When you lose 99 games, demote a franchise icon to a bench role before his final season, and have over $30 million compared to two struggling players…well, do we even need to search for weaknesses? Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn won't be in Chicago next year, and the revamping of this squad will continue into 2015 and beyond. But that doesn't help them in 2014, because the White Sox are still hamstrung with too many cumbersome contracts and a lack of rotation depth.
The conversation about bad contracts begins with Adam Dunn, who has made $41 million over the last three years, will make $15 million in 2014, and has produced negative value in his there seasons in Chicago. After a stunning lack of power in 2011, Dunn hit 41 homers in 2012 and 34 in 2013, but his batting average has completely fallen into the tank and taken his once prodigious OBP with it. Prior to 2011, Dunn had never had an OBP lower than .350. With the White Sox, it hasn't cleared .333 in any season. Sure, the White Sox are a large market club that can absorb a salary like that, but it sucks.
The situation with Dunn is different from that with John Danks, who signed his five-year extension prior to the 2012 season in which he made just nine starts thanks to shoulder surgery. Danks still has three years left on his deal and is owed $47.25 million over that time period. He's made just 31 starts over the first two seasons of this deal, and his contract is looking like something that the team is going to be regretting.
But it's not just Dunn and Danks that are having an effect on Chicago's payroll situation. Alexei Ramirez will make at least $20.5 million over the next three seasons, and the 32-year old's value has been tied up in his defense as of late. Jeff Keppinger still has two years left on his contract, and was putrid last year. Hell, even Jose Abreu, who was signed to a six-year, $68 million contract this offseason, isn't a sure thing. In Chicago, it's Chris Sale's affordable contract, and a whole lot of murkiness. Like I said, Jerry Reinsdorf's deep pockets will ensure that the White Sox aren't going to be absolutely doomed if any more of these contracts go sour, but dead money is never a good thing.
When it comes to Chicago's rotation, there isn't much depth there. Sale is one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he's a more than viable option at the top of the rotation. But after him, that word comes into play again – murkiness. Jose Quintana had a solid, 200 inning 2013 for the White Sox and had a really great second half, but he hasn't even thrown 350 innings in the majors. The health of Danks is obviously still a question mark. Erik Johnson has thrown just 85 innings above AA ball. Felipe Paulino didn't pitch in the majors at all in 2013 in his return from 2012 Tommy John surgery.
The minor league options following that starting five are an even less impressive bunch. Waiver claim Eric Surkamp didn't pitch at all in 2012 following Tommy John surgery, and was still recovering in 17 starts over three levels last season. Andre Rienzo struggled terribly in a ten game major league stint last year. Dylan Axelrod has been atrocious in the majors over the last two years. Do any of those names really inspire confidence for three spots in a major league rotation?
But then again, this is Don Cooper's rotation. Cooper has turned chicken crap into chicken salad on more than one occasion – Phil Humber was a downright good pitcher in 2011 for the White Sox before turning into a pumpkin after his 2012 perfect game. Jose Contreras thrived in Chicago after falling apart under immense pressure when he was a Yankee. Rough ERAs aside, Javier Vazquez got his career back on the right track after crashing and burning in the Bronx and Phoenix.
If one or two of those back-end starts thrived this year for the White Sox, I probably wouldn't be surprised – but only because of Don Cooper.