The Chicago White Sox are one of the weirdest teams in baseball. They are very old yet in the middle of a sort of rebuild, I guess? They have one of the highest payrolls in baseball to go with the worst minor league system going. They lost their crazy/successful manager and hired a man with no experience at any level. They could 89 games or they could win 75. Who knows! New headman Robin Ventura is going to do what he can to extract the most out of his motley bunch of misfits, starting with a big time shake-up in the outfield.
When Travis outlined the White Sox chances earlier this week, he pencilled troubled outfielder Alex Rios into center, not-really-an-outfielder Dayan Viciedo into right and Alejandro De Aza into left. After meeting with the press this morning, it turns out Robin Ventura has different plans for 2011.
Based on Rios’ struggles over the last two seasons, Ventura seems to think he might be more comfortable back in right field, where he posted the best numbers of his career as a member of the Blue Jays. This moves nobody’s right fielder Dayan Viciedo into left and leaves De Aza, Kosuke Fukudome, and Brent Lillibridge to scramble for center field time.
This sounds like a strategy crazy enough to work. Giving Viciedo as little defensive responsibility as possible seems like the right thing to do, while moving Rios to right field won’t help his WAR but it surely can’t make him play any worse.
Alex Rios really was a terrific right fielder during his time in Toronto. His defensive numbers are terrific during the five full seasons in the corner, saving more than 12 runs per 150 games according to UZR (over 6000 innings.) Defensive runs saved also loves Rios in right, crediting him with 76 runs saved for his career in right.
His numbers in center field are more at odds with themselves during his time in Chicago. One year looks great, one year looks awful. Overall in center, he rates out as right on league average. Of course, Rios is now 31 years-old and, depending on how much stock you put into his mental makeup, an empty shell of a man.
Does Ventura think moving Rios to right will make him a better hitter? It seems very hard to believe that Alex Rios is completely Dunn as a hitter (DO YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE???) Should Rios move to right field and make anything approximating a recovery, many people will simply connect the dots, Rios likely included.
Figuring out what the Sox will get from the other outfielders listed is the biggest mystery. Is De Aza for real? Can Fukudome continue posting his hollow OBPs over a full season in the American League? Will Brent Lillibridge embrace his role as America’s sweetheart? Will Viciedo fall down and hurt himself in a tragicomic way? Credit to Ventura for trying to pre-emptively shake the White Sox out of their doldrums. I don’t see how any of it makes a difference, but he gets full marks for trying.