Silverman: Role-Playing Free Agents Can Help White Sox, Cubs In 2014
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(CBS) Here’s the lesson from the Red Sox victory over the Cardinals in the World Series: You don’t need to fill your team with superstars acquired through free agency in order to turn things around.
The Red Sox fired a bad manager when the 2012 season ended and started adding role players. Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara, David Ross, Shane Victorino and Ryan Dempster were all positive pickups for Boston general manager Ben Cherington.
He didn’t make a mistake on any of his signings. Cherington didn’t think that any one of those players could carry the Red Sox, but each one played a key role on the team.
Neither the White Sox nor the Cubs need to sign superstar free agents to climb the baseball ladder. We’re not talking about winning the World Series in 2014, we’re just talking about putting good players on the field.
We’re just talking about putting real players who can contribute with their batting average, on-base percentage and slugging.
Here are five players that either the White Sox or Cubs need to consider:
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox – Ironically, benching Saltalamacchia during the World Series may have been one of the keys to the Red Sox coming out on top in the Fall Classic. He has several holes in his game that became obvious when the Red Sox were facing elite competition in the postseason.
However, the 28-year-old catcher was adequate during the regular season because he was much improved defensively and he had a .338/.466/.804 slash line in 2013. He would be a huge improvement over Tyler Flowers. The White Sox may want to insert a new catcher into the lineup when they reach the World Series, but that would be a good problem to have.
2B Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles – Talk about a cheap signing. Roberts hasn’t had a full and healthy season since 2009, but there were signs at the end of the season that Roberts could still be a productive hitter. If the White Sox trade Gordon Beckham – perhaps to Toronto – Roberts could be a remarkable addition if he can pick up where he left off after a very productive last quarter of the 2013 season in which he had a .752 OPS and six home runs over his last 41 game.
P Ubaldo Jimenez, Cleveland Indians – Jimenez may not come cheap, but he could still be a big-time addition for the Chicago Cubs. Jimenez, 29, is coming off an excellent year for the Indians. He had a 3.30 ERA, threw 182.2 innings and gave up just 0.8 home runs per nine innings. The best thing about Jimenez is his durability. He has thrown 1,275.2 career innings and he has never suffered a serious arm injury.
OF Nate McLouth, Baltimore Orioles – McLouth can make plays in left field and that’s a good jumping off point. He stole 30 bases and had 10 home runs last year for Baltimore and his .329/.399/.729 slash line would help the Cubs become more productive than they have been.
OF Chris Young, Oakland A’s – Based on his numbers last year in the East Bay, both the White Sox and Cubs should stay far away from Young. However, an awful year that saw him hit .200 and have a slash line of .280/.379/.679 does not have to be repeated. Young, 30, hit 27 home runs in 2009 and backed that up with 20 in 2010. There’s no reason he couldn’t come back to those figures in 2014. Young is at his best against left-handed pitching, as he has an .837 OPS against them.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.