The Chicago White Sox have had their share of stars over the years – Carlton Fisk, Frank Thomas, and Paul Konerko are just three of them. But the times are changing, and Chicago hasn't really had a solid supporting cast around Konerko i the last couple of years, with the possible exceptions of the constantly broken down Carlos Quentin and the notoriously streaky Alex Rios. In 2014, things could be a little different, even if Konerko has been banished to the bench.
Sale is one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he has more than replaced Mark Buehrle as the ace of Chicago's rotation. He's signed through 2019 (assuming two club options are exercised), and White Sox fans don't have to worry about him jumping ship to the highest bidder in a matter of years.
And really, Sale is the most important part of Chicago's success in 2014. If Sale doesn't pitch well, the best White Sox starter will probably end up being Jose Quintana, who had a fine year in 2013 but just isn't on the level of Sale. If you take away the best pitcher from any team, they'd suffer. But if you take away Chicago's best pitcher, the White Sox would simply be a disaster.
Another no-brainer, Abreu was signed this offseason to essentially serve as the heir apparent to Konerko, who is retiring after the 2014 season. Early returns on Abreu are promising, but there's still a lot unknown about the Cuban's skills and how well they will translate to the major leagues.
When you're talking about a six-year, $68 million investment, you had better hope for the best. The signing of Abreu was a gamble because of the uncertainty of his true talent level. Abreu got more money than both Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig, and expectations will be high going into 2014. If Abreu lives up to the hype, the White Sox will look like geniuses. If he doesn't, then add another burdensome contract to Chicago's ledger.
Dunn's three seasons in Chicago have ranged between "horrible" and "OK, but not worth the money". So needless to say, as Dunn moves into the final year of his four-year contract with the Sox, expectations are low. I'm sure many fans would simply hope that he doesn't stink.
Dunn may not even be an every day player this year – Paul Konerko is going to end up stealing some at bats from him in his new role on the bench. If Dunn plays like he did in 2012, when he at least contributed positive value to the team, maybe Chicago won't simply release him sometime over the summer.
It's probably silly to count on Dunn to produce much this year for the White Sox, and if he's not, there's really no reason for the team to keep trotting him out there every day this season and taking playing time away from Konerko in his farewell tour or a young player that may have some future like Dayan Viciedo.
Quintana was fine for the White Sox in 2012, but improved across the board in 2013, becoming one of the league's most dependable starters out of nowhere. He improved in the second half, pitched equally as well against lefties and righties, and at home and on the road.
If you're the White Sox, you need a second banana in the rotation behind Chris Sale. Last year, Quintana was that guy. He's only 25, and all signs point to him being able to replicate his 2013 production into the year 2014 and beyond. The Sale/Quintana duo could be one of the best in baseball if Quintana takes another massive step forward this season.