The 2012 Chicago White Sox held the American League Central lead for almost the entire season. Although they were not expected to contend with the Detroit Tigers, with just nine games to go in the season, the White Sox were in first place.
Due to a late collapse, the Tigers were able to win the division, leaving the Sox out of the playoffs.
The White Sox have many important decisions to make regarding free agents to return to the top of the division standings in 2013 and to bring fans back to the ballpark. There were many open seats during the season as the White Sox were 24th in average home attendance. The White Sox have already announced that they will be lowering prices, which should help in a struggling economic time for many Chicagoans. As a fan who attends many games a year, attending a White Sox game is tough as their prices are higher than many other stadiums in the Midwest.
Before the White Sox start making moves in the offseason, they need to decide what to do with their free agents -- and they have a lot of them.
Here are the current free agents:
2013 Chicago White Sox Free Agents
Catcher - A.J. Pierzynski
A.J. Pierzynski had a breakout year at the age of 36. After hitting 27 home runs with 77 RBIs, A.J. will be highly sought after by a contending team, and he should see an increase in salary after his career high in home runs and tying his career high in RBIs.
Opinion: A.J. will be too expensive to re-sign, even at his age. This is a strong year for free agent catchers; the White Sox will need to weigh their options but may settle on backup catcher Tyler Flowers, who has a powerful swing but strikes out far too much to be a reliable bat in the lineup.
Third Basmen - Jose Lopez
Jose Lopez was a bench player for the second half of the White Sox season. Lopez can fill in when needed at third base, and that is the reason he was on the roster. Lopez batted .246 with four home runs and 28 RBId.
Opinion: Lopez was cheap at $800K, but his impact on the team is limited and the team may rather use his roster spot for a younger player with more upside that can contribute if needed. I don't see Lopez staying on this roster next season.
Starting Pitcher - Francisco Liriano
Francisco Liriano was picked up by the White Sox in a mid-season trade with the Minnesota Twins. In the last seven games that Liriano appeared in for the Sox, they lost six of them. Liriano finished the season with a 5.34 ERA and a 6-12 record.
Opinion: The White Sox have too much money tied up in Adam Dunn and several others. What it will cost to keep Liriano around is probably not worth it for what he will produce. Liriano will help a team out next season, but it won't be the White Sox.
Free Agents With Team Options: The White Sox have more club options than any team in all of baseball with five.
Third Basemen - Orlando Hudson: $8M Club Option, $2M Buyout
Orlando is far passed his prime and although he put in some work at 3rd base last season, he will almost assuredly be bought out of the club option and released from the team.
Opinion: The Sox have a huge problem at third base, and Hudson does not help that situation. Hudson needs to go.
Third Basemen - Kevin Youkilis: $13M Club Option, $1M Buyout
Youkilis gave the White Sox an instant spark after being traded from the Boston Red Sox. Unfortunately, his performance in the last month of the regular season really hurt the White Sox. Youkilis had a batting average of only .220 and hit just three home runs with eight RBIs in September. Possibly the most telling stat of his rough month was striking out 22 times while only drawing eight walks.
Opinion: Even though the Sox really need a third baseman, I doubt they will pick up the $13 million club option. Look for the White Sox to pick up a third baseman in free agency but not spend the cash to keep Youkilis, although I do believe they should re-sign him for his leadership and consistency at the plate. Possibly his poor end-of-the-year performance will make him cheaper to sign a two- or three-year contract.
Relief Pitcher - Brett Myers: $10M Vesting Option with $3M Buyout
Brett Myers had a solid season with a 3.31 ERA and 19 saves working out of the bullpen. Myers will cost the White Sox $10 million just to bring back next season.
Opinion: Although $10 millions seems expensive for Myers, I do think the White Sox will exercise this option or work out a multi-year deal. It comes at a steep price tag, but look for him back in Chicago next year.
Starting Pitcher - Gavin Floyd: $9.5M Club Option
Gavin Floyd finished 2012 with a 4.29 ERA and a record of 12-11. Although he will be 30 at the start of next season, Floyd looks to have several strong years left.
Opinion: Floyd had a solid but unimpressive year, which may allow the White Sox to re-sign him at a discount. The White Sox need consistency with their starting pitching, and Floyd would be a big loss if they let him go. I do believe that the White Sox will invest in their future with Floyd, so expect to see him in a Sox uniform in 2013.
Starting Pitcher - Jake Peavy: $22M Club Option with a $4M Buyout
Jake Peavy went 11-12 with a solid 3.37 ERA in 2012, but that isn't good enough to deserve $22 million in 2013. Peavy was able to get healthy and proved himself a worthy fixture in the rotation.
Opinion: Peavy should not receive the club option from the White Sox, and I believe that there are teams willing to pay for Peavy's services. Peavy has played his last game in a White Sox uniform.
Trying to determine the White Sox's offseason is not an easy task this year, but there are sure to be plenty of moves and possibly a surprise or two. Look for the White Sox to make deals that keep the payroll down and strengthen current weaknesses in the infield while replacing their highly-paid pitching staff with rising talent.
Michael Luchies is a resident of Bloomington/Normal, Illinois and attends Chicago White Sox games and follows the team regularly.
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