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Sizing Up the New Sox Roster

by Pascal Marco

Let me preface this Winter Report on the off-season happenings of the 2005 World Champion Chicago White Sox with the caveat that, after the euphoria of last winter where Sox fans (including yours truly) basked in our amazing triumph over all of baseball, it wonít be enough for us in 2007 to merely show up and presume another AL Central Division title will be ours for the taking.

The acquisition of Jim Thome during the winter of 2005-2006 certainly rightfully promoted that belief not only by die-hard Sox fans but also by most national sportswriters. And Thomeís American League Comeback Player of the Year season bolstered Kenny Williamsís position as one of the best GMís in baseball. Unfortunately, the Detroit Tigers had other plans and proved, once again, not only how tough it is to repeat as World Champions but to also repeat as champs in the toughest division in baseball.

But now that the 2006 season is behind us and we understand how fleeting championship seasons can be felt the very next year (just ask the Boston Red Sox), our sights turn at this time to what Mssrs. Williams, Guillen and Reinsdorf, respectively and collectively, have up their sleeves for the upcoming 2007 American League campaign.

GM Williams started it off by dealing veteran pitcher Freddy Garcia, making Manager Guillenís fellow Venezuelan a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. (This move came somewhat as a surprise considering Garciaís close relationship to skipper Guillen both on and off the field. One long-time Sox fan whoís opinion I admire told me, as far as he was concerned, that two, fiery Venezuelan egos on one team was one too many, being happy with the trade and its outcome.)

And the outcome was the Sox receiving righty Gavin Floyd, seven years the erstwhile Garciaís junior at 23 years old. And to sweeten the pot, the Phillies returned lefty pitcher, Gio Gonzalez, originally a Sox draft choice that the Sox had included in the successful Jim Thome trade the previous season.

Thatís why Kenny Williams has come to be known as one of baseballís savviest GMs.

Starting with the Garcia deal this off-season, Williams has dealt three pitchers (Garcia, Brandon McCarthy, and Neil Cottsóall key contributors to the 2005 World Champion season) and one bench player, Ross Gload, receiving no less than ten pitchers in return. Each is younger and many are original first-round draft choices by the respective teams that dealt them, including the aforementioned Floyd.

This writer has been personally observing off-season trades by the Pale Hose for more years than Iíd like to admit and I canít think of winter moves by Sox management with more immediate and long-term potential than these. Conversely, the White Sox have, as of this writing, opted out of making any deals with major impact players available through free agency. If my observation is correct, they are one of only two American League teams (the other being division rivals Minnesota) who decided to forego the temptation to spend multi-millions on what so far has been an active, free agent off-season. Compared to our Cub-bune neighbors on the North Side, the Sox slept through the free agency frenzy while the lovable losers spent nearly 180 million combined on two players alone.

So, what does this all mean for the dedicated South Side baseball fan?

I think it hopefully means the Sox are committed to not settling on their amazing ride in 2005, as some fellow fans wrongfully suggested they might have done once the 2006 season was over. Pitching was a question mark going in the 2006 title defense season and it proved to be our weak link. This Spring Training will see the Sox come to camp with more young pitchers on their roster than any time in recent memory. And, this on top of the fact that the team went into the winter meetings perceived as already being heavy in pitching depth.

At this stage, Iíd have to give the Sox a B- on their winter term report card. The brain trust at 35th and Shields will need to do a little more extra credit work to turn in the A+ report card they deserved when they garnered past acquisitions such as Iguchi, Jenks, Dye, and Thome. We still have needs not yet met (a proven fifth starter) and Toby Hall isnít the only answer, although he will give A.J. some much needed rest which was in scarce supply for Pierzynski in the latter part of our ill-fated 2006 pennant run.

Yet, maybe the surprise of the winter will be the acquisition of Darin Erstad, the Angel veteran not resigned by the losers of the 2005 ALCS. Erstadís contribution to the Halos in 2005 were strong but it turned out to be his last full season since in 2006 he was plagued by ankle problems eventually needing surgery this past off season. I predict he could be the sleeper acquisition, a player given up on much in the same vein as a guy by the name of Dye was a few seasons back.

Only time will tell. Thatís the one thing we all have a lot of on our hands until that first pitch is thrown on Opening Day.

See you at Spring Training.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pascal Marco is a free-lance writer who splits his time between Scottsdale, Arizona (where he formed the Arizona Sox Posse in 2005) and Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.  Born and raised on Chicagoís South Side, he has been a Sox fan since the unforgettable Go-Go White Sox days and has contributed to White Sox fan web sites such as www.whitesoxinteractive.com.  He can be reached at reply85254@aol.com.


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