After dropping three of four heading into the series finale with the first place Detroit Tigers, things are looking cloudy for the Chicago White Sox.
By my own estimate, this was a make or break series in which the White Sox needed to win at least three of five.
Now they'd be lucky to take two of five.
It's not like you can pinpoint any one area of major concern but the offense would be a good place to start. All in all, the last few weeks of June should either solidify them as a contender or a team ready for a fire sale.
Over the course of the next two weeks the White Sox take on some of the better teams in baseball including the first place Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers. Factor in six games against the Chicago Cubs and you may have the makings of a nail in the coffin.
In the past I've always viewed the crosstown classic as a springboard for whichever team comes on top and that looks to hold true for both middling squads this season.
More than likely things will continue to get worse for the White Sox as left fielder Carlos Quentin is still on the disabled list and could soon be joined by the only man in the lineup actually hitting, Paul Konerko.
So let's plan for the worst and take a look at who may get moved before the July 31st trade deadline.
Three choices should be obvious: Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye and Octavio Dotel.
All three players are free agents after the season and none will likely return even though each player has been productive to some extent this season.
Thome is getting old and the White Sox could do without his .240-ish batting average despite respectable power numbers. There's simply no way Thome returns even at a discounted rate for a variety of reasons I'll get into later.
In terms of what a Thome trade would bring back prospect wise? Not much.
Think of this deal like the Ken Griffey Jr. deal in 2008. The White Sox would have to eat some of the money to trade him for even mediocre prospects. It would be more of a deal to thank Thome for his service by sending him to a contender so he can capture his first World Series ring.
The problem is Thome can only go to an American League team.
Depending on how desperate teams are for solid bullpen pitching, Dotel could bring in a decent prospect before the deadline. He isn't making that much money and has back-to-back seasons of healthy and productive relief work. Dotel could be brought back in 2009 but middle relief can be found elsewhere on the open market.
Jermaine Dye should bring in the biggest haul of the three names listed because he is still performing at an all star level. It would make sense for the White Sox to trade Dye because it would net them a top-tier prospect while freeing up space in the outfield for a couple of different scenarios.
Ideally, I hope all three are traded so my lineup can take shape for 2010.
I'm not sure what to do with Josh Fields yet and you'd be selling low if you traded him now. I also don't think the bullpen is deep enough to trade a stud closer like Bobby Jenks no matter what the White Sox got in return.
That being said here's an intial idea of what the 2010 lineup could look like barring any dream-trades.
Catcher - A.J. Pierzynski/Tyler Flowers
Sure you'd like to see Flowers get more playing time but he could also take his cuts at first base/DH throughout the season while learning how to call a game at a major league level. Pierzynski is a free agent after the 2010 season so it might be the right time for Flowers to learn on the job.
First Base - Paul Konerko/Josh Fields
As always Konerko remains at first base but giving Josh Fields more reps at first base could be helpful while using Konerko as a DH every now and then.
Second Base - Chris Getz/Chone Figgins?
I don't trust that Chris Getz is anything more than a utility man out there. Figgins is rumored every year to be coming to the southside and is a free agent after this season. Figgins would give the White Sox a legit leadoff hitter along with the speed that manager Ozzie Guillen has been pining for.
Shortstop - Alexei Ramirez
Seems like the White Sox will always have to deal with his dreadfully slow starts but he's a servicable bottom of the order hitter at worst with average defense. He's also cheap.
Third Base - Gordon Beckham
Ideally, I wanted Becks to play second base and supplant Getz but it seems like the White Sox are sold on him taking over third base full time. He hasn't hit quite yet but he will turn it on soon enough. Plus, his opposite field hitting abilities make him a prime candidate for the No. 2 hitter role.
Right Field - Carlos Quentin
TCQ moves over to his natural area, right field, supplanting Jermaine Dye. Health concerns are the only thing holding this stud back so far in his major league career.
Left Field - Dayan Viciedo/Matt Holliday?/Johnny Damon?/Bobby Abreu?
Left field is an area where the White Sox can go a bunch of different ways. Yes, I realize Viciedo hasn't played an inning of left field yet but he has a rocket arm and can't be worse than Carlos Lee was when he made the switch from third to left. Other than Viciedo, you don't have many other options in house. That's why I'd be happy with any of the tri-fecta free agent group you see listed above. All three are free agents and are more fleet-footed than the current crop of players.
Center Field - Brian Anderson/????????????
This is my biggest concern. Brian Anderson is not an everday player if he can't hit at least .260 and there's no way Scott Podsednik can keep this up. Jordan Danks seems like a late season call up in 2010 and there really aren't many free agents worth a hell. To improve at this position the White Sox will likely have to pursue a trade. Not sure exactly what would be available after this season so we'll leave it blank for now.
DH - Josh Fields/Dayan Viciedo/??
This seems to be the leftover spot for the White Sox. In 2005, they shuffled Frank Thomas, Carl Everett and a host of others in and out of the DH spot so why not do it again? Fields isn't very good with the glove and if you sign one of the said left fielders you could also give Viciedo time there.
So idealy barring any crazy trades here's one through nine for 2010.
Chone Figgins - 2B
Gordon Beckham - 3B
Carlos Quentin - RF
Paul Konerko - 1B
Bobby Abreu - LF/DH
Alexei Ramirez - SS
A.J. Pierzynski - C
Dayan Viciedo - LF/DH
Brian Anderson - CF
Not a bad lineup and not an in-your-dreams one either. This lineup would be significantly more balanced with speed and power compared to the 2007-2009 lineups. I'd choose Abreu over the rest of those players listed because he seems more inclined to play here for a one-year deal.
Now onto the rotation.
One of the biggest things missing from the 2009 rotation is a dominant right handed pitcher. It would still take a blockbuster trade to acquire one for 2010 so we'll focus on in-house options for now.
1 - Mark Buerhle
There's no question he's the anchor of the staff and a great clubhouse guy. Pencil him in for 15-wins no matter what the team looks like.
2 - Gavin Floyd
Looked like horrible version of himself from Philly the first month or so of the season but has since posted four straight outstanding starts. I still beleive in him though he's not the ideal No. 1 right hander.
3 - John Danks
Like Floyd, Danks has had his ups and downs in 2009 but should be counted on as a key cog to the 2010 season.
4/5 starters - Roy Halladay/Brandon Webb? Aaron Poreda? Carlos Torres? Clayton Richard?
Okay, I'm totally reaching here I know but the White Sox need a dominant righty and if they could swing a deal for the Doc or Webb, they'd be championship contenders. The deal would likely include all three pitchers listed next to Halladay and Webb's name so in the case we do get either pitcher pencil in a durable innings eater like Jon Garland for the fifth spot in the rotation.