2011 Organizational Rankings: #14 – Chicago

Although the White Sox only rank fourteenth in our overall rankings, let it be known that any organization that marries Kenny Williams with Ozzie Guillen will always be #1 in our hearts.

Present Talent – 80.45 (T-11th)

White Sox Team Preview

Future Talent – 65.00 (T-27th)

White Sox Top 10 Prospects

Financial Resources – 81.67 (T-9th)
Baseball Operations – 80.45 (12th)

Overall Rating – 78.50

When it comes to the product on the field, the White Sox continue to be above average, as they have throughout much of the Kenny Williams Era. Occasionally, they produce great teams (the 2005 World Series team) and duds (2007’s 72-90 clunker). However, the best bet for a Kenny Williams’ White Sox team is competency as opposed to greatness or mediocrity – his teams have won an average of 85 games per season since he took the reins prior to the 2001 season.

It’s not terribly difficult to understand why Williams’ teams follow this trend when we look at his general-managerial history. Williams will hit some home runs – see the Alex Rios waiver claim or the Freddy Garcia for Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez trade. However, those big-impact deals can be nullified by misplays of the market, such as when the Sox took on Jake Peavy and his entirely undesirable contract while giving up four minor leaguers (including Clayton Richard) for the right to do so. Peavy only pitched 107 innings for the Sox in 2010 and is already on the shelf to begin the 2011 season.

The winter of 2011 didn’t see much turnover, but the few changes could impact the team greatly. Bobby Jenks departed in a rather unceremonious fashion. The White Sox bullpen will miss him, as would any other, but the way is now clear for Matt Thornton’s deserved ascension to the closer’s role. Andruw Jones and Mark Kotsay are gone as designated hitters, clearing the way for the big acquisition of the winter, Adam Dunn. The addition of Dunn to a White Sox team which already scored runs at an above-average clip should turn the group into the best run-producing unit in the division. Signing Dunn represents a bit of a break from the norm for the White Sox, who typically eschew high-strikeout players like Dunn for other types of players. However, suffering through a year of Mark Kotsay at DH bludgeoned home the fact that the current strategy just wasn’t working.

With a baseball operations staff that has been together for so long and maintained a good amount of success, Chicago has earned an above-average rank in that category. Even during stretches where the farm system isn’t producing much MLB talent, Williams’ front office can maneuver three markets successfully: the trade market, the domestic free-agent market, and one of his better weapons, the international free-agent market. The 2011 version of the White Sox carry at least one and potentially two major contributors who were acquired via international free agency: Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo. If the White Sox could avoid busts like the Peavy deal, this group could move in to the top 10. As is, they will have to settle for 12th.

Williams and his team (including assistant GM Rick Hahn, who basically stole the show at one of our FanGraphs events in Arizona) will likely need to be creative to replenish lost talent over the next few years. The White Sox were the owners of the lowest-ranked farm system in baseball prior to the Brewers’ acquisitions of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, which pushed Milwaukee well into last place. The top of Chicago’s farm system has some decent talent, but the quality drops off sharply after the top five or so. Throw in the White Sox’s undesirable position in the upcoming draft – no picks in the first or supplemental rounds – and the farm system could remain poor for at least a couple years. It is this potential for a drought in the farm which drags the White Sox back to the pack a bit, as they rank fairly highly in every other category.

Luckily, as long as the player development crew can push a few contributors out of the system, the White Sox have the finances to buy a good amount of talent. For the fifth time in the last six years, the White Sox payroll will eclipse $100 million, and with $93.5 million on the books already for 2012, that number may never fall below $100 million again. The White Sox are in a big market and they act like it. Even if they may not have the financial pull that the Yankees or even Boston carry, they will be able to get their man in a large majority of free-agent contract negotiations. The extra money in the coffers has also allowed the Sox to bring in international free agents like Viciedo and Ramirez, as well.

The next few years will be interesting for the White Sox and their fans. The talent on the field should be enough to compete in the AL Central, if not be the Opening Day favorites. After this year, things will get interesting, as many of their current regulars are 30 or older, including Paul Konerko, Mark Buehrle, Jake Peavy, Juan Pierre, and A.J. Pierzynski. Their younger talent will hit their late arbitration and free agency years with a large fraction of the payroll tied up in the older players and a lack of big-time talent coming up through the minors to replace them. The White Sox certainly have the ability to get through the next few years with a good deal of success. When all is said and done, though, don’t be surprised if Kenny Williams and company guide the White Sox through the future at a clip of 85 wins per season, just as they have for the past decade.

We hoped you liked reading 2011 Organizational Rankings: #14 – Chicago by Jack Moore!

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CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11

Baseball Operations – 80.45 (12th)

I’m stunned. In the entire series I thought the ChiSox front office rating (or BaseOps) was going to be what I disagreed with the most.

I think 12th is pretty accurate. I might have him in the top 10 seeing how he acquired Floyd, Danks, Jenks, etc for nothing … and signing Teahen wasn’t the biggest travesty in the world (just an obvious, now, mistake).

Nice Job, Jack.

Otter
Guest
Otter

I think if you’re going to ding the Baseball Operations, it would be for a lack of Latin American farm system (Carlos Lee is the last Latin player the White Sox signed and developed who had any sort of success iirc; I don’t include Alexei because he was 26 when the Sox signed him). But other than that… it’s hard to find a better front office imo. Sure Kenny Williams loses all trades involving Nick Swisher, but other than that it’s hard to find a bad deal. The Peavy deal wasn’t great, but they only gave up Richard (who’s a 4th start in the NL). The Teahen deal was a disaster, true, but Danks, Floyd, Thornton, any trade involving Freddy Garcia (Kenny got him for a song remember)… Kenny’s wins are much much much greater than his losses (Swisherx2, Todd Richie).

Plus having Kenny Williams as your GM is fun since the guy makes big deals every year. He makes those trades that you dream about your team making when you’re 14 and decided that you’re going to become a baseball GM.

Leo Martin
Member
Member
Leo Martin

“He makes those trades that you dream about your team making when you’re 14 and decided that you’re going to become a baseball GM.”

This line could also be used pretty effectively in a criticism of Kenny Williams.

The Ancient Mariner
Guest
The Ancient Mariner

A lot of that is the pitching coach — which is not to say it isn’t to Williams’ credit to trade for pitchers who will benefit greatly from his pitching coach — as learning the cutter was a large part of the success of Danks, Floyd and Thornton after joining the CWS.

jkerouac02
Member
jkerouac02

Ancient Mariner-
just fyi, neither Floyd nor Thornton throws a cutter, but I agree with your point otherwise

Joey
Guest
Joey

“Carlos Lee is the last Latin player the White Sox signed and developed who had any sort of success iirc”

Wow I think you need to pay a little closer attention, remember someone named Magglio Ordonez, where do you think he came from? The sox have a had some also acquired some Latin American talent, either with minor league trades or amateur drafts, remember Wilson Alvarez and Alex Fernandez from the 1990s?

Rich
Guest
Rich

What about Magglio Ordonez?

MikeS
Guest
MikeS

I think the perception among the casual fan or even bigger fans outside of Chicago is that Ozzie is a buffoon and KW is in over his head because of Swisher, Peavy and Teahan. Jack gives all the good counterarguments for why KW is above average but not quite elite. As a White Sox fan, even I worry that maybe Rick Hahn is behind the successes and maybe some day somebody will hire him away which could expose Williams if the perception of him is actually true.

I felt this analysis was pretty accurate and fair.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11

The assistant is “always” the guy behind the moves … until he isn’t. Being an assistant in a good organization appears to be completely different than being the GM for a lesser organization.

The article ends with the statement about KW leading the ChiSox to another 85 win season, and being able to basically duplicate the feat annually. While it may not sound all that impressive, compare that to the rest of White Sox history. At least now the recent talk isn;t about the 83 team or the lost 94 season.

Going into each season, the ChiSox have a decent chance at a division title. Isn’t that a GMs job?

The ChiSox for much of their 100+ year history have been an irrelevant team on the wrong side of a large market.

OzzieGuillen
Member
OzzieGuillen

Acknowledging the obvious bias in my user name, I think “Ozzie is a buffoon” is an erroneous statement. He is outspoken, perhaps in a way that is occasionally detrimental to his team, but that outspoken nature has gotten the team way more attention than they have in the previous 50 years. Furthermore, he does have a title under his belt, which is more than most managers can say. Yes, managers are overrated, but Ozzie is one of the best at doing what his franchise needs him to do.