Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura cautions against setting a batting order too early, a potential sign that the club is not done making offseason roster additions.
The White Sox added a pair of run-producing infielders this past week in Brett Lawrie and Todd Frazier, and while a first glance suggests the White Sox are now set at all positions around the field, Ventura doesn’t sound like a guy in possession of the final product.
Ventura was asked on a conference call Thursday if he sees Frazier batting behind Jose Abreu in the White Sox’s lineup.
“They’ll probably be batting right next to each other, but there is still time to figure that out,” Ventura said. “Again, you’re looking at what we have right now. They’ll be batting next to each other probably, but if there is something else that comes up and we need to adjust and move it around, we can do that. In the middle of December, I just like the fact that they’ll be in the lineup together.”
First there was the “what we have right now.” Then there was the “if something else comes up.”
It sounds similar to Ventura’s tone at last week’s winter meetings, when he emerged from a gathering of White Sox decision-makers saying he felt optimistic when getting a close look at the club’s winter plans. In mere days, the club added Lawrie, and then this week it was Frazier.
The White Sox weren’t believed to have much money to spend this winter after digging deep into their pockets last offseason. But at this point last year, the White Sox figured to be out of wiggle room to make any more additions, only to add Melky Cabrera.
Ventura certainly wouldn’t be opposed to adding somebody like Upton or Cespedes, even if it meant having a glut of outfielders who all would need playing time.
“I don’t think you’d ever not want another power bat in your lineup,” Ventura said. “Right now, you’re dealing with what you have and, again, we knew we had some spots in there in the last couple years that might not have power or certain things. Now you’re trading that off and bringing in Frazier. That different bat, that different element, having that guy go out -- a true all-around player -- that becomes a different thing. But you don’t dare say no to more power or better players, adding a quality player.”
Where last year’s improved roster raised the bar on Ventura and his job security, this year is no different. Ventura survived the rising temperatures on his hot seat last season. This year, he is in the final year of his contract.
Ventura didn’t want to talk about the pressures he is under now that the front office has stepped up, but after a bit of pressing, he addressed it ... sort of.
“Well, I mean, we’re improved, definitely,” Ventura said. “We’re also in the division that has the World Series champion [Kansas City Royals]. We know it’s a tough division. Everyone in that division is getting better, and this is our way to improve and make ourselves a viable candidate, so we’re much improved from last year.”
The reality is that the White Sox were talking about being a contender around the holidays last year, and that was before Cabrera was added. Ultimately, the club was barely better than the disappointing 2014 club.
Ventura knows it takes more than just additions to make a winner.
“You’re going to have to play to be able to make an impact and make it happen because it doesn’t happen on paper,” he said.
In total, the White Sox moved five prospects -- Zack Erwin, J.B. Wendelken, Micah Johnson, Trayce Thompson and Frankie Montas -- while getting back two everyday infielders in Lawrie and Frazier. Still in the fold are top infield prospect Tim Anderson and right-handed starter Erik Johnson.
The White Sox still need to be concerned about tomorrow, but their moves over the last week show they haven’t forgotten about today.
“This is a sign you’re trying to improve,” Ventura said. “Any time you’re giving up some prospects to get somebody like Todd and Brett, you’re trying to put your best foot forward for 2016. You’re not really looking that much further down the road. You’re not giving up everything.
“You still have some guys that [general manager] Rick [Hahn] had valued very high that wouldn’t have made sense to do this trade. So he did have something in the back, that we had some guys coming up that we feel can help us in different positions. Definitely when you’re adding somebody like Todd Frazier, or somebody like Brett Lawrie, you’re trying to improve for this year.”
And it’s possible they aren’t done trying.