I have been neglecting the White Sox lately, not even finding time during the busy holiday season to comment on the Juan Pierre trade. It's partly because I'm not as worried about the Sox. I was hoping they would land a key free agent or two, and they have disappointed to some degree by passing on big names and settling for the nostalgia signings of Omar Vizquel and Andruw Jones. However, I feel like the Sox, unlike the Cubs, are at least addressing their top need areas in one way or another.
Here's who they added:
Juan Pierre, LF: The 2010 team will be faster with a proven lead-off hitter. Nothing against the resurgent Scott Podsednik, but Pierre is faster. He's also a better lead-off man and hitter overall, and a better glove, though he may have one of the worst outfield arms in MLB history (Someone needs to tell The Missile to run further out into left-field for cut-off throws). Honestly, I wish the Cubs never got rid of Pierre, who started very slowly with them in 2006, but eventually led the National League in hits that year. He's definitely not Chone Figgins or Bobby Abreu, but is an upgrade over Pods and more of an everyday option that Dewayne Wise.
Omar Vizquel, SS: One of the all-time greats, the Venezuelan shortstop should be a good fit with his Venezuelan, one-time SS manager. Despite his age, he's a proven competitor who provides an obvious defensive upgrade in the infield.
Andruw Jones, OF: A laughable, but low-risk acquisition. If the Sox have 45 losses at the All-Star break, this signing over other free agent outfielder options will haunt them, but if Jones hits 20 HRs as a back-up or DH and makes a few good plays in the field, this signing will look like a big win. Still, would have been nice to land Hideki Matsui...
Mark Teahen, IF: Some decent power, fielding and overall positional flexibility. The trade, in exchange for Josh Fields and Chris Getz, allows Gordon Beckham to move to 2nd base, so it is actually an upgrade at 2nd over Getz, as well as an upgrade over any other option the Sox would have had at 3rd once they committed to move Beckham to 2nd.
J.J. Putz, RP: The Commish, a rapid Sox fan, has hated Putz for reasons stemming from where he drafted him in our fantasy baseball league in 2008, when Putz began a run of injuries and poor performance. But, Putz (allegedly pronounced like "puts." and not "putts" or, well, "putz") is a former star closer, and a nice choice as a set-up man and potential back-up option for the shaky Bobby Jenks. He could hardly have more problems than he has had the last two years, which I realize is not a great endorsement, but on the whole a bullpen led by Jenks and Putz looks like a pretty good way to follow a starting five that will be the best asset of the 2010 Sox.
So, in my estimation, the modestly-modified Sox have done better than the do-little Cubs this off-season so far. The Sox may be done making moves, and the Cubs are possibly barely started, but there's good reason to believe the Sox will field a better team in 2010 than they did in 2009, while the Cubs, despite cutting dead weight like Kevin Gregg and cancerous growth Milton Bradley, will have to truck in some January fireworks if they hope to have the same said of them.
Besides, the Sox are just looser and more fun, as this recent story about their fantasy football league highlights. A.J. Pierzynski alone has more loosey-gooseyness, to coin a possibly non-existent phrase, than the entire jittery Cubs organization.