|Danks is the man with the long-term contract on Chicago's South Side. (US Presswire)|
We are now less than a week from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, and our core values series is the bridge that will get us there. Monday, we turn our attention to the Chicago White Sox, a club that went 85-77 last season under first-year manager Robin Ventura.
For those who haven't been with us for the entirety of the series, check out one of the previous posts from this here link box to see what we're doing. As for the rest of us, let's dive in.
Cornerstone player: John Danks
Adam Dunn, Jake Peavy, Paul Konerko and Alex Rios will all make eight figures in 2013, but Danks has the long-term commitment from the club. He's only one year into a five-year, $65 million deal, which will pay him $15,750,000 in 2016.
Now for the bad news: While Danks' upside is nice, he still isn't close to a staff ace type. He looked like he might be headed that way in 2008, when he was 12-9 with a 3.32 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, but in the past two seasons, he's gone 11-16 with a 4.66 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and 165 strikeouts in 224 innings.
A shoulder injury held Danks to just nine starts last season, and he's still only 27, so it would be far too early to act like all hope is lost at him becoming a frontline starter.
Face of the franchise: Paul Konerko
Fourteen years, six All-Star appearances and a World Series ring. Konerko has embodied the White Sox for quite a while. He's hit .285/.361/.504 with the White Sox and is one of the best hitters in franchise history. In fact, Konerko now sits pretty high on White Sox franchise history leaderboards, too, ranking fourth in runs, fourth in hits, third in doubles, second in home runs, second in RBI and fourth in walks.
Face of the future: Chris Sale
The lanky lefty is only 23 years old. Last season he went 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 192 strikeouts in 192 innings, making the All-Star team and finishing sixth in AL Cy Young voting. Not a bad debut in the rotation, huh? If anything, Sale will get even better and is likely a future Cy Young winner.
Grading the White Sox core: D
The older players -- Dunn, Peavy, Rios, Konerko -- are still productive enough to help the White Sox stay competitive while there remains hope that the likes of Gordon Beckham, Tyler Flowers, Jose Quintana and Dayan Viciedo improve. Also, will Gavin Floyd and Alexei Ramirez get better? Will Danks ever live up to his contract?
Peering three to five years into the future, there are more questions than answers here.
Plus, according to scouting types, the White Sox have one of the worst farm systems in baseball, so they'll have to continue to try to reload at the big-league level without using top-flight trading chips or an influx of great, young players. That's always been tough to do, but it's even tougher now that some small-to-middle-market clubs are tying up their studs long term -- meaning the White Sox can't rely upon waiting for stars to hit free agency and then hope to sign them.
The saving grace is Sale, who will most certainly be an ace for years to come and soon be locked up with a long-term deal. Otherwise, things are far from encouraging here.
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