, by last September, became difficult to watch. The White Sox will save $23 million by having Vazquez pitch in Atlanta for the next two years. Bartolo Colon, older, much cheaper, not as good and coming off serious back problems, has a chance to take Vazquez's place.
And there's been an awful lot of conversation about Jermaine Dye's availability, enough to assume he indeed could be had. He'll earn $11.5 million in '09.
Through this process, the White Sox have become much younger, if not necessarily – or immediately – better. Vazquez (and lefty Boone Logan) brought four young players, including well-regarded catcher Tyler Flowers, from the Braves. Swisher brought a couple of young right-handers (and the now well-traveled Wilson Betemit) from the Yankees.
The most intriguing part of their offseason was the $10 million signing of Cuban third baseman Dayan Viciedo, who will turn 20 in early March. Viciedo, who carries 246 puffy pounds on a 6-foot-1 frame, could compete for jobs at third and in the outfield because many scouts believe he is a big-league hitter right now. History says there'll be an adjustment phase for Viciedo, even with fellow Cubans Jose Contreras and Alexei Ramirez around.
It doesn't look like the White Sox got any better.
For one, Vazquez might never be what he promised to be coming out of Montreal, but there's something to a guy who takes the ball. And now the White Sox will follow Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd and John Danks with, well, take your pick from Colon, sinkerballer Jeff Marquez (from the Swisher trade), Lance Broadway and lefties Clayton Richard and Aaron Poreda. Contreras, working back from the Achilles' injury, won't be back until the All-Star break, at best.
The Vazquez trade probably works out fine for the White Sox. Just, maybe, not today.
Then, the every-day lineup could be viewed as a wonderful blend of veteran and youth. You also could argue there are only a couple of – if any – players in their primes (depending on your definition), leading to the kind of offensive inconsistencies the White Sox endured last season.
The White Sox have ridden Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, Jim Thome and Dye into their 30s, the last two well into their 30s. Now they're trying to give jobs to Ramirez, Viciedo, Josh Fields, Jerry Owens, Brian Anderson, Chris Getz, Jayson Nix, Brent Lillibridge, etc.
There's plenty of bat here, particularly for a club that led the world in home runs (235) last season. Carlos Quentin returns from his wrist fracture. Ramirez returns from a superb rookie season, now to play shortstop. Fields (knee) and Owens (groin) should be healthy. And there's still hope to add a second baseman, perhaps Brian Roberts from the Orioles.
It's not bad. It's certainly enough to hang near the top of the division, if the back end of the rotation amounts to anything. It's just not better, which is why you get the idea Williams isn't quite done here.
Next: San Francisco Giants