Spring Training begins for the White Sox in one month, the regular-season opener of April 1 is fast approaching and White Sox fans are ... well, to be honest, they are concerned, but there was a similar level of concern going into last year's 85-win effort.
Let's take a look at some of those worries.
Are the White Sox going to make any deals or are they going to be content with third or fourth place, because this offense can not score four runs every day?
-- John, Fergus Falls, Minn.
This theme seems to be a prevailing one among White Sox fans over the past few months and has reached the Inbox on more than a few occasions. Again, I caution that patience is a virtue where this team is concerned.
Just because general manager Rick Hahn doesn't jump at moves in December or January or overpay to try to counteract moves made by the Tigers, Royals and even the Indians, it doesn't mean the White Sox won't be able to improve as the season progresses. As I've pointed out numerous times over the past few weeks, last offseason wasn't an extremely active one for the White Sox, and yet they made important in-season additions toward playoff contention without giving up much in regard to their present and future.
The 2013 White Sox are not rebuilding. And despite losing Kevin Youkilis and A.J. Pierzynski, two integral veterans to the White Sox cause, they are still a competitive team. Take a look at their solid pitching and talented young players with another year of experience.
I understand the desire for immediate action -- it's an offshoot of the passionate support from the sector of diehard White Sox fans. Those fans also should know this sort of team has too many good pieces to be a January write-off.
I have not heard the left-handed bat of Jordan Danks mentioned. Is he a spot starter/pinch-hit option?
-- Ron, Bourbonnais, Ill.
Danks definitely remains in the mix as a utility outfielder, with his value focused more on defensive replacement or pinch-runner. He talked about feeling more comfortable at the plate last season, and the White Sox feel confident in using him as a spot starter. With that idea in mind, Dewayne Wise falls ahead of him on the depth chart.
Do you see a player like Jim Thome coming back to the White Sox when he is done playing?
-- Nick, Montrose, Minn.
Thome has an open invitation to rejoin the White Sox at the time he retires or at a time he chooses after he retires. I imagine Thome will have quite a few similar offers from other organizations where he played.
People have asked me over the years if Thome is as high quality of a person as he appears. My answer is always the same: as great of a person as Thome appears to be, he's even better. Thome is a true Hall of Famer both on and off the field.
Is there any chance of the White Sox bringing in Brian Wilson or Jose Valverde?
-- Jack, Orland Park, Ill.
A veteran reliever to replace the hybrid late-inning role held by Brett Myers is definitely high up on Hahn's shopping list, along with a left-handed bat that fits the roster. Wilson falls into that veteran reliever description, but with the White Sox set on Addison Reed at closer, I would expect to see the White Sox add a seventh- or eighth-inning pitcher first, and a fill-in closer second.
Adding Valverde to the mix would be an interesting proposition and not just because of his extreme struggles at the end of 2012. It's safe to say there are very few players in the game that White Sox fans like less than Valverde, with his post-save histrionics. Then again, Pierzynski wasn't exactly a No. 1 choice of the fan base upon arrival in 2005 and departed as one of the more popular players in franchise history.
Why did the White Sox pass on Zack Greinke and go after Francisco Liriano instead? They picked up a pitcher from their own division at a time when they had mostly divisional opponents left on the schedule who wound up hurting us in the end.
-- Gregory, Paramount, Calif.
Apparently, Gregory, you didn't pay attention to the coverage around the Greinke pursuit last season. Ken Williams did everything possible to acquire Greinke, an idea seconded by Brewers general manager Doug Melvin after Greinke was shipped to the Angels.
"Kenny worked really hard at it," Melvin told reporters. "I probably received as many texts from him [as anyone else]. It just wasn't a match."
So the White Sox went after what they thought would be another strong option in Liriano, attempting to solidify their playoff rotation as much as their regular-season starting five. By his own October admission to MLB.com, Liriano did not perform to anywhere near those lofty expectations. He wasn't the sole reason for the team falling short, just a contributing factor.
Prediction on Chris Sale: more or less wins?
-- Vince, Naperville, Ill.
If you are asking more or less wins than last year, I'm going more. I'll say 18, with a strong chance at 20. If you are asking more or less wins than Justin Verlander, I'll go less.
In looking back at both the Carlos Quentin and Sergio Santos trades, who did the White Sox receive that will be on the roster in the next two years?
-- Gary, Elmira, N.Y.
"Two years" are the key words in your question, Gary. Nestor Molina and Simon Castro both battled through injury-plagued off years in 2012, but they are still firmly in the White Sox mix. In fact, a trade or injury or two could move them to the Majors sooner than later.
Quentin and Santos were traded from what the White Sox considered positions of strength within the organization, with Dayan Viciedo, Alejandro De Aza and Reed getting a chance to move forward. Molina and Castro were the best fits in return.