The Tribune's White Sox beat writer answers reader questions throughout the season. This week, the futures of Paul Konerko and Josh Fields and the similarities between this year's squad and 2005.
Ryan Braun was atrocious at third, so they moved him to left. Carlos Lee couldn't play third, he was moved to left. Chuck Knoblauch couldn't throw to first, so he got moved to left. Alfonso Soriano was Washington's worst fielding second baseman, so he was moved to left. The Astros needed to make room for Jeff Kent, so they banished Craig Biggio to left. So how awful must Josh Fields be if he can't cut it in left when left field is where all the players exiled from their old positions end up? --Jeff Jhee, Chicago
I've seen Pedro Guerrero try to play left, so I wouldn't say Josh was that bad. Some e-mailers have asked about Josh playing second base and note that he played shortstop on a short-term basis at Triple-A Charlotte last year. I still think Josh will be the Sox's starting third baseman in 2009.
I have contacted my Pima County Supervisor. I have said that in no way should the White Sox be allowed out of their contract for spring training. Make them stay and then have no one show up for the games. What a sense of entitlement Reinsdorf has. --George Sullivan, Tucson, Ariz.
If no one shows up for the games, then Pima County and the Tucson community stand to lose as well.
Any chance of moving Konerko for some pitching or prospects? I love him and appreciate the contributions over the years, but right now I think he might bring the most back in a trade. Swisher could step in at first base and maybe Fields could learn the position as well. We'd save money from Konerko's contract to go toward resigning Crede if he looks healthy after another few weeks. I know Ken Williams says they will address the Crede contract after the season, but I think he would do it at any time if he thinks it is the right deal and makes the Sox better. --Chris D, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Mark, what do you think about keeping Crede and moving Fields to first. This would mean trading Paulie but we would get younger and get a little more speed. I think this would be the best move to keep Fields and Crede. --Jose, La Vernia, Texas
So this year, how long does Guillen go with Konerko, Thome et al as they continue to show that they cannot hit anymore? --Jeff Hartnett, St. Louis
All of these e-mails were sent before Konerko hit his grand slam Sunday. I realize that Paul has gotten off to a slow start in three of the past four seasons but sooner or later manages to warm up. I think if Ken Williams wanted to move Konerko, he would have done so this winter.
Keep April 30 in mind. That is the date when Konerko earns 10-and-5 rights (at least 10 years of major league service, with at least the last five with the same team). That means Paul can veto any trade.
Happy New Year! After last year's stinker of a Sox team I feel much better about the 2008 Sox. Watched them all spring on the practice fields in Tucson and quite a few of their games. This is a much better team! Alexei Ramirez impressed me. Any chance of him starting some place in the near future? --Allman, Tempe, Ariz.
Ramirez's best chance to start could be in center field if Quentin tails off and Anderson doesn't produce or is used solely as a reserve (with Swisher moving to left), or in 2009 if the Sox elect not to re-sign Cabrera, who is getting untracked at the plate and looking more like the No. 2 hitter the Sox envisioned.
Do you get the eerie feeling that this Sox team is very similar to the 2005 team? They seem to be a tough grind-it-out team. To think we thought Dye, Thome and Konerko were too old and should retire! --Brian Little, Oak Park
I actually like the way this lineup stretches out better than 2005. And having Gavin Floyd as your No. 5 starter with the ability to pitch past the sixth inning is more encouraging than El Duque, who showed that he is a tournament/big stage-type pitcher but rarely pitched past six innings with regularity.
The 2005 team always will stand out for its knack for scoring runs when it needed to, whether it was Scott Podsednik reaching base in the first inning and scoring to give the starters an early cushion, or the offense scoring enough in the late innings to hold on.
Do you think it's possible that Joe Crede might take contract matters into his own hands, a la A-Rod with the Yankees? A-Rod was not pleased with agent Scott Boras' handling of the situation and went on his own to stay with New York. Is Joe capable of doing this? -- T. Maze, Wantagh, N.Y.
I can't see this. Besides, Scott Boras got his commission off the A-Rod deal. One of Scott Boras' greatest strengths as an agent is maximizing a client's value as a free agent, and Joe is approaching free agency with a chance to gain many millions and security on the open market.
First timer here. What is the issue with Jose Contreras? He has seemed to get more and more ineffective the longer he is in a White Sox uniform. This is eerily familiar to his stint in New York. --Bob M., Sun City, Ariz.
Bob, thanks for joining us. I think we need to look at Jose as a veteran member of the Sox's rotation but certainly not a starter with ace-type stuff. His velocity has dipped, but his split-finger fastball remains effective when he can get ahead of hitters. I noticed in the Detroit game he was throwing more from a sidearm angle than in his previous start.
In the case of the Yankees, they wanted results more quickly and couldn't wait for him to develop. In the case of the Sox, they want more consistent outings and for him to try to avoid the one bad inning that cost him the second time against Detroit. If Gavin Floyd can continue his ascent, then this takes some pressure off Contreras. But the Sox need Jose to give them at least six quality innings. That shouldn't be asking too much with an improved offense to support him.
Hi Mark. Great to get another season underway. Here in Connecticut I can't get to see the Sox games, but watching the highlights it seems that we never score from second on a base hit. Are the coaches just being cautious or are we really that slow on the basepaths? --Tony Rich, Shelton, Conn.
Welcome back, Tony. I've noticed that third base coach Jeff Cox has been conservative at times. But he hasn't run the Sox out of any rallies. I think this offense's ability to string together hits makes it easier for Jeff to hold runners with the knowledge that the next hitter is going to come through, as Crede did on April 7 with a grand slam after Quentin hit the two-out single.
And yes, this team isn't that fast.
Is there a mid-rotation Major League starter to be had for a combination of any or all of the following: Owens, Uribe, Anderson, Fields and Contreras? (People banking on a big year from Uribe shouldn't hold their breath.) --John Browning, Flemington, N.J.
Probably, but I wouldn't give up on Owens, Anderson and Fields for a few reasons. The Sox may seem to have a lot of outfield depth. But Owens is rehabilitating from a groin injury, Anderson had wrist problems last year, and Quentin recently recovered from left shoulder surgery. Injuries to two of those three players, and the Sox suddenly have depth issues now that Ryan Sweeney is in Oakland with no other big-time outfield prospects on the horizon.
I wouldn't consider Fields in a trade unless the Sox were getting a young third baseman in return. If Joe Crede gets a free agent offer from another team that is too good to pass up, who plays third?
I've been keeping track, and so far, the only lineup change Ozzie has made all season is switching out Quentin for Ramirez. Is Ozzie ever going to give Dye, Konerko and Thome some extra rest? --Brian, Pasadena, Calif.
Brian, I'm envious of you living in Pasadena with those 90-degree temperatures last weekend.
With the early off-days, I don't believe Ozzie feels the need to rest Dye, Konerko and Thome, although he did give Dye and Konerko an early rest by pulling them in the latter stages of some blowouts.
There are some challenging segments of the schedule. One that comes to mind is a journey that will see the Sox play 16 of 19 games on the road during a 20-day span, with the final 10 on the West Coast (April 29 through May 18). Everyone including Dye, Konerko and Thome will need ample rest.
Mark, What do you think the White Sox will do when Jerry Owens completes his rehab assignment? Who goes down or do you think Kenny Willams is already working on a potential trade? I know its early, but I think they'll need some pitching. --Marc, Las Vegas
The Sox have several of their pro scouts watching other teams' minor league affliates, but this is part of the information process leading up to the July 31 trading deadline (although Ken often acts sooner).
I think it's a matter of how well the team is performing and how certain players (Swisher and Quentin) are performing in their current roles that will dictate what will happen. Two things to keep in mind are that Owens can stay in the minors on a rehab assignment for up to 20 days before the team needs to make a decision, and that Owens has a minor league option left. So there's always the chance he could stay in the minors after his 20 days expire.
Mark, this Sox team is full of holes. The pitching is below average with Danks, Contreras, Floyd, Masset, McDougal and probably Thornton. The Sox hit into too many double plays and Konerko's slow start every year is getting old. The outfield defense is only average with Jermaine Dye being below average. Add all these problems with a manager who does not play our best players at times and an overrated pitching coach and a .500 season is probably the best we can do. It is time to unload some of these players. --Rich Clausel, Montgomery, Ill.
Rich, I agree that Danks and MacDougal need to get back on track to a semblance of their potential. The late defensive substitutions have been wise moves.
Ozzie Guillen is sticking with the hot players in certain spots whether it's Swisher's ability to get on base at the top of the order or Quentin working deep counts and getting on base via hit or walk or getting hit. This is a clear sign he wants to win now and won't let up.
A .500 season would represent a nine-game improvement over last season. I think this team is capable of finishing with a better winning percentage, but the script is being played out very well so far.
One of the main searches this spring is for a second basemen. I thought that Tadahito Iguchi did well. What did Sox management think he was lacking? And only receive a Class A pitcher in return? --Bill Lichtenauer, Joliet
Why would the White Sox trade Tadahito Iguchi, who was a Type A free agent, instead of getting compensation picks for him in the 2008 draft? Is the prospect that we traded him for more valuable then the draft picks we would have received? What is the rule on a player like Joe Crede who would definitely be considered a Type A Free Agent had he not been injured last year? --Jonathan Block, New York
The White Sox weren't entitled to any free agent compensation (draft picks) because Iguchi's contract required him to be re-signed or released, which is a common clause among foreign players. Had Iguchi not had that release clause, he would have been entitled to salary arbitration.
The Sox opted to acquire minor league pitcher Michael Dubee, save nearly $1 million by trading Iguchi and give Danny Richar two months to show what he could do for 2008 instead of getting nothing when Iguchi wasn't re-signed.
In the case of Crede, his performance this season will dictate whether he is a Type A or Type B free agent. But if he keeps up this production, he will be likely to be a Type A free agent and carry two draft picks as compensation should the Sox lose him next winter.
Why is Alexei Ramirez sitting on the bench instead of playing every day in Charlotte, learning the game, getting established? This drives me nuts. --Cliff Jordan, Chicago
Cliff, one of the vows that Guillen made at the end of spring training was that he wants to win now and not worry about development. He figured Ramirez was too good an athlete to keep off the roster, especially with Richar and Owens on the disabled list.
Stay tuned once Owens and Richar (who is likely out till mid-May) return.