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Sunday, November 14, 2004
Dodging a Bullet

Last week, I documented my prediction for the White Sox off season, in which I lamented that Omar Vizquel would be the first free agent signing, before the market was set.
...Before the Monday morning paper hits your doorstep, the Sox will have inked Omar Vizquel to a 2-year deal, with an option for a 3rd, vastly overpaying in the process. This is not a bold prediction, I know, but it's not like there are any other SS available this year. (Renteria, Cabrera, Garciaparra, CoughGuzmansucksCough, Valentin, Counsell) Vizquel will be the first SS signed. The market will set itself in a week or two to be much lower than what the sox paid...
I was a little off, but not too far.

The Giants swooped in and made an offer to Vizquel that no GM in their right mind would match. Thankfully, Kenny proved, at least this once, that he is a GM in his right mind.

Bruce Levine was reporting on Friday night that the Sox had made an offer to Vizquel of 2 years and $10M. He said, although the deal wasn't likely to be signed for about a week, he'd "stake his reputation" on Vizquel signing with the Sox. About that reputation...

You won't find me crying "cheap" because the sox didn't match this offer. 3-years, guaranteed? for a 38 year old? defensive specialist? Are you nuts? Apparently Brian Sabean is, and when he signs Moises Alou, the Giants outfield will officially geriatric with Bonds, Alou, and Grissom. Vizquel can join them. I wonder if they have a Medicare over there. San Francisco is turning into the senior circuit.

So with Vizquel officially out of the picture, who do the Sox turn to?

To tell you the truth, I don't know.

My immediate answer is Placido Polanco, but the White Sox have shown absolutely no interest, and it appears that his price tag will be significantly more than I first suspected.

The remaining candidates are, Nomar Garciaparra($$$), Edgar Renteria($$$), Orlando Cabrera($$$), Christian Guzman(God, please, NO), Jeff Kent($$$), Placido Polanco($$), Todd Walker(run out of Boston for poor defense), and Mark Bellhorn(will be back in Boston). After that, the picking become very slim.

I've championed Eric Young as a nice fit to platoon with Willie Harris in the past, but that doesn't strike me as the kind of move that KW would make. He seems more likely to look for a diamond in the rough, or pursue a big name.

Looking at the lineup I used with Young in the link above, you can see that with an expanded payroll of about $70M the Sox would be able to compete, dumping more money into quality players at other needs.

For some unknown reason, the sox don't see Juan Uribe as their shortstop next year, but they have no problem with him at second base. I feel that his arm strength makes him even more of an asset at short. No matter who the Sox bring to fill Valentin's spot, the replacement will be the second best defensive shortstop on the team. Uribe had an OPS that was bested by only three full-time shortstops this season, only one of whom (Tejada) who could claim to be in the same class defensively.

The way I see it playing out now is the Sox either making a run at one of the big three shortstops on the market or settling for Christian Guzman. The latter resulting in me jumping off the nearest tall building.

Push for Kendall
With both catcher and a top of the order "grinder" as needs next season, the Sox should make a hard push at Pittsburgh catcher Jason Kendall. Bruce, we know how good his reputation is, Levine was reporting on Friday that the Pirates were willing to eat about $15M of the remaining $34M on his 3-year contract. If that is truly the case, KW needs to do everything in his power to convince Kendall that the southside is where he belongs. I say this because Kendall has a no-trade clause, and indicated that he would decline any trade that wasn't to the west coast. Kendall on the Sox is a longshot, but one that KW has to pursue hard because there's not too many other viable options out there for this team.