The White Sox have added a few players in the last week to play key bench roles. They re-signed Dewayne Wise to be the fourth outfielder, Steve Tolleson to play a infield/outfield utility position, and added a left-hand hitting minor league hitting catcher from the Cardinals in Bryan Anderson, to compete for the catcher's position with Tyler Flowers. They also got a former first round draft choice in David Purcey for Cooper to fix. How much influence does Buddy Bell have on Rick Hahn? -- Thomas A., Hoffman Estates
First, Wise will have the inside track at the fourth outfielder spot, with some competition from Jordan Danks unless Danks is traded or if the Sox carry a fifth outfielder (with an 11-man pitching staff). Tolleson faces a stiff battle from Angel Sanchez and perhaps Carlos Sanchez. Hector Gimenez has the inside track over Anderson for the backup job. Contrary to some speculation, the Sox take what they believe is the best 25-man roster each April, regardless of contract status (they ate plenty of money in taking Chris Widger over Ben Davis in 2005) or service time. They weren't afraid to carry rookie Eduardo Escobar as a rookie backup infielder last spring, as well as four rookies in the bullpen.
Buddy has significant input in this organization. He managed Jeff Keppinger and Angel Sanchez, albeit briefly, in Kansas City. But Buddy said plenty of scouts had input in the decision to select Angel Sanchez in the Rule 5 draft.
Rick listens to plenty of people in the baseball operations department, but he's got his ideas, too. Kenny Williams delegated a lot of authority to him, and I think it served Rick and the organization well.
How about those "Fighting Irish!" -- J.H., Charlotte, N.C.
A great year for the Irish Nation. They deserve to be in the BCS title game, and there are plenty of players on that team who aren't getting enough credit. But I see a few Notre Dame fans limping down Michigan Avenue. They are the ones who pulled hamstrings jumping on the bandwagon and wearing new ND attire.
Why didn't the White Sox try to acquire Michael Young from the Rangers? He would have been a perfect fit. Young hits for average and power and is a former All-Star. The Rangers need pitching, and we have plenty to spare but it appears the Phils are after Michael, so it may be too late. Hopefully Keppinger will do well, but we could have done better. P.S.: I told everyone I knew that Young would be available this winter and the Sox would grab him. Little do I know. -- Mike M., Wichita Falls, Texas
I knew the Seattle Seahawks were going to beat the Bears but didn't know anyone heading to Las Vegas, so I can't brag too much about my premonition.
As for Young, I talked to someone close to him in late September. The possibility of him leaving started building momentum this winter. But I got the impression he wasn't interested in leaving Texas until it became apparent that even his at-bats would be reduced.
Two other considerations were the money that Texas would be able to eat, and whether he would consent to waiving his no-trade rights to approve a trade to the White Sox.
The pool of free agent third basemen this off-season was very shallow, but the Sox did pretty well for themselves by acquiring Keppinger, who rarely strikes out and will fit in well with the Sox's crusade to cut down on their strikeouts and rely less on power.
Your recent article discloses that the Sox were trying to trade Dayan Viciedo to the Mariners and Alejandro De Aza to the Reds. Who do you think they were trying to get in return? To me it appears that they were trying to acquire King Felix Hernandez from Seattle, and I am not sure from the Reds. If the Sox are going to beat the Tigers in the Central, do you think they will build their team to look like the San Francisco Giants? That is a team that is deep in the starting rotation (three top pitchers), good defensive outfielders who hit for average. a strong bullpen, and bench players who play within their roles. If that is the case, it is interesting in that isn't that the kind of team Ozzie Guillen wanted to build? -- Thomas A., Hoffman Estates
The Sox are looking for a left-handed hitter and a late-inning reliever. Seattle has been adamant about not trading Hernandez, but my sense is that the Sox were looking at one of their left-handed hitters on the right side of the infield as well as a young arm. As for the Reds, Drew Stubbs is an enigma, and both sides would benefit from a change of scenery. I'm not saying Stubbs is the answer because he strikes out too much. But the Reds have loads of talent -- much of it homegrown. With Joey Votto recently stating that his surgically repaired knee still isn't 100 percent, I can't see the Reds considering trading Jay Bruce, although stranger things have happened.
But I'd definitely be interested in Homer Bailey and another young player. You can see why Williams was interested in a trade involving Jermaine Dye and Bailey after the 2008 season. Dye's performance declined dramatically in the second half of 2009, and Bailey was beginning to show glimpses of his potential.
I wouldn't downplay the need to acquire a left-handed hitter. Having productive hitters like Alejandro De Aza in the leadoff spot, Adam Dunn batting third and A.J. Pierzynski sixth enabled the Sox to receive 277 RBIs from their left-handed hitters in 2012. They had only 182 from their left-handed hitters (thanks to Dunn's slump) in 2011 and 186 (thanks to Kotsay's struggles) in 2010.
Having a strong balance of left and right-handed hitters throughout the top six spots in the batting order creates late-inning dilemmas for opposing managers.
I look for Torii Hunter to light a fire under Detroit, which seemed in a malaise until the final month and when it played the White Sox. Detroit still needs a closer, so I wouldn't say the Tigers are a slam dunk favorite because every contender needs a closer. The White Sox need to cut down their strikeouts, continue to play as smart as they did in 2012 and have strong finishes from Chris Sale and Jose Quintana as well as a rebound season from John Danks.
The Giants' organization, from top to bottom, should enjoy the 2012 World Series title to the fullest. Ownership allowed management to pursue Hunter Pence. Manager Bruce Bochy handled the closer situation as well as any manager in the game when Brian Wilson blew out his elbow. The players didn't panic when Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. More important, they adjusted well to the situation -- from Tim Lincecum pitching in relief to the batters hitting well to every situation.
Yes, Ozzie wanted to manage this type of team, and I think his style (hit-and-run, bunting, etc.) was more suited to the National League game. But you need power when you play half of your games at U.S. Cellular Field.
With Zack Greinke agreeing to terms with the Los Angeles Dodgers, expect plenty of movement this week. Keep in mind that Gavin Floyd's costs are fixed for 2013. I'm not saying that Gavin Floyd is Zack Greinke, but a team who lost out in the Greinke sweepstakes might want to take a shot at Floyd while keeping their options open for the 2013 free agent pool and having money left over to spend in other areas this season. And Mike Adams makes sense for the Sox as a late-inning reliever.
And the Dodgers aren't done. They're looking for a left-handed reliever, and money is no object to them. I told Dodgers president and co-owner Stan Kasten at the Winter Meetings that the Dodgers got their swagger back, and he quickly reminded me that I told him in June that they got their 1970s arrogance back.
In the meantime, I wish everyone a happy and peaceful holiday season. Dave Van Dyck will be carrying the torch on Sox coverage, and I'll be back sometime before SoxFest.