Nothing forced for No. 1 hitter, No. 2 catcher
The fact that free agent Chone Figgins appears close to signing a multi-year deal with the Mariners, as reported by FoxSports.com on Friday, doesn’t really impact the White Sox plan to fill their leadoff spot.
Sure, the White Sox long have had interest in one of the game’s best No. 1 hitters. But this projected four-year, approximately $36 million deal left Figgins out of range where the White Sox currently were able to spend. So, where do the White Sox stand in regard to a leadoff man?
General manager Ken Williams presented a somewhat tongue-in-cheek answer to this particular inquiry during a Friday afternoon conference call.
“We won’t be forfeiting the spot in the order. There’s going to be someone under the ‘No. 1’ in our lineup,” said Williams in a call to discuss the 2009 Winter Meetings, beginning Monday morning in Indianapolis.
Williams once again used the example of a leadoff hitter running against the pure speed prototype by pointing to the team’s usage of Orlando Cabrera during the 2008 American League Central championship campaign. Gordon Beckham, who had a .347 on-base percentage as part of his 2009 rookie season and would add extra-base punch at the top, a la Derek Jeter, would be an in-house leadoff candidate if the White Sox don’t make any further additions.
Judging by Williams’ comments above, he doesn’t seem worried about going to Spring Training without that de fact offensive force at the top.
“As much as 90 percent of the other teams in the league that don’t have the ideal leadoff guy,” Williams said. “You look at some of the teams that are around that have been successful. They don’t have the ideal guy.”
Jordan Danks’ chances to make the Opening Day roster also appeared to get a December boost, although Williams didn’t mention the younger brother of starter John Danks by name. With the top-notch pitching staff in place, beginning with a starting rotation as strong on paper as any American League group, Williams stressed how tightening up the defense in the outfield, going along with the changes already made in the infield, remains a priority.
Danks, 23, was deemed to be ready defensively in 2009. So, the White Sox could take a chance on him as the third outfielder, with the support of veterans such as Andruw Jones and Mark Kotsay.
This same school of thought could lead to Tyler Flowers breaking camp as the team’s backup catcher, although Williams admitted to asking around and having some talks about the spot.
“We don’t see it as a situation where we have to do something if it doesn’t fit overall,” Williams said. “We do have options, and not just Tyler.
“If it turns out we want to put Tyler in this sort of situation, the move comes with expectations that he will grow into the role similar to a young backup quarterback in the NFL. He’ll be learning as he goes, but also losing development time. After the season, that would mean he would have to continue going out and playing somewhere, whether it’s the Fall League or down in Winter ball.
“It’s not something that’s a pressing issue,” Williams said. “We will continue to survey the landscape, but where we sit right now, the way we are designed, we don’t have to make a move that’s uncomfortable or inconsistent to our overall plan.”