As the free agent signing season gets under way, the Indians have two glaring holes in their infield…
Expect Upgrades By White Sox, Tigers
It was no surprise that Mark Buehrle won his second consecutive Gold Glove, but the veteran pitcher said it would be disappointing to him if he can't show the award off to teammates A.J. Pierzynski and Paul Konerko come spring training.
Buehrle admits it is possible Konerko and Pierzynski will be gone next season. Both are free agents. As a matter of fact, the lefty hurler didn't like the odds of seeing both of them back in Sox uniforms come the 2011 season.
"My feeling is I think A.J. has a better chance of coming back than Konerko," Buehrle said. "In talking to Konerko and hearing some of the things he's said, I don't know what the deal is with other teams offering him money or if it will be a better situation for his family or what, but I just think A.J. has a better chance of coming back.
"I would love to have both of them back. They were the core of the team. It will be real weird. For (Konerko) to be the face of the team and the captain, to see him in a different uniform would be really weird."
As for his award, Buehrle is considered one of the best defensive players at his position in the AL. He basically locked up the honor for a second consecutive year on Opening Day when he made the play of the year, flipping a ball between his legs that was barehanded by Konerko to retire Indians rookie Lou Marson.
The play was so good that all other stellar plays were compared to it on what ESPN called "The Buehrle Meter."
"It didn't hurt," Buehrle said of that play. "I had people saying all year long that the one play won it. Obviously for me, I don't want it to be that once you win it they keep on handing it to you, don't know anything else, don't look at the stats, they just keep going on previous years. I think I've always done a good job fielding my position, holding runners, everything that's involved in winning a Gold Glove."
As far as Buehrle's future, while he expressed his feelings on possible life without Konerko and Pierzynski beyond 2010, he is a free agent after 2011. So the core from the 2005 World Series could all be gone by next winter.
NOTES, QUOTES: GM Ken Williams faced issues about his regime recently when it was announced that former White Sox senior director of player personnel David Wilder and two former Latin American scouts were indicted on federal fraud charges for allegedly accepting kickbacks totaling about $400,000 from signing bonuses and contract buyouts paid to secure 23 prospective players between December 2004 and February 2008. The seven-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury alleges the Sox were defrauded of money "as well as the honest services of the defendants, who allegedly concealed the kickbacks from senior members of the organization." Wilder, 50, and Jorge L. Oquendo Rivera, 49, Sox Latin American scouts between November 2004 and October 2007, were charged with seven counts of mail fraud. Victor Mateo, 39, a Sox scout in the Dominican Republic between November 2006 and May 2008, was charged with three counts of mail fraud. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of unspecified illegal proceeds from the alleged fraud scheme. Williams and Wilder were good friends, so it came as a black eye to the GM.
Manager Ozzie Guillen has a contract through 2011 that automatically is renewed for 2012 if the Sox win the AL Central, but he has said on several occasions this offseason that he will no longer ask the club for an extension. What does that mean long-term? Well, Guillen spent the last few weeks of the regular season speaking openly about wanting an extension and now seems content that if the Sox don't want his services beyond 2011, he will simply go elsewhere. Whether that is to another team or to the television booth, Guillen again insisted "the only thing I couldn't do in this game is be a GM."
LHP John Danks is once again arbitration-eligible this offseason, and the Sox would like to see him sign an extension to lock him up on the South Side for the next three-plus seasons. Danks made $3.45 million in 2010, but he outpitched that deal by going 15-11 with a 3.72 ERA. The Sox tried locking Danks down two years ago, giving him the same offer that RHP Gavin Floyd agreed to. Floyd was given a four-year, $15.5 million deal before the 2009 season that also gives the Sox a $9.5 million option for 2013. Danks obviously warrants a bit more than that, and the Sox would like to have the security that he is staying in the rotation for at least the next few years.
Alexei Ramirez became the first Sox SS to win an AL Silver Slugger Award, presented by Louisville Slugger for the best offensive performers at every position as voted on by managers and coaches. Ramirez hit .282 with 29 doubles, 18 homers and 70 RBI in 156 games in 2010. His .282 average was the fourth-highest by a shortstop in club history, and his 18 homers were sixth most. He led all AL shortstops in average, slugging percentage (.431), homers and total bases (252), ranked second in RBI, third in hits and tied for third in doubles. This honor came a week after he was named the shortstop on The Sporting News AL All-Star team, joining Luis Aparicio (1968, '70) and Luke Appling (1936, '40 and '43) as the only White Sox shortstops to garner the honor.
RHP Bobby Jenks is still with the Sox, but for how long? The club has reportedly been kicking the tires on several other bullpen possibilities with the start of free agency. LHPs Matt Thornton and Chris Sale could be a dynamic one-two punch from the left side if Sale does not wind up in the rotation, but with Jenks a trade candidate and RHP J.J. Putz a free agent, the Sox need some help from the right side.
BY THE NUMBERS:: .579 -- The White Sox's winning percentage in interleague play all-time, which is the second best in all of baseball. The Yankees have a .585 winning percentage.
QUOTE TO NOTE:: "I played street hockey when I was a kid. We would get a bunch of kids together and play hockey on the street. I always had a habit of throwing arms and feet, whatever I had, and one of these days it's going to hurt me, but I've always had a habit of stopping a ball." -- LHP Mark Buehrle, on his memorable Opening Day play.
ROSTER REPORT:: The White Sox enter this offseason having to decide if they will re-sign free agents Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski or move on. They want to go a bit younger, and they will if rookie Brent Morel becomes the starter next season, but they still need to have some power in the lineup. The starting pitching is a strength, but the bullpen will have some holes. The DH-by-committee didn't work as far as GM Ken Williams was concerned, and that's why he added Manny Ramirez. Priority No. 1 will be adding a big stick to the lineup, preferably one from the left side. The Sox have decisions to make on free agents Konerko and Pierzynski, but because the team is built on pitching and defense, making sure Jake Peavy is recovering from season-ending surgery to reattach a right lat is more pressing.
FREE AGENTS:: C A.J. Pierzynski, 1B Paul Konerko, DH/1B Mark Kotsay, DH Manny Ramirez, RHP Freddy Garcia, RHP J.J. Putz, OF Andruw Jones. The Sox have significant questions to answer in free agency, and there is a scenario where all seven remaining free agents walk. Obviously, Konerko is a fan favorite, so there will be pressure to keep him, but all bets are off if team officials decide the payroll has to be slimmed down.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE:: RHP Bobby Jenks, LHP John Danks, OF Carlos Quentin, RHP Tony Pena. The Sox have been trying to get both Danks and Quentin locked into contract extensions for the last two years and will continue that quest. Pena also raised his stock in the club's eyes because of his versatility. Jenks is likely gone.
IN LIMBO:: The Sox have been listening to Jenks trade rumors for two years, and it appears they finally are poised to move on without the closer. Jenks ticked off the organization late in the season by not pitching because of a strained nerve.
MEDICAL WATCH:: RHP Jake Peavy (detached right lat) is expected to start throwing off the mound in January and be back for the start of spring training; RHP Bobby Jenks (strained nerve in forearm) is expected to be fine and begin offseason program on time; LHP Erick Threets (torn ulnar collateral ligament) is expected to miss all of 2011 after having Tommy John surgery.
General manager Dave Dombrowski has settled on an approach for filling Detroit's most pressing need, which is a big bat to complement Miguel Cabrera. Dombrowski just isn't getting specific about it.
"We've reached the point where we know what we're going to do," Dombrowski said at the press conference announcing the re-signing of Jhonny Peralta. "It would give me no benefit to tell you what our plan is, but we know what our thought process is. We know where we want to go, and we're moving in that direction.
"We've started the process -- and that means, yes, you're already talking to people."
But who the Tigers are talking to and what the fallback plans are, Dombrowski isn't saying. He does believe the accelerated free agency periods should quicken the process.
"How quickly people will get signed, I don't know," Dombrowski said. " But from our perspective, you figure you're going to be aggressive but that other clubs will be doing the same thing."
Speculation in Detroit has been all over the free agent map, but while the Tigers have money to spend, lots of it, they aren't likely to get into extremely long-term deals unless they really have to gamble.
There is also some urgency not to get shut out because the lack of a premier run-producer to help Cabrera was a key factor in Detroit's failure to make the playoffs this past season.
NOTES, QUOTES: CF Austin Jackson finished second to Texas closer Neftali Feliz in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Jackson got eight first-place votes and 98 points to 20 first-place votes and 122 points for Feliz.
SS Jhonny Peralta, his $7.25 million option for 2011 bought out for $250,000, signed a two-year contract with Detroit on Nov. 8 with an option for a third season. Figures were nearly identical to what 3B Brandon Inge signed for. Inge received $11 million with a $6 million option for 2013 that could be bought out for $500,000. Peralta will be paid $5.5 million this year (including the buyout) and next with a similar option for 2013. Peralta began the season with Cleveland playing third base but was obtained near the trade deadline because Inge got hurt. When Inge returned, he shifted to short, where he began his career with the Indians. The 81 runs Peralta drove in this season would have ranked third among major league shortstops but first in the AL. "(Inge) talked to me a lot on the field," Peralta said. "He liked how I played shortstop. I feel really comfortable. More than anything, that's what I wanted (the multi-year deal)."
Peralta batted .253 with eight home runs and 38 RBI in 57 games with Detroit. In 148 games overall, he hit .249 with 15 home runs and 81 RBI. GM Dave Dombrowski said, "That gives us two established major league players who are quality individuals who know how to win. They are very solid players you can count on. Brandon gives you some outstanding defense and you get some offense. They are a good combination there. Jhonny has outstanding hands and a terrific arm. Maybe he does not have the great range, but with Brandon at third, you cover the left side of the infield. And he knows how to drive in a run."
UT Carlos Guillen is hopeful he'll be healthy enough to open the season with Detroit and said his rehab from microfracture knee surgery is running a little ahead of schedule. Guillen is off crutches and walking without pain, although he is not ready for running yet. He works out twice a day at his home in Venezuela. "It feels good, feels strong," Guillen said. "We're on pace. I have to go back (for a follow-up exam) in December. I feel great. The most important thing right now is getting myself healthy. It's better when I'm healthy and I can play. I don't know what position. I don't know what they have in mind. But for me and for the team, the big thing for me is my health."
GM Dave Dombrowski said, "We're in a spot where Carlos can do a lot of different things for us. He played second base for us last year. He can play some outfield. He can DH. I think first and foremost we've got to get him healthy and get him started for the beginning of the season."
1B Miguel Cabrera, the major league RBI king, captured his first Silver Slugger Award. The honor is presented annually to the top hitter at every position in each league as selected by managers and coaches. In addition to his 126 RBI, Cabrera he hit .328 (second in the league) with 38 homers (third in the league).
INF Ramon Santiago can expect his playing time to get squeezed. Santiago hit .263 in 108 games, his most playing time since he was Detroit's regular shortstop in 2003. SS Jhonny Peralta and 3B Brandon Inge figure to get the bulk of the playing time at their positions, and the Tigers figure to let Will Rhymes and Scott Sizemore fight it out for second base, along with Carlos Guillen when he returns. "He does a very fine job for us," Dombrowski said of Santiago. "He does a lot of different roles. We look at him as a really fine utility player who can play once or twice a week, short or second. And if you have somebody get hurt, he can play for an extended period of time."
RHP Chance Ruffin, trying to position himself for a big league call-up in 2011, was the winning pitcher in relief in the Arizona Fall League's Rising Stars game. "That's definitely the best situation to be in as a closer," Ruffin said. "(The pitch sequence) was pretty much all fastball, but the last one was more of a cutter. It might have been a bit off the black, but it was pretty close."
OF Ryan Raburn should be in line for his first million-dollar salary after his second strong finish to a season. Raburn hit .280 with 15 home runs and 62 RBI, most of those totals coming after the All-Star break when his playing time increased due to an injury to RF Magglio Ordonez. Raburn is eligible for arbitration, and there's little doubt the Tigers will try to get him signed before a hearing would occur.
RHP Armando Galarraga is eligible for arbitration, but after winning just four games last season, his status with Detroit remains up in the air. He was not mentioned as one of Detroit's five starters in Dombrowski's postseason wrap-up. The highlight of his season was his near-perfect game against Cleveland. He likely would command a salary of at least $1 million if he goes to arbitration, and the Tigers will weigh whether his prospects are worth it. They could decide not to offer him a contract, or they could sign and trade him.
C Max St-Pierre re-signed a minor league deal with Detroit after the Tigers cut him from their 40-man roster early this month. St-Pierre finally saw his first major league playing time in September after 14 minor league seasons. He will get an invitation to major league spring training.
BY THE NUMBERS:: 11.5 -- Millions of dollars both 3B Brandon Inge and SS Jhonny Peralta are guaranteed over the next two seasons. Both get paid a total of $11 million over 2011 and 2012 (including Peralta's $250,000 buyout of his 2011 option) with buyouts of $500,000 if their $6 million options for 2013 are not picked up.
QUOTE TO NOTE:: "From the Tigers' perspective, we felt it was really nice to get some stability over there. You have to be realistic; everybody has plusses and minuses. But you're talking about 75-80 runs (driven in), you can win with that combination over there. I think when you have the two of them together, you can win. Now we've got third base and shortstop set, which we didn't have at the end of the season." -- GM Dave Dombrowski, after re-signing Brandon Inge and Jhonny Peralta to nearly identical contracts in the space of two weeks.
ROSTER REPORT::There's a lot of flexibility in reshaping Detroit's roster, what with departing free agents and expiring contracts. The big need is for a No. 5 hitter to help protect cleanup man Miguel Cabrera. Second base will be filled internally with some combination of Carlos Guillen, Will Rhymes and Scott Sizemore. Re-signing Brandon Inge and Jhonny Peralta filled the third base and shortstop holes, respectively. A big RBI bat to protect and complement Cabrera and a need for veteran back-end bullpen help in front of closer Jose Valverde are priorities.
FREE AGENTS:: RF Magglio Ordonez, DH Johnny Damon, LHP Bobby Seay, C Gerald Laird, RHP Jeremy Bonderman, LHP Brad Thomas. Thomas is likely to be retained unless he wants to leave. Ordonez, whose $15 million option was declined, could re-sign, especially if Detroit can't land the big bat it seeks. Damon, Laird and Bonderman were told they won't be offered contracts. Seay probably will have to wait to sign until after the season starts and he can show he's come back from labrum surgery.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE:: RHP Armando Galarraga, LF Ryan Raburn, RHP Joel Zumaya, RHP Zach Miner. Despite his imperfect perfect game, Galarraga has only four wins to show for 2010 and should accept a one-year deal. Raburn will get a big raise (maybe a two-year deal) for his second straight strong second half. Zumaya missed time because of injury for a fourth straight season and probably will sign for one year and see if he can stay off the DL for a whole year. Miner will open the season injured; he's recuperating from Tommy John surgery.
IN LIMBO:: RHP Armando Galarraga could be trade material; he won't know his status in the rotation until late in spring training. RHP Zach Miner (elbow) and LHP Bobby Seay (shoulder) are coming off surgeries and won't know their status until late in spring training or later. 2B Carlos Guillen is doubtful for the season opener because of microfracture surgery in his left knee. OFs Casper Wells and/or Brennan Boesch have their roster spots dependent on whom Detroit gets to drive in runs; if it's an outfielder, one or both gets squeezed off the roster in the short term. 2Bs Scott Sizemore and Will Rhymes are in play only until 2B Carlos Guillen is ready; then one gets squeezed or maybe both.
MEDICAL WATCH:: LHP Bobby Seay (left shoulder labrum surgery in September) won't be ready to throw until the 2011 season has already begun. He is a free agent; 2B Carlos Guillen (left knee microfracture surgery in September) is not expected to be ready to play when spring training begins, and his availability for the start of the season is doubtful; RHP Joel Zumaya (right elbow surgery in July) is expected to be throwing by mid-winter and fully ready when spring training begins; RHP Zach Miner (Tommy John surgery in May) is doubtful for the start of spring training but could be doing light throwing by late March; RF Magglio Ordonez (right ankle surgery in August) is expected to be recovered in time for spring training. He is a free agent.
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