It was a lost season on the south side of Chicago in 2011, as the team seemed to struggle on nearly every front. We sat down with Jim Margalus of South Side Sox to ask him about the changes in management, the farm system, and what he'd like to see out of the front office this off-season.
ON UNDERPERFORMING VETERANS:
MLBDD: It seems that the team had an unusually large amount of bad contracts in the lineup for most of the season, most notably Adam Dunn and Alex Rios. Do you think some of these players will rebound in 2012, or do you think this may be the performance level we will see from them going forward?
JM: I think it's closer to the latter. They'll probably improve a little, if only because Dunn shouldn't face lefties anymore, and Alex Rios has a toe problem that might hurt him. But Dunn looked like he was dealing with walleye vision, and Rios is so mechanically unsound in all facets that it seems like they have to overcome physical problems on top of any mental woes.
My Thoughts: I don't know what they should do about them, but hopefully they will get improved production from both of them. I honestly have no idea what they will do if Dunn and Rios don't improve, but I imagine it will involve a lot more time on the bench.
ON MANAGEMENT CHANGES:
MLBDD: After hearing it rumored for the last few seasons, Ozzie Guillen is no longer the manager on the South Side. How do you feel about how it happened, and what do you think of the hiring of new manager Robin Ventura?
JM: It had to happen, because Ozzie mailed in the 2011 season. I don't think any other manager would've allowed Dunn and Rios to accumulate as much negative value as they did.
I'm surprised that Kenny Williams got as much from the Marlins as he did, because he didn't seem to have any leverage. But I guess with the Marlins' new stadium and spending spree lining up, they didn't want to take any chances on who they felt was the right guy. But he had to go (and I wouldn't have minded if Williams went, too).
I don't like the Ventura hiring. Granted, they had to hire an inexperienced manager because Don Cooper (rightfully) wasn't going anywhere, but I'd rather have a manager who has at least traveled with a team for 162 games in a non-playing capacity.
My Thoughts: It seems like this was always how it had to end for Guillen in Chicago. The team was never going to cede enough control to him that he could just run however he felt like, and he was never going to change. The fact that they got anything of value out of the Marlins tells me just how desperate they were to get Guillen on board. As for the Ventura hiring, I find it extremely odd, and wonder how it's going to play out. It seems to me like it is unlikely to be successful, but stranger things have happened.
ON THE EMERGENCE OF SERGIO SANTOS:
MLBDD: At the start of the season, it was widely expected that Matt Thornton or Chris Sale would be the most likely candidates for the closer's job. However, by the end of the season, Sergio Santos had established himself enough to not only hold the role down, but also get a contract extension. Do you think he will be able to repeat his performance in 2012?
JM: Yup. I don't know if he'll be ready to put together a full great season, because it seems lik ehe's still building up full-season endurance. He's worn down in the last month of both his seasons. But his repertoire is the real deal, so I think he still can improve.
My Thoughts: I don't know if anyone had the foresight at the start of the season to predict that Santos would be the one to emerge, and it sounds like the team is building the bullpen for the future around him. The team has already made known that they intend to convert Chris Sale to a starting role, and there have been rumors of a willingness to listen on Matt Thornton as well.
ON THE FARM SYSTEM:
MLBDD: The farm system has been relatively bare for the past couple of seasons, but there are a few players who could be interesting players in the Majors at the moment. Are there any prospects that you specifically think could be solid contributors in the next few years?
JM: Their nearest contributors aren't going to provide a ton of value. Addison Reed can get swings and misses on his fastball. He has eighth inning/closer potential in his near future. Hector Santiago had a brief call-up last year as an injury fill-in. He's interesting, in that he's a lefty, throws hard, and has a screwball. He could be a lefty reliever who can work a full inning. Tyler Flowers will get a full shot to be a fulltime backup catcher, and Eduardo Escobar is first in line for utility infielder duty, but it's all depth guys at the top. Which is why the Sox system is considered the worst in the league.
My Thoughts: This system is really, really a mess right now. And there's not a lot of hope for the future based on the draft class either. The team seems to almost punt the draft every year, and I'm wondering if at some point this might cost Kenny Williams. The team had a huge scandal involving skimming of bonuses by some of their front office personnel down in Latin America, and they're losing out on a huge market until they can get re-established down there.
ON THE OFFSEASON:
MLBDD: The team still only finished just 2 games under .500 despite some very poor performances. Are there any specific moves you'd like to see the team make for 2012 to get back to the top of the division?
JM: I'd like to see the Sox shop for a close-to-ready or change-of-scenery outfield prospect -- kinda like the way they bought low on Carlos Quentin before the 2008 season. With Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo in line to hold down full-time starting jobs for the first time, additional depth would be nice. Plus, if Adam Dunn is truly washed up, there'll be plenty of work to be had for four outfielders when including the DH spot.
But the Sox don't have to be choosy. Outside of Paul Konerko at first and Alexei Ramirez at short, there are no position players who have earned the right to claim their position for 2013. It's a make-or-break year for two-thirds of the lineup, so any kind of promising depth would be welcome.
They can trade from the rotation or bullpen. The Sox had enough pitching last year, but they couldn't overcome the dead weight on offense, and of course, you have to give up something to get something.
My Thoughts: It seems like it will be another rebuilding year in Chicago, as they hope that some of the players who struggled will rebound. It appears that the team will listen on players like Carlos Quentin, John Danks, and Gavin Floyd, among others, and there's the potential that they could try to move a lot of players as a part of this. However, beyond those three, I'm not sure how many other players they have that will return a high value.
Thanks again to Jim Margalus for taking the time to answer our questions!