This week we're going to take a look at each of the Tribe's AL Central rivals, getting help from our SB Nation cousins. Today, a Q&A with Jim Margalus, managing editor at South Side Sox.
As you may or may not have noticed, the White Sox did a lot to improve their roster this offseason. They signed closer David Robertson and left-handed reliever Zach Duke, providing two big upgrades for their bullpen; they added Adam LaRoche, who'll share first base and DH duties with MVP candidate Jose Abreu; they brought in Melky Cabrera, an upgrade for left field; and they traded prospects to Oakland for starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija, giving them what looks like one of the better rotations in the American League, with ace Chris Sale at the top.
They're going to be better in 2015, but will they be good enough to contend?
Unlike the Indians, who mostly stood pat this offseason, the White Sox were incredibly active. Which of those moves are you most excited about? Were there any moves you wish the team hadn't made?
I liked the Melky Cabrera signing the most, as it solved two glaring holes -- left field, and somebody good enough to hit ahead of Jose Abreu -- with a gifted switch-hitter with virtually zero platoon split. Considering he was supposed to get a four-year deal (and maybe even five years), three years seemed like a no-brainer.
On the flip side, David Robertson. They paid for quality, but it's four years for a relief pitcher.
From 1990 to 2012, the White Sox only lost more than 83 games only twice, meaning fans almost never had to deal with anything worse than an average team. Have the last couple seasons been frustrating, or have you viewed them as the means to an end?
Despite the sustained success, they only made the postseason four times over that period. There comes a point where 79 to 85 wins is its own kind of torment, especially when the writing is on the wall with aging players. Ultimately, I think it was better to lose 99 games than 84 in 2013, because that was really a rotten, embarrassing team that was begging to be put down, and since there was no question about it, Rick Hahn could act without feeling, pretty much.
Chris Sale is dealing with a foot injury. How much time do you expect him to miss at the start of the season, and do you have any concerns about his health going forward?
He's on target to make it back on April 12, which is the soonest he can pitch after.a season-opening DL stint. He just struck out 13 minor leaguers on 90 pitches, so he doesn't look like he's far off. If that's the case, then I have no particular concerns besides the usual level of worry over pitchers.
It most feel like the team hit the jackpot with Jose Abreu's 6-year, $68 million contract. Do you expect similar production from him in 2015? Does he have enough help for the offense to be a plus?
I do. He really impressed me -- and most everybody else; it's not like I'm special -- with his second half. Even with his longest season ever wearing on him and sapping his home run power, he managed to increase his walk rate, slash his strikeouts, and still get his hits all over the field. Given that he was the focus of a mediocre lineup, I don't know how much more adjusting pitchers can do for him. He should be quite the presence, and as long as there isn't an automatic out in front of him, the lineup should look something closer to fully functioning.
Which player on the White Sox might not be especially well known outside Chicago's South Side, but should be?
It's been fun watching the analytic community write off Jose Quintana as an iffy-peripheral fluke in his rookie season, then call him underrated two years later, as if they weren't playing a big part in talking down his abilities. Then again, he's been overshadowed by the Jeff Samardzija trade, even though he's outpitched Samardzija pretty clearly the past two years. Maybe his destiny is in the shadows.
Is there anyone one the Indians you particularly admire? Anyone who particularly drives you nuts?
Terry Francona deserves the press he gets. He's done a great job of bringing order to a team with a lot of role uncertainty. Nick Swisher is the automatic answer for the second question, but since he's had a bad year for a team besides the Sox, I'm going to say Ryan Raburn. He's driven in 75 runs against the White Sox, and no more than 24 against anybody else.
The White Sox have certainly made themselves a better team this offseason. Have they done enough to contend? What do you expect to happen in the AL Central this season?
They have, because I don't think the TIgers and Royals did anything to distance themselves. I like the Indians in a marathon, if only because they seem like the team that is least likely to be crushed by one or two key injuries due to the platooning and other forms of depth. But I'd be more afraid of them if Jason Kipnis were a better bet. It helps to have stars, as the Tigers have shown.
If the White Sox get to the deadline in contention, I expect them to add. If the Tigers are similarly aggressive, and if the Indians have Lindor ready to roll/rolling, the second half could feel like an entirely different season.
A big thank you to Jim for taking the time to provide very informative answers to my questions. We're three for three on guests who view the Indians as a legitimate contender in 2015. If we get a fourth with tomorrow's entry in this series, I might have to overlook my general sports pessimism and admit that the Tribe are in it to win it in 2015.