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MLB Trade Deadline, Rumors & Roundup: Chicago White Sox Seeking Position Players To Plug Lineup Leaks

When the White Sox opened camp, they were in the AL Central title conversation, though usually placed behind  the Twins and Tigers. The Sox made bold moves acquiring Jake Peavy and Alex Rios at the '09 deadline and beyond, but spent the off-season tinkering with their bullpen and bench before making their big acquisition, Juan Pierre. Their approach to the off-season seemed backwards, and may have cost them a stranglehold on first place in the Central.

At the heart of the off-season was the Will They or Won't They surrounding Jim Thome and the DH position. The front office wanted Jim Thome back, but for some reason allowed Ozzie Guillen to have final say on the matter. Guillen wanted the "added flexibility" of using two replacement-level bats (Andruw Jones and Mark Kotsay) in lieu of Thome, which only seemed like a good idea if you were related to Jones, Kotsay or Guillen. Two days after the White Sox passed on Thome's services because Ozzie Guillen didn't want to disrespect the veteran by playing him in a part-time DH role, Thome signed with the division rival Twins who already had three left-handed bats better than the Sox best hitter from that side of plate. Thome would, of course, play in an even more limited part-time DH role in Minnesota, but the results speak for themselves.

Thome: .266/.391/.594, 21 extra-base hits in 128 at-bats; $1.5M base salary
White Sox DHs: .224/.296/.382, 24 extra-base hits in 272 at-bats; $2M base salary (Jones + Kotsay)

Despite the lack of production from their designated hitters, and a slow start that saw them sink to nine games under .500 in June, the White Sox have found themselves right back in the race thanks to some stout pitching (and a weak NL schedule) over the last month. The Sox, who looked like sellers for the first two months of the season, are now fully committed to being buyers as the trade deadline approaches. 

In addition to the obvious hole at DH, the Sox have glaring weaknesses throughout their lineup. The off-season addition of Mark Teahen was a curious one, and giving him the full-time 3B job seemed like a bad idea given his defensive prowess, but the real issue wasn't in his acquisition but the three-year extension he signed. He's a league average bat who's a defensive liability everywhere he plays, and an absolute disaster at 3B. Gordon Beckham, who mockingly earned the nickname The Savior among some Sox fans with his impressive rookie campaign, has melted under the pressure of his first professional setback. He has reverted to the longer, loopier swing that he showed in college, and thanks to the hands-off approach of Sox hitting coach Greg Walker, changed his at-bat music instead of his swing in the hopes of righting his slump. 

The fans are willing to overlook the obvious transgressions of the last off-season if they're corrected as they approach the trade deadline. Jerry Reinsdorf has indicated  that there is money in the team's coffers to add salary, and the fans appear ready to come out in force as the summer hits full swing. It shouldn't be difficult for the Sox to improve their lackluster offense (10th in the AL). Ironically, the flexibility of not having a true DH allows the Sox to upgrade at any of a number of positions, including the OF, while sliding a poor defender (Carlos Quentin, perhaps) to DH duties. 

The Sox have been reputably connected to Adam Dunn, though the price appears too steep at this moment, and disreputably to Prince Fielder, in whom the Sox currently deny interest. The Sox needn't focus their search solely on left-handed, power bats at 1B/DH which might cost them their top prospects in an already thin system. The best move might be finding one or two undervalued, plus defensive, above-average position players -- Alex Rios comes to mind -- as there's likely to be a team willing to part with a lesser known yet equally productive player overall for much less than the current asking price for Dunn and Fielder. When you have an offense that often bats Juan Pierre and Omar Vizquel 1-2, upgrading is easy.
In the interest of accuracy, I think this needs an addendum now.

As with most things in life, things can change very quickly. Jake Peavy left last night's game with a strained right lat, which could put the Sox into a short-term holding pattern until the deadline. They're well positioned to weather the loss of a starter with Daniel Hudson waiting on the farm, but starting pitching was the Sox's strength and their weak offense doesn't allow for much room for mediocrity or growing pains. In the event that Peavy is done for a while and Hudson doesn't effortlessly fill his shoes, the players most likely to be traded include the expiring contracts of Paul Konerko and AJ Pierzynski, who each have the no-trade protection that comes with 10-5 rights, and JJ Putz from the bullpen. Of the players likely to be moved should the Sox become sellers, none figures to bring a franchise-changer or even a top 50 prospect in return.