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Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Building a Budget Team

I set out to build the best team I can on the White Sox budget constraints. As cited in my previous entry, the Sox intend to have an opening day salary of about $65M.

There's no plan that can fit Carlos Beltran on our team at $65M, while filling our other holes. There's no plan that can fit Randy Johnson on our team at $65M, while filling other holes. There's no way to sign any major free agent and still stay under the magic $65M without dropping a highly paid player of our own. It's sad to say that we have to say goodbye to one of our own in order to add anything, but unfortunately it's the truth.

Here's the players we currently have under contract who I project to make the opening day roster.
Player    Salary(in Millions)

Paul Konerko 8.75
Carlos Lee 8.00
Frank Thomas 8.00
Carl Everett 4.00
Aaron Rowand 1.25*
Joe Crede 0.45#
Juan Uribe 1.25*
Willie Harris 0.40#
Wilson Valdez 0.35#
Ross Gload 0.40#
Joe Borchard 0.35#
Timo Perez 1.00*
Mark Buehrle 5.75
Freddy Garcia 8.00
Jose Contreras 6.00
Jon Garland 3.00*
Shingo Takatsu 2.50
Cliff Politte 0.90
Damaso Marte 1.50
Jon Adkins 0.40#
Neal Cotts 0.40#
* Indicates estimated arbitration salary.
# Indicates player has yet to have 3 full years of Major League service.
Salary is estimated against league minimum.
Ok so the goal of this is to put together the best team possible for $65M.

First we have to recognize the weaknesses. In order based on need, I would put them, SP, 2B/SS, RP, C, OF.

Here's how I would build my $65M team.
1) Put Paul Konerko on the trade block -- Ross Gload has proven to be a more than suitable back-up. He would be a cheap and effective replacement.

2) Sign Eric Young to a $1M deal. -- He can platoon at 2B with Willie Harris. He will put up around .300/.375/.425 batting vs. LHP. Young hardly played at second last season, but that was largely due to Alfonso Soriano's refusal to move to the OF. His playing time would be limited only to against LH starters, Willie(career .186/.234/.233 vs. LHP)would be brought in as a defensive replacement as soon as the starter was lifted.

3) Make sure you get value for Konerko. -- It's likely that a deal involving Konerko would require the sox to eat part of his contract. Last off-season, there was a proposed deal for Odalis Perez, and I would expect a similar package this year. The Sox would need to get a solid starting pitcher in return, or a good bullpen arm along with a good, higher level, prospect to help the team this season. I would expect a savings of about $2M if we traded for a starter, and about $5M if the deal involved a reliever, which would then be spent on the open market for a starter.

4) Target a pitcher. -- If the sox turn Konerko into relief help, then they better have enough money left over to sign a good FA starting pitcher. I'm not looking for a world beater, just someone who can go out there every 5 days and pitches his ass off. (I would have suggested Derek Lowe, but his stock went soaring this post-season) They should target those second tier guys, who will give them god value; Wilson Alvarez, Paul Byrd, Jose Lima, Kris Benson, Corey Lidle, etc.

If they traded for a starter, I would target a LH reliever on the Free Agent market. They could be expensive, unless you convince Scott Schoenewies to go to the pen. Possible targets include Steve Kline and Chris Hammond

5) Take what money you have left and get yourself a catcher. Mike Redmond, Greg Zaun, and Ben Davis are all options.

Here's what those moves would do to the payroll.
Players      $63.05M

Konerko (8.75)
Starter 5.00
Releiver 2.00
Young 1.00
Burke .40
Catcher 1.50
Cash 2.00
Payroll $66.20M
I used the $63M figure I got from the 21 players who figure to be back next season from above, subtracted Pauly's salary, then added a rough estimate for each of the remaining positions. I had left Jamie Burke off of the initial list, so I added him here, as he will certainly be backing up at catcher. The subtraction of Konerko, and the addition of the 5 others brings us to a perfect 25, and fills all of the holes that I listed at the beginning (SP, SS/2B, RP, C, OF). of this entry. OK, I guess I missed filling that final outfield spot, but if we don't keep Timo around, who am I gonna complain about?

Here's a breakdown of how I would fill out my everyday line-up cards.
Vs. RHP                        Vs. LHP

Harris 2B .252/.321/.311 Young 2B .299/.380/.434
Lee LF .290/.340/.501 Rowand CF .298/.361/.523
Thomas DH .301/.419/.540 Thomas DH .332/.458/.657
Everett RF .286/.360/.503 Lee* LF .277/.339/.442
Rowand CF .285/.321/.457 Everett RF .251/.312/.387
Gload DH .298/.358/.445 Crede 3B .278/.324/.457
Uribe SS .264/.307/.428 Gload 1B .383/.420/.574(47 AB's)
Crede 3B .246/.295/.424 Uribe SS .268/.306/.463
Catcher C .---/.---/.--- Catcher C .---/.---/.---

*Posted a .937 OPS vs. LHP last season.
I used career numbers for the splits, so while Harris appears ugly leading off, he was a much more respectable .279/.366/.335 last season against righties.

As you can see, I like having an offensive threat in the #2 spot. This is where I feel my offensive philosophy differs from that of the White Sox front office. I suspect that Ozzie and KW would rather have a "good bunter" and baserunner in the #2 spot over someone who would post a near .900 OPS. Rowand and Lee have both hit successfully from the #2 spot before, and I suspect they would do the same again in my fantasy line-up. Ross Gload fills in Konerko's vacated spot, and adds a lefty bat and a "grinder" to the line-up.

The Starting rotation would be solidified too, look like this at the worst (Garcia/Buehrle/Contreras/Garland/Bona Fide 5th Starter) and this at the best (FG/MB/Solid #3/JC/JG).

This isn't roster that's going to make the pundits scream "World Series contender," but I think it would once again put us in the driver's seat for the AL Central. Cleveland and Minnesota are both going to improve this off-season, and it's not going to be easy once again.

$65M is a severe limitation on the payroll when you already have $63M comitted to next season. It could end up representing 1/4 of the payroll of the 2005 New York Yankees, and it will be less than 1/2 of the World Series champion Boston Red Sox. I hate to sound like that guy, but until they open up the pocket book a little more, the White Sox are going to continue on their string of second place finishes.