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White Sox Wed Nov 02 2011

Questions Linger for Pierre, Sox Outfield

Thumbnail image for white sox.gifWith the White Sox betting on younger talent, free agent Juan Pierre's future with the team is looking less and less realistic. After losing a step in his speed and his defender Ozzie Guillen out of the picture, re-signing seems like a long shot.

The left fielder received criticism early on for his inconsistent batting and below-average base stealing. After a solid July and August, Pierre's batting average dropped to .257 and in September, he managed just four steals in eight attempts. By the end of the season, Pierre's stolen bases were an alarming 41 fewer what they were in 2010 while his caught stealing number was the same.

As a Type B free agent, the White Sox could offer Pierre arbitration, which means if he rejects their offer and signs with a different team, the Sox would receive a compensatory draft pick between the second and third rounds of the 2012 entry draft. Since there isn't a strong outside interest in Pierre, offering him arbitration means risking his acceptance and signing a one-year deal worth a minimum of 80 percent of his 2010 salary of $8.5 million. That said, it's likely the two parties will cut ties instead since the White Sox don't have money to throw around and do have younger talent to put in place of Pierre.

Assuming that there is no re-signing this winter, the team is left with a hole in the lead-off hitter position and room in the outfield. Rumors have already spread about the likely outfield lineup that would include Alex Rios in the left field, Alejandro De Aza in center, and Dayan Viciedo in right field. The consistent addition of Viciedo could work for the team next season. He had a .353 average with 10 doubles, three homers and three triples and 19 RBI in his last 31 games. He can also play all three outfield positions.

This discussed rotation also puts another White Sox player out of the picture: Carlos Quentin. If the team were to go along with the Rios-De Aza -Viciedo line, they could ultimately trade Quentin and use some of the money to re-sign Mark Buehrle. Even though Quentin has shown strong talent, arguably more than some of the outfield, trading him to cover costs and possibly get pitching or outfield prospects wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

When it comes to deciding the lead-off hitter, there is no one clear candidate. The most likely, however, is De Aza. In his two-month period with the Sox, De Aza played center field well and brought much needed energy to the team. He also offers more power than Pierre. That said, De Aza has only batted lead-off seven times in his last month of the season. With an on-base percentage of .474, it would also make sense to use him second. But with few working options for the lead-off, De Aza might be the best candidate.

Ultimately, the White Sox have glaring holes to fix in the off-season if they want to produce a competitive team in 2012. Kenny Williams will have big decisions to make but regardless it appears the outfield is getting a whole new look.

 
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