Mark, It was a long winter and it's great to have the season ahead of us. First, looking back: Are you willing to list your top three best and worst Sox acquisitions since the Championship season? Second, looking ahead: How hard will it be to keep A.J. fresh for the whole season? --Hank Balikov, Moorestown, NJ
Since you asked, I'll try to provide (with some stipulations):
1. Acquiring Carlos Quentin from Arizona for Chris Carter. Young power hitters are hard to find, and Quentin has delivered immediately and often while developing into an instant All-Star.
2. John Danks and Nick Masset for Brandon McCarthy in a five-player trade. Although Masset's velocity dipped, Danks could be a No. 1 starter soon, and the Sox control his rights for several years.
3. Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez for Freddy Garcia. Floyd also is developing into a No. 1 pitcher while being rewarded with the security of a four-year, $15.5 million contract.
As honorable mention selections go, Matt Thornton for Joe Borchard ranks as a grand theft deal. As AOL writer and good friend Ed Price said two years ago, "how many left-handed relievers throw 96 (mph)?" The signings of Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo could make a bigger impact down the road.
1. Acquiring Javier Vazquez and cash from Arizona for pitchers Orlando 'El Duque' Hernandez and Luis Vizcaino and outfielder Chris Young. Many skeptics of this trade point to Young's 32 homers in 2007 and 22 in 2008, but Young has struck out 306 times during that span. One Sox insider pointed out that the Sox elected to move Young (then at Double-A) because they thought Brian Anderson would develop quickly into a solid center fielder.
But Vazquez won only 11 games with a big-time offense behind him in 2006, then won 15 games during the Sox's 90-loss season in 2007 before fading to 12-16 and slumping down the stretch in 2008.
2. Acquiring Nick Swisher from Oakland for pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Fautino De Los Santos and outfielder Ryan Sweeney. Once again, this is more a case of what Swisher didn't do in 2008. This trade could look even worse if Gonzalez develops into a dependable major leaguer, although Oakland added plenty of young pitching last winter.
3. Acquiring Mike MacDougal from Kansas City for pitchers Tyler Lumsden and Daniel Cortes. MacDougal teased the Sox with a solid second half in 2006 following his acquistion. Cortes was 10-4 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas last year, but neither he nor Lumsden have reached the majors. Although the retooling of the bullpen before the 2007 backfired, the Sox's acquisitions since the 2005 season have swung heavily in general manager Kenny Williams' favor because of the high-ceiling value the Sox have received.
I think this year the Sox will be able to keep A.J. strong because Corky Miller is such an exceptional defensive catcher. Don't expect Corky to hit like he has in his two starts, but his defense is solid.
I don't think A.J. gets enough credit for his durability, but he did have a .224 batting average last September.
Mark, really enjoy your columns. Thanks for keeping a former Chicagoan current on his team. I may have missed this, being away from Chicago, but why didn't the Sox go after Willie Taveras? They seemed to have had serious interest in past years, and he would have been a perfect addition and signed for an affordable price. Also, what about Melky Cabrera? He seems to be an "odd man out" in NY. Would the Yankees trade him? Would he be a good fit and meet the team's needs? I'd like to here your thoughts. --Joe Leone, Portland, Ore.
A: Joe, Willy Taveras has been hurt quite a bit in his major league career, and the Sox usually don't take a chance of a player with a past like that unless he's played with them before (such as Bartolo Colon and Scott Podsednik). I like Taveras as a player, but his on-base percentage isn't all that great.
As for Cabrera, he might be more valuable in some capacity now that Xavier Nady has some arm problems. The Yankees have a few players with nagging injuries, so it might serve them best to keep Cabrera unless they're willing to part with him for a more established and productive outfielder.
What is going on with Jayson Nix? He was hitting the ball really well before he got injured, and I thought that he could have been our answer at second base. Will he be coming back soon, and if so, will he get a chance to play? --Nathan, Lansing, Mich.
A: Funny you asked. Jayson was scheduled to start a minor league rehabilitation assignment Monday for Double-A Birmingham. It's a 20-day assignment, which will give Jayson plenty of time to pick up where he left off and at least showcase his ability. If he's not a fit with the Sox, I can see him landing with another team. He's a solid defender and could get a shot elsewhere if he's not a fit with the Sox. He is out of minor league options.
Mark, Did Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko get their 300 home run balls back? --Tom Horvath, Highland, Ind.
A: Yes, they did, thanks in part to the sportsmanship of the Detroit Tigers' bullpen. One of the home runs landed in the Tigers' bullpen, and the ball was tossed into the Sox's bullpen. The other home run landed in the Sox's bullpen.
Hi Mark, can you PLEASE find out why Bobby Jenks has stopped using his curveball?? Hitters are just sitting on his average heater and slider and making nearly every ninth inning a nail-biter. --John Duncan, Cape Coral, Fla.
A: Late-inning relievers usually don't use all their pitches because their job is to get batters out with as few pitches as possible. Bobby can use up to six pitches - fastball, cut fastball, sinker, change-up, slider and curve. I think some time soon he'll break out the curve because I don't think his slider has as much slope as it should have. Bobby doesn't throw 99 mph any more, but I expect his velocity to climb back to the 95 mph range as the season progresses.
Mark Gonzales' White Sox mailbag
The Tribune's White Sox writer answers reader questions during the season
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