Let's Go Tribe's American League Central Preview: Chicago White Sox

Our look at the Tribe's competition around the American League moves to the Central, beginning with the White Sox, who hope a new addition can make their offense respectable.



Between now and Opening Day, we'll be taking a look at each of the other American League teams, to see what they've done during the offseason, and examine their outlook for 2014.

Find other entries in the series here

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Chicago White Sox

2013 Record: 63-99 (5th in AL Central), 2-17 vs. Cleveland

598 runs scored (15th of 15 in AL), 723 runs allowed (10th of 15 in AL)

Heading into Memorial Day last season, the White Sox were 24-24, but from that point on they lost 75 more games, tied with Houston for the fewest in baseball. They had also gone 2-3 against the Indians during those first 8 weeks of the season, but they lost 14 in a row to the Tribe from June on (which is the Indians' longest winning streak against any team in the expansion era).

Chicago had decent pitching, led by Chris Sale, one of the very best arms in baseball right now. He finished with a league-leading 4 complete games and an ERA+ of 140 for the second year in a row. He also finished 5th in AL CY Young balloting. Jose Quintana and Hector Santiago both had strong seasons too. Jake Peavy was about league average before being traded to Boston near the deadline. The bullpen was solid as well, though it was hampered by the injury suffered by Jesse Crain (who was then traded anyway). Pitching wasn't a problem, but hitting sure was.

The White Sox had 11 players with 200+ plate appearances. Adam Dunn led that bunch with an OPS+ of 103, which means no one on the team was really above average at the plate. Meanwhile, every spot in the infield was well below average. Paul Konerko looked finished as a productive player, batting .244 with only 12 home runs. The catcher position in particular was bleak, as Tyler Flowers, Josh Phegley, and a few others combined for a line of .196/.238/.325 as starters, with 162 strikeouts and just 26 walks. The team scored only 598 runs, making them only the third American League team in the last decade to fall short of 600.

It was an ugly season on Chicago's South Side. Those 99 losses were the most by the White Sox since 1970.

Key offseason additions:

Jose Abreu (1B), Adam Eaton (OF), Felipe Paulino (SP), Ronald Belisario (RP)

Key offseason departures:

Hector Santiago (SP), Gavin Floyd (SP), Addison Reed (RP)

2014 Payroll: ~$90 million

Projected 2014 Starting Lineup (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

C

Tyler Flowers

2

1B

Jose Abreu

2

2B

Gordon Beckham

1

3B

Conor Gillaspie

1

SS

Alexei Ramirez

2

LF

Alejandro De Aza

2

CF

Adam Eaton

2

RF

Avisail Garcia

1

DH

Adam Dunn

0

TOTAL

13

Indian who has killed the White Sox:

Nick Swisher - .307/.408/.636, 1.044 OPS, 15 HR in 206 PA

White Sox who has killed the Indians:

Alejandro De Aza - .324/.415/.526, .941 OPS, 6 HR in 201 PA (there's also Konerko, whose 48 home runs against the Indians are the most by any hitter in the last 50 years)

Projected 2014 Starting Rotation/Bullpen (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

1

Chris Sale

6

2

Jose Quintana

3

3

Erik Johnson

2

4

John Danks

1

5

Felipe Paulino

2

RP

Bullpen

2

TOTAL

16

2014 Outlook:

I really like what the White Sox have done this offseason. The Diamondbacks continues to make moves I dislike, and Chicago took advantage by using Arizona in two separate deals to turn a decent starter (Santiago) and a mediocre closer (Reed) into a good, young center fielder (Eaton) and a solid third-base prospect (Matt Davidson). Signing Abreu for 6 years, $68 million carries some risk, as he's never played in the U.S., but $11.3 million a year would be a bargain if he turns out to be a legitimate slugger.

That said, if those moves pay off, it will mostly benefit the team in another year or two. If Abreu is for real and a couple other guys rebound, I could see the White Sox finishing above .500, but I think it more likely that they win 70-75 games and finish in 4th place. Even that would be a nice step in the right direction, and ownership has shown itself willing to carry a medium-sized payroll, so if those new pieces do work out, they could be a player in free agency in the next couple years, as they shed some existing salary.

PECOTA Projection: 76-86 (4th in AL Central), 685 runs scored, 737 runs allowed

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