White Sox analysis: Fast forward to 2008

Nathaniel Whalen

Now that the 2007 season is over — what’s that you say? It isn’t over? Trust me, it is. The White Sox can begin to figure out what to do about 2008.

They have a bullpen that needs some retooling — though it appears they might have stumbled upon a decent combination right now — an outfield that has question marks at just about every spot and a possible need at shortstop.

Fast forward eight months and this is how the 2008 Sox roster could very well look:

Batting order

1. Jerry Owens, LF: He’s proved he can hit some at the big-league level, and has the speed, bunting ability and bat control that manager Ozzie Guillen loves from his leadoff man.

2. Khalil Greene, SS: General manager Ken Williams is good for one big trade per offseason and this could be it. Williams reportedly wanted Greene as part of a trade-deadline deal for Jermaine Dye, and he could finally acquire the quick, slick-fielding shortstop in an offseason swap with San Diego. The Sox would send Jon Garland — who nearly was traded last offseason to Houston — and Brian Anderson to San Diego for Greene, reliever Heath Bell and a pitching prospect or two.

3. Jim Thome, DH: He might be slowing down a little power-wise, but he still has a high on-base percentage and will drive in runs for the Sox.

4. Paul Konerko, 1B: The Sox can only hope he gets off to good start in 2008, something he didn’t do this year.

5. A.J. Pierzynski, C: He’s hitting for a decent average (.268), gets some clutch hits and continues the lefty-righty-lefty trend in this order.

6. Aaron Rowand, CF: Yes, Sox fans, the center fielder returns. After Rowand’s great 2007 with the Phillies — through Sunday he was hitting .314, with 19 homers and 66 RBI — the Sox could sign the free agent to a long-term deal. He solves the problem in center, can steal some bases and hit for power. A perfect fit — and they’d have some money left over after dealing Garland.

7. Ryan Sweeney, RF: With a solid top and middle of the order, the Sox put Sweeney in a non-pressure situation. He can also steal some bases, and would complete an outfield that would cover a whole lot of ground.

8. Joe Crede, 3B: It’s his job for the first half of the season. If he performs well, the Sox trade Crede — who will be a free agent after the ’08 season and cost too much — in midseason and bring up Josh Fields. If Crede doesn’t recover well from his back surgery, they promote Fields anyway and part ways with Crede after the season.

9. Danny Richar, 2B: Another low-pressure situation for a prospect. Hit a little, steal some bases and play some good defense and that’s good enough for this team.

Bench

Pablo Ozuna: The super utilityman can play pretty much anywhere at any time.

Darin Erstad: Guillen loves this grinder, who’ll make a solid backup for Sweeney and Owens as they go through the learning process.

Toby Hall: Finally healthy, Hall will get more playing time in 2008.

Alex Cintron: Just in case something happens with Richar.

Starting rotation

Mark Buehrle: That contract extension ensures he’s back for a good while.

Javier Vazquez: Finally living up to his potential this year (10-6, 3.65 ERA), Vazquez is the Sox’s No. 2 hurler.

Jose Contreras: Back to his old form recently, the Sox hope Contreras can give them at least one more solid year. On the other hand, if Garland and his $12 million salary aren’t traded during the offseason, Contreras and his $20 million over the next two years could be.

John Danks: Expectations will be a little higher, but the left-hander is up to the challenge.

Nick Masset: He didn’t perform as a reliever, but the Sox have hope for him as a starter.

Bullpen

Bobby Jenks: Forty-one straight. Enough said.

Matt Thornton: After a rough start in 2007, he’s quietly returned to his ’06 form.

Mike MacDougal: He has some of the best stuff of any reliever in baseball. It’s just a matter of utilizing it for a full season.

Ryan Bukvich: The right-hander doesn’t have the best stuff in the world, but Guillen loves the right-hander’s competitive spirit. Bukvich’s sinker helps, pitching at U.S. Cellular Field.

Heath Bell: He’s cheap, solid against righties and a proven commodity.

Boone Logan: As tough on lefties as anyone in the AL.

Ehren Wassermann: A shocker for the final roster spot, but he throws tons of strikes and can be the long man or a one-out reliever.

Nathaniel Whalen can be reached at nwhalen@dailysouthtown.com

or (708) 633-5956. Read his blog at http://blogs.dailysouthtown.com/whalen

Contreras sidebar

According to Sports Illustrated’s Web site, White Sox right-hander Contreras has cleared waivers, meaning he can be traded.

Though Contreras is due $10 million over each of the next two seasons, he’s pitched well in each of his two relief appearances. Contreras, who is scheduled to start Friday for the Sox at Seattle, could be a valuable piece for a contender. (Postseason rosters must be set by Aug. 31.)

“When he wasn’t right, velocity was down, command was down, confidence was down,” Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said. “Over the last two times coming out of the bullpen, all three of those things are up. They’re back. We saw the guy we know.”

Nathaniel Whalen