The Tribune's White Sox beat writer answers reader questions throughout the season. This week, there's talk about trades, the off-season, and how the Sox can get back in the race this season.
Mark: I realize Iguchi is a rental player for the Phillies, but is a Single A pitcher fair value for a starting second baseman? --David Czurak, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Consider that the Sox saved about $1 million by moving Iguchi, so let's see what happens in the off-season as to how they invest money in players.
Mark, I know (Danny) Richar is getting a long look at 2B, but do the Sox still view him as their future SS? If so, I would love to see them go after Luis Castillo this off-season at 2B. -- Joe, Chicago
Manager Ozzie Guillen prefers to keep Richar at second, where he looks comfortable and not overmatched. I don't blame you for wanting Castillo, but the Mets could make a strong push to keep him past this season.
What do you think the chances are that the White Sox would go after Eric Byrnes in the off-season? He can play anywhere in the outfield (has 8 assists), hit for home runs (about 20+ a year) and steals bases at a high success rate (85 percent over the last two years). I think he can provide the energy that we have been missing since Aaron Rowand left. Do you think the White Sox would throw some money at him this off-season (he is making less than $5 million in his walk year)? -- Herman Rojas, El Paso, Texas
Eric Byrnes has grown on me this year as a player. He gets results, although I can go without the unnecessary antics at times. If he doesn't seek Gary Matthews Jr.-type money, then I'm all for making a push toward him. But from what I've been told by a Diamondbacks beat writer, he's looking for a big raise.
Mark, Living in Texas, I don't watch many games anymore (even with my MLB package on DirecTV), but I do watch every box score. The most alarming thing I've seen are the string of 0.0, 0.1, 0.2 innings pitched by our relievers. Even back at the beginning of the year, when Kenny's deals were smelling sweet while Aardsma was racking up big strikeouts, Ozzie's use of the bullpen was quick in and quick out. I've not seen Ozzie or Coop's handling of the bullpen questioned. How does a pitcher get into a rhythm or feel ownership of an inning or game when they see such little of it? -- Trent, Frisco, Texas
Trent, it's a matter of trust. Ozzie managed the pitching staff in New York and Detroit as if each game were the seventh game of the World Series, and it paid off with a 4-2 mark. Right now, I'd say Bukvich and Wassermann are the closest to regaining the trust of pitching more than one out (with the exception of Jenks).
Why does Kenny keep trading for Class A pitchers? The Sox farm system is weak at just about every position and could use some reinforcements there, don't you think? -- Erik, Evanston
Erik, especially catching, but no one wants to give up catching. I suspect that Kenny could move one of the young pitchers (Sisco?) if it means helping land a valuable position player. In that scenario, one of the young pitchers acquired could stand a better change to move up. I'm told that Link, the pitcher acquired from San Diego, has a pretty good slider and made progress this year. But he's 23 and still in Class-A.
Mark, I'm not sold on Jerry Owens yet. Has Walk talked to him about going the other way? He grounds out to 2nd base more than he should. -- Bill, Fox River Grove
I agree with you on the grounders to second. But he's made some pretty good strides in his second stint this season, so there's no reason why he shouldn't improve on that.
Mark, what is Kenny thinking not trading Dye? I realize the Red Sox offer wasn't great with Pena and Craig Hansen, but Hansen has good upside and a chance to be a good reliever. Instead of this, we're gonna lose Dye, get picks that we won't see for 3-4 years. Also, get Ryan Sweeney some at bats, seems likely that he gets a spot on the team if Dye isn't brought back right? He seems to be getting rated as a top 60 major league prospect with great potential, he looked solid when he first good a look. So I ask WHY BRING DYE BACK? -- Dan, Chicago
Why would Boston give up Hansen so soon? I know they have Papelbon and Gagne, but I wonder. Pena could be Glenallen Hill, at best. Sweeney is out with a wrist injury that could bench him through this month. Ryan is only 22 and has minor league options, so everyone should keep that in mind. Signing Dye for no more than two years might be a good deal for both sides.
Please, don't tell me Aaron Rowand has more home runs and RBIs than Jim Thome. Is there a reason the White Sox can't make a trade with anybody outside Philly? -- Chuck, Orlando
Is there any heat from Reinsdorf being placed on Kenny Williams? He has had a horrible year as most of his recent trades have been busts. For the first time, I've lost faith in Williams and I'm terrified to think what he's going to do this winter. Is his job safe? -- Mike Krenski, Orland Park
Kenny's job is safe, and he's made several trades with Arizona as well as Philadelphia. But it looks like the player development department will be under scrutiny after changes in the amateur scouting department were made.
If Jose Contreras does not return as one of the starters and the other four remain the same who in your opinion is the leading candidate within the present system to break into the #5 spot? -- Dan Bowman, Marlette, Mich.
Dan, great question. We kept hearing last winter how it was Gavin Floyd's job to lose, and he lost it. He looked solid last Sunday and will be out of options next spring, so you have to think that he's got the inside track again. But don't rule out Gio Gonzalez.
What kind of fit do you think Corey Patterson would be with the Sox this offseason? He is still young, has a great glove, speed, and, although a streaky hitter, seems to be starting to come into his own. Thanks for the great work. -- Robert Muller, Juneau, Alaska
Robert, thanks for the kind words. I don't think Corey Patterson is the answer. He shows signs of brilliance, especially against the Sox. But I want to see better results.
The last few times I've watched Contreras pitch, the broadcasters always seem to mention that he is dropping his arm down and throwing more sidearm instead of over the top. Is this a possible sign of a tired arm or just Contreras believing it's more effective on the hitters? -- Jeff M., Peoria
Mark: I understand that Contreras' real age is somewhere between 48 and 65, but last year at this time we were celebrating his string of victories. How does a pitcher deteriorate so quickly? Can he still be sent down to Charlotte to get himself back on track? -- Garey, Urbanna, Va.
Since his velocity has dropped, Jose has tried to get batters out more on finesse. As for Jose's age, I got a stern call from his agent about Jose's birthdate (Dec. 6, 1971) and what his "alleged" age was. The agent added that the Yankees, who signed Jose to his first contract, were very thorough about finding out true ages. Jose's next start could tell a lot about his future and whether an extended break was essential.
What are the chances of the White Sox obtaining Torii Hunter and/or Johan Santana this off-season? Both of them seem like they want out of Minnesota. -- Joe, Naperville
I think the Sox will look into the possibility of signing Torii Hunter, but having a large chunk of their money tied up in other areas makes it difficult to land him. But he's worth a look.
Hey Mark, thanks for a great column. For the fans who continue to complain about management not spending enough money to field a competitive team, I'd like to point out that the White Sox have the fourth highest payroll in all of MLB and they have made huge efforts to re-sign fan favorites such as Mark Buehrle and Paul Konerko over the last two years. For those who are complaining about ticket prices and the cost of beer at the Cell, try attending a Yankees game for less than $100 a person. -- Jon, New York, N.Y.
Jon, those 2009 All-Star Game caps look pretty sharp. But I didn't check to see how much they cost.
Hi Mark, I was checking out Jack Egbert's stats in Double-A. His ERA is 2.57 with a 11-7 record. He has given up only 2 HRs, and has a WHIP of 1.07. Do the Sox have Egbert in their plans? I have not heard too many people talking about his potential. -- Peter Everham, Bartlett
Egbert finds a way to get batters out. There's something to be said for guys who earn victories. Egbert has pretty good sink on his pitches, which could work well at U.S. Cellular Field. He's projected as a No. 5 starter/reliever.
I don't understand letting Molina go on waivers. Wouldn't it make more sense to rid themselves of the curse of Erstad? Did KW really think "Erstie" and "Pods" could be a healthy duo at the top of the order? If so he is more delusional than I thought. -- Mel Fleeman, Alhambra, Cal.
Kenny's terse comments about why Molina was placed and claimed on waivers tell me there was more than just getting passed up on the depth chart.
Mark, Ozzie is always talking about wanting more speed in the lineup. But in many cases he bunts over his speed guys to second base instead of letting them steal. Or they would have the base stolen but the #2 hitter would follow the ancient "protect the runner" rule and foul off the pitch. What gives? -- Eric, Hoffman Estates
There aren't many blazers in the lineup, with the exception of Owens. Fields has stolen a few bases in the minors but isn't a blazer. Richar moves very well but is more of a hitter than a speedster.
How similar do you think the 2006 Indians are to the 2007 White Sox? While I find the Sox losing to be as aggravating as everyone else, the stat about the number of games the bullpen has blown (16 as of a few weeks ago) suggests to me that a few quality relievers (either through internal maturity or veteran signings) would have the Sox right in the thick of things, even with an underachieving shortstop, two starting outfielders who have been injured a lot, etc. And while I'm asking about the bullpen, what do you think Aardsma's problem is? Did people figure him out after the first month or does he have trouble dealing with the stress of expectation? -- Andrew, St. Louis
There are parallels between the bullpens, but I don't see anyone in the Sox's lineup having a year similar to what Travis Hafner had before getting hurt. Aardsma has been an enigma. It looks like things are clicking well at Triple-A Charlotte, and he should get another look in September.
Hi Mark, what's with Phil Cuzzi still umpiring MLB games? This guy seems thin-skinned because he's a lousy ump and has a quick thumb to boot. Once this guy stops umping games he's going to end up in jail somewhere because of a case of road rage. So how long does the league condone bad umps? -- Dan, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
Dan, when Sandy Alderson left Major League Baseball's central office to join San Diego's front office, it was a huge loss for the accountability of umpires. I think Mike Port, his replacement, is dependable but doesn't have Sandy's edge in this role.
Mark: With an open spot in the rotation, Floyd pitching terrible, and Haeger moved back down, why don't we try Lance Broadway or Heath Phillips? -- Josh, Naperville
Broadway walks too many guys but is getting more comfortable with a two-seam fastball. Phillips will get a shot somewhere, but I don't think it will be with the Sox.
Who do you think are gonna be the September call-ups? We're allowed to bring five guys up, correct? I see Sweeney, Anderson, Masset, Aardsma and Gio Gonzalez getting called up. Who do you think? -- Isaiah, Chicago
Isaiah, teams can fill their rosters up to 40 players in September. Arizona carried 38 players during September of 2001. I thought they were going to carry a taxi squad as well. If Sweeney is healthy, he will get the nod. Masset, Aardsma and maybe Sisco will get called up. Anderson's wrist injury will probably sideline him until the winter. I'd also expect a catcher to get called up. There's room on the 40-man roster to elevate Gio Gonzalez and Adam Russell.
Hello Mark. Do you think someone could talk Contreras into slugging it out with A.J. in the dugout on TV, and Ozzie to have a base-tossing tirade a few days later? It seemed to work out for both Zambrano and the Cubs. They've been winning ever since. -- Tyson Shroyer, Peoria
Tyson, I thought you were going to mention Phil Cuzzi somewhere in there. Anyway, A.J. has an iron jaw, as Michael Barrett found out.
I think the Sox should try to move (trade) Thome and make Dye the DH for '08 -- let the younger, faster guys play OF, And replace the oft-injured, no-defense, basepath-plodding Thome with a rejuvenated JD. -- Dennis Enrietta, Coal City
Funny you mention that, Dennis. Thome thinks he can out-run Dye on the basepaths.
Since Johan Santana has basically given the Twins notice, do you think there is a snowball's chance on South Beach that he could end up with the Sox? -- Mike, Florida
I can't see it, but money talks.
Mark: Since chances are that Uribe's option won't be picked up, and the White Sox would like a guy that can hit for average and steal bases. What about Jason Bourgeois in Triple-A? He's hitting .295, 10 doubles, 3 triples, 4 home runs, 25 RBIs AND 15 STOLEN BASES in just 51 games. He seems like a guy who could hit .270 and steal 35 bases over the course of a season, any chance the White Sox consider him at shortstop or is Kenny gonna go after a proven hitter? -- Danny Granger, Chicago
Mark, any leads on who are shortstop may be next season? Please tell me there's no chance that Juan Uribe's option gets picked up -- Kevin, Chicago
Mark, Now that the season is in evaluation mode for next year, will we get a chance to see Andy Gonzalez get some time to play his natural position at shortstop? -- John Jaroch, Madison, Wis.
Bourgeois has bounced around the minors and has found a niche as a utility player. But I'm not sure he's in the Sox's plans. I see the Sox exploring an upgrade at shortstop. But I like Juan Uribe's personality, which will be missed severely in the clubhouse if he doesn't return. Funny that everyone would like to see Andy play more short. Kenny had a meltdown in spring training after Andy struggled in a B game. I'd like to see Andy play more short, but he's been needed at other positions until recently.
Hi Mark: What do you see in the future for Ehren Wassermann? I was surprised that Ozzie let him close the Tigers game on Aug. 3 rather than Jenks. Also, will you please ask the powers that be at the Sox to get a picture of Ehren posted with his player info? I collect pictures of ALL the players. -- Virginia Sexton, Downers Grove
I can't help you on the photo, but Wassermann just has to continue to throw strikes and he'll stay on the manager's good side.
Hey, Call me the eternal optimist, but are the Sox working within distance of a possible playoff run? The Tigers are reminding me of last year's Sox, the Twins haven't made their patented late season run (yet) and we've got quite a few games with Cleveland left. What say you? -- Steve, Zachary, La.
Here come the Twins. I thought they were about to be done, but shame on me. Terry Ryan proves why he and his scouts are among the best in the business. The Sox will have a say in who wins the AL Central and have shown they have the ability to mess with Cleveland and Detroit, which closes the season with three games at U.S. Cellular Field. After a trip to Oakland and Seattle, the Sox's travel schedule is very favorable. But they need to do more than win series (and are better off sweeping) to have any chance of making a dent in the AL Central.
Mark, As I write this, the Sox have just won 4 in a row and are only 10 out. With that stated, how in the %#@ can Williams trade Iguchi for a Class A player? Also, play the kids. Why are Contreras, Dye and Erstad still on this team? -- Michael Klempin Jr., West Frankfort
In the case of Contreras, it's a $20 million question. Dye has hit 10 homers since the All-Star break, and Erstad can play all three outfield positions as well as first. After Aug. 13, the Sox will play 20 consecutive games without an off-day.
I have often read that Nick Masset is a starter masquerading as a reliever, but how do people tell about that? I can understand the opposite where a starter would be a better reliever because of a variety of factors (the chance to pitch every day so they have to focus, the lack of a dominant 3rd and 4th pitch, lacking the durability to go deep into games) but when watching a pitcher, what makes it obvious that a pitcher who is a current reliever would make a better starter? Is it strictly a mental makeup? While I understand that every starter would not adjust to the pressure of closing games like John Smoltz, it seems that the ability to focus on 3 or 4 guys and not have to worry about pacing yourself and going through a line up three times would make every pitcher more effective as a reliever than as a starter. -- Jim, Ithaca, N.Y.
In the case of Masset, he was used like a Rule 5 player whom a drafted team didn't want to lose. He should have pitched more, and the grand slam to Morneau changed his season. Masset has been a starter for most of his professional career, and it could be a comfort factor with him. He was thoroughly scouted by some of the Sox's top scouts in both roles. I still see him helping the Sox in some role next year and being much, much more effective than this year.
Mark, just read where the Sox claimed Miguel Tejada off waivers, but could not agree on a trade so the deal was not made. -- Tony A, Bolingbrook
It's fairly common for teams to claim players on waivers. They run the risk of picking up the entire balance of the contract, but teams usually try to work out some form of compensation. But these deals are tough to finalize. It's why Arizona had an easier time picking up the likes of Jeff Cirillo, Byung-Hyun Kim and Joe Kennedy on waivers because their previous teams were willing to give up those salaries without compensation.
How many double plays has Paul Konerko hit into this year? How does his ratio of GDIPs to RBIs compare with other power hitters in the AL? -- John Dyckman, Albany, Cal.
John, great to hear from someone from the East Bay. Konerko has grounded into a team-leading 16 double plays, one more than Jermaine Dye and A.J. Pierzynski. Manny Ramirez and Aaron Hill lead the league with 17, while Kenji Johjima has 16 GIDPs. David Ortiz has 13, A-Rod 11, Jeter 14, Victor Martinez 13 and Magglio 12.
Hi Mark: Listen, I gave you a hard time about writing that the Sox season was lost earlier on than I wanted to believe and then had to concede you were probably right. Well I am here to inform you that a sweep of Cleveland might change the AL playoff landscape. If my Sox can sweep the Indians, and beating Sabathia won't be easy, but if they pull it off they will have a record of 55-59 and be seven games back of Cleveland. If the Sox can somehow win 39 of their last 48 games after playing Cleveland they will have won 94 games and be right in the thick for a playoff spot and maybe even have a shot at winning the AL Central. After the Twins and Tigers did us dirty last year, I would love to return the favor this year to the rest of the Division. The thing is Mark I really want to know if Ozzie is pushing his guys to play this series like it's the playoffs. I really feel if the whole team leaves it all on the field these next three games the whole season could turn around. Please get the word out to Ozzie to push these guys to put the pedal to the metal. -- Tom Pappalardo Chicago
You got it.