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If the White Sox continue their winning ways through the end of season, how much does that change their approach to 2014?
-- Larry, Chicago
First-Round Draft order becomes the only thing that victories change at this point, aside from boosting the White Sox collective psyche. Their 2014 top pick could check in as high as No. 3 and could dip as low as let's say No. 8 if they extend this hot streak well into September.
This recent stretch of 16 wins in 23 games and 10 in the last 12 have shown off a much better brand of baseball, but they also have come with absolutely no pressure on the team. The White Sox will not be playing postseason baseball in 2013, even with the greatest of baseball miracles. The hot stretch came after the non-waiver Trade Deadline, showing what the remaining players have talked about, in that the constant news of players departing really did affect the team in some way.
But this positive stretch shows what I've held true all along: this team was not awful. They just were bad. There is a difference. They have played 132 games, and 102 have been decided by three runs or less, so it shows me they were competitive even if far from successful.
That's not nearly good enough among the White Sox fan base, or their front office or active roster, for that matter. It could indicate a quicker turnaround then people think, especially with a talented pitching staff at the core.
Are Alexei Ramirez and Alejandro De Aza part of the White Sox long-term plans, or are they just serving as "filler" players while prospects develop?
-- Jake, Omaha, Neb.
With the talent possessed by Ramirez and De Aza, they are far from fillers. But I certainly understand what Jake means, wondering if these two veterans are part of the future.
De Aza has done a good job offensively this year, but his baserunning has been bad and his defense has been subpar. It could be just one of those years for the left-handed hitter, much like Ramirez's high error total at shortstop.
Ramirez stands as one of the best offseason bargaining chips on the White Sox roster. He's under control through 2015, with a club option in '16, and if the White Sox keep him, they have one of the best shortstops in the AL on their roster. Although Ramirez's home runs are down, he's still hitting .287 with 36 doubles and a career-high 26 stolen bases.
At this point, Ramirez might be better served as a two-hitter or eight-hitter or even a leadoff hitter, as opposed to a run producer. A decision to move him would involve a solid return, how comfortable the White Sox feel with Gordon Beckham moving to shortstop or if they would go out and get another shortstop.
De Aza earned $2.075 million this year, and that will go up as an arbitration-eligible player. None of the highly touted outfield prospects will be ready in 2014, but Jordan Danks possibly could challenge for that starting spot. I would think Ramirez stays with the team, but I'm not sure with De Aza.
Do you think Paul Konerko is going to make it to the Hall of Fame?
-- Matt, Long Beach, Calif.
I'll defer to Konerko on this one, who states that he is not a Hall of Famer. A case certainly could be made in his favor behind his immense contributions on and off the field, not to mention in the clubhouse. Even without such an honor, the captain lands on a short list of greatest players in franchise history.
What are next year's Draft priorities? Will Jim Thome be at Spring Training? Catcher leadership for next year?
-- Thomas, Evansville, Ind.
Draft priorities almost always fall under the best talent available category, with the White Sox certainly looking for a long-term difference making selecting at such a high spot. I'm certainly figuring Thome will be at Spring Training next year, and I'd look for Josh Phegley to carry forward his hold on the starting catcher's job.
Do you think the White Sox have a place for Jordan Danks in the future? He's been hitting pretty well as of late.
-- Marty K., Mt. Prospect, Ill.
As far back as Spring Training, Danks explained to me that subtle changes made in his approach had him feeling more confident at the plate. With steadier playing time, those changes have paid dividends.
Danks can run and field any outfield position better than anyone else in the organization. He has put himself into the plans for next year. I'm guessing more as a fourth outfielder at this point, but there's time to raise those expectations.
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.