CHICAGO -- I want to take this time to wish a belated Happy Hannukah and an early Merry Christmas to all the Inbox readers, contributors and baseball fans in general. Your input always is appreciated.
There will be one more Inbox before the end of 2012, but let's focus on today and look at this week's batch of questions.
Is there any way we can either trade Adam Dunn or move him down in the order where his low hitting for average will no longer paralyze the White Sox?
-- Joe, Las Vegas
"Paralyze" is not exactly the word I would use to describe Dunn's contributions with the bat in '12 -- not even close. Look, he's not going to hit .300, although he and hitting coach Jeff Manto know that there's plenty of room to work upward with the average. But as Dunn has told me more than a few times, his job is to drive in runs and get on base, making batting average not exactly the best stat to look at to judge his performance.
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In regard to hitting Dunn third, he is admittedly not a prototype for that spot. The White Sox like the amount of pitches he sees combined with leadoff hitter Alejandro De Aza the first time through the order, as well as getting his impact bat up as much as possible. I would be stunned to see him dealt during the offseason, but this great clubhouse presence would be an in-season candidate if the White Sox season goes south -- especially with just two years left on his deal.
As for his move in the order, manager Robin Ventura will make that call once he sees the full complement of talent in front of him for '13.
I thought you had great patience with Karl from Sheldon, Ill. The season has not even started yet and he is predicting a losing season. Keep up the good work.
-- Will, Saunemin, Ill.
Karl made a truly valid point about a potential Alex Rios trade in last week's Inbox, and everyone of course is entitled to their own opinion. I just don't understand how some White Sox fans can judge an upcoming season four months before Opening Day.
If the White Sox had started dumping salaries and basically announced they are rebuilding, I could understand a little more of the frustration and dire predictions. Yes, the Tigers have improved greatly and certainly look to be a better team than the South Siders presently, and yes, Kevin Youkilis and A.J. Pierzynski stand as important bats to replace. A great deal can happen between how a team looks on paper and once it gets on the field. See most of 2012 in the American League Central as an example.
Here's something else to think about: If the team really struggles and falls out of it early, the White Sox can move veterans to add young players for the future. But to write this team off already, especially with the extra Wild Card, isn't really paying attention to most of last year leading up to the final few weeks and the current roster. I'm not predicting World Series, but I'm not saying 95 losses, either.
Does Dylan Axelrod have a chance of making the White Sox rotation in 2013?
-- Steve, Boston
Axelrod will not be part of the White Sox rotation breaking camp from Spring Training. I would expect him to start as part of the Triple-A Charlotte rotation, with really only one spot open on the team's 12-man Major League staff, and be ready in case the team needs a hurler.
Do you see Jeff Keppinger as the White Sox next Ventura or Joe Crede?
-- Matthew, Rockford, Ill.
He hasn't played a single game yet for the White Sox, so let's not put Keppinger in the pantheon of great third basemen. And when I say great, I'm talking two of the best defensive third basemen, period, and two of the best clutch hitters in their prime. If Keppinger can handle the lineup's second spot effectively in 2013, it will be a good start.
If Gordon Beckham has another dismal season, would the White Sox part ways with him and let Carlos Sanchez play second base every day?
-- Russell, Park Forest, Ill.
Sanchez is on the rise and projected as an option as a middle infielder. While Beckham isn't on the proverbial hot seat as a player, the White Sox are looking for him to break out this season. Beckham enters the 2013 season with great confidence, supported by Manto, who believes Beckham is at as solid of a place hitting-wise as he has been for quite some time.
Results are the true proof. Remember, though, Beckham set a career-high with 16 homers and drove in 60 hitting quite a bit from the ninth spot. Combine that output with his Gold Glove-caliber defense, and he becomes a valuable player.
Pierzynski has been a key part of the White Sox for years. Does he just disappear into the dust bin of White Sox history without any consideration? He deserves a lot more than that.
-- Patrick, Oak Brook, Ill.
I recently spoke to a very astute journalism class at Libertyville High School, during which three of the questions centered on Pierzynski's return, including one young lady who asked if Pierzynski was ever mean to me and if he was a good guy. For the record, I quickly answered in the affirmative for Pierzynski being a good guy and then added that he thoroughly enjoyed every question I ever asked him over eight years.
The White Sox understand Pierzynski's connection to the fan base off the field, as well as his value on the field, and trust me when I say he'll be a welcome part of this franchise for years to come. As I've said in pretty much every Inbox this offseason, there just doesn't seem to be a fit payroll-wise or at the position moving forward for the veteran. Yes, he will be a big loss, but just as the White Sox did with Mark Buehrle, they will find a way to replace a staple of the organization.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.