Throughout January and February, we're reviewing offseason MLB transactions that have fantasy implications, and we're going team-by-team. This
isn't quite has pretty much turned into Hot Stove Daily. The focus here is limited. We're only looking at trying to focus on ownable fantasy players who've found new employers, but it's difficult sometimes.
Over the past three months, the White Sox have behaved as though they're trying to punish those of us who write preseason team reports. They've really had a complicated offseason, full of trades, signings, imports and rumors. There are position battles ahead and moves yet to be made.
In terms of actual winning and losing, none of Chicago's winter transactions will mean much if A) Carlos Quentin is limited by the wrist injury, B) Gavin Floyd and John Danks can't repeat their exceptional '08 performances, and C) Jim Thome and Paul Konerko are truly cooked. Alexei Ramirez will need to be great again, too. And presumptive leadoff hitter Jerry Owens will need to bring that .359 minor league OBP with him to Chicago. And third baseman Josh Fields has to forget that 2008 ever happened.
So there are a few question marks here. But the Sox should again have an excellent bullpen -- Matt Thornton, Octavio Dotel and Scott Linebrink will set-up Bobby Jenks -- and the lineup doesn't lack power. The Sox led the majors in home runs last year (235), and Jermaine Dye hasn't yet been traded. Mark Buehrle remains a useful starter -- he's finished with a sub-4.00 ERA in six of the past eight seasons -- although his strikeout-rate isn't ideal for fantasy purposes (career 5.28 K/9).
The Sox somehow failed to land Bobby Abreu, who signed with the Angels for basically nothin' (one year, $5 million). However, they added at least one piece that should interest the fantasy community...
Dayan Viciedo, signed for four years, $10 million
The White Sox gave the 19-year-old Cuban slugger a $4 million signing bonus, then immediately declared that he was too fat.
The team asked Viciedo to shed at least 10 pounds before spring training. Apparently he was successful. Here's Ozzie Guillen, via the Chicago Sun-Times:
''I got great news about the former fat guy,'' Guillen said with a laugh. ''Now he's a big man. He's a strong, big kid. When I saw him the first time, he was overweight, there's no doubt.
''I talked to Joey Cora, and this kid is going to come to spring training having the big-league club on his mind, and that's good. He says he wants to be on the big-league club. He is going to have all of the opportunities to make the ballclub.''
Few observers question Viciedo's talent. He began playing professionally in Cuba at age 15, and he managed to hit .337 at age 16. He actually made Cuba's provisional roster for the World Baseball Classic back in 2006. Viciedo is currently considered a third baseman, but he really has a DH's girth. If you're in a dynasty league, he should be on the radar right now. He projects as a 30-homer guy and his path to the majors is relatively uncluttered. Like Ozzie says, he'll push to make his White Sox debut this year.
This was certainly not a small risk for the White Sox; they freed up cash through other moves, then handed the money to a teenager.
Wilson Betemit and Jeff Marquez, acquired via trade
Not much to see here, fantasy-wise. Betemit, Marquez and RHP Jhonny Nunez arrived in the Nick Swisher deal. Betemit, 27, is a switch-hitter who will probably spend time at every infield position, but he's not likely to be an everyday player. He's a lifetime .260/.325/.437 hitter who hasn't stolen a base since 2006. Marquez, 24, is a candidate to be the Sox' fifth starter, but his minor league K-rates were very low (3.68 K/9 at Triple-A in '08, 5.34 at Double-A in '07).
Bartolo Colon, signed for one year, $1 million (plus incentives)
The 35-year-old Colon hasn't pitched 100 innings in any season since 2005, when he won the American League Cy Young Award. Still, his velocity hasn't really dipped much (91.9 mph average fastball in '08), and his ratios weren't disastrous in last year's 39 innings (3.92 ERA, 1.38 WHIP). He enters spring training as the Sox' fourth starter. No one needs to consider him in mixed leagues, obviously, but if he gets off to a nice start, he's a brand-name that you can attach to trade offers.
Brent Lillibridge and Tyler Flowers, acquired via trade
Lillibridge, 25, is one of several second base options for the White Sox. His stock plummeted last season when he put up a .220/.294/.344 line in Triple-A, then hit .200/.238/.338 in 80 at-bats with Atlanta. He's speedy, but that won't matter if he can't get on base. Give Chris Getz the edge over Lillibridge and Jayson Nix in the 2B battle. They're all just placeholders for 22-year-old Gordon Beckham anyway.
Flowers, 23, was the key acquisition for the White Sox in the Javier Vazquez deal. In 520 plate appearances in the Carolina League last year, the young catcher put up a .921 OPS with 17 home runs. Someday he'll replace AJ Pierzynski, but that dude won't go quietly.
Two more Sox notes: If you're wondering how Jose Contreras lost all that weight, he has a simple answer for you: "No mas carne." He's reportedly ahead of schedule in his recovery from the Achilles injury. ... LHP Aaron Poreda, 22, has a chance to crack the Sox opening day roster, either as a fifth starter or a spare bullpen arm. He started 15 games at Double-A in '08, and posted nice ratios (2.98 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 7.39 K/9).
Photos via AP