According to Wiktionary, the definition of “enigmatic” is
1. Pertaining to an enigma.
3. Defying description.
4. (variant) Enigmatical.
Is “Enigmatical” really a word? Who cares? I think it fits as a nickname: The Enigmatical Kenny Williams.
I am not mocking Chicago White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams. I’m mocking myself. I have a terrible track record when it comes to thinking about Williams’ moves. When he makes a move I think is silly, it ends up working out. When he makes a move I like, it blows up. So it is with some trepidation that I am posting on Chicago’s designated hitter hole.
The White Sox are built to win now: trading for Jake Peavy, acquiring Alex Rios, and adding questionable stopgaps like Juan Pierre in left and Mark Teahen at third. It’s not an unrealistic hope. The Twins were the class of the AL Central even before adding Orlando Hudson. But with Peavy, Mark Buerhle, John Danks, and Gavin Floyd, the Sox probably have the best starting rotation in the division, and the bullpen is strong. The position players don’t stand out as much, but they aren’t dreadful — Carlos Quentin is a good hitter when healthy, Gordon Beckham is a budding star, and Rios, Alexei Ramirez, and Paul Konerko are solid performers. They’re probably the only other team in the Central with a shot, but it is a legitimate shot.
That makes the DH situation puzzling. The White Sox decided to pass on Jim Thome, who then signed a cheap contract with the Twins. While I’m not sure how much a bench DH really helps the Twins (unless Delmon Young is terrible yet again despite CHONE’s favorable projection), not having him around really is going to hurt Chicago. It’s not clear who Chicago plans on playing at DH, but (Omar Vizquel jokes aside) from what I gather it will be a mix of Andruw Jones, Mark Kotsay, and occasionally guys like Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin. Perhaps power-hitting catching prospect Tyler Flowers will get some DH starts later in the season.
Seriously, a Jones/Kotsay platoon is the first option? Keep in mind that a league-average hitter is a replacement level DH. While Jones might still have his uses as a bench/platoon player, CHONE projects him as a below average hitter (.324 wOBA, -7/150 in context-neutral linear weights). If you think that’s bad, Kotsay projects at .297 wOBA, -16/150 context-neutral. That’s not useful at any of the positions Kotsay backs up at this point, much less DH. Even if efficiently platooned, that’s ugly. Heck, Mike Jacobs (-6) would be an upgrade, and would also keep the Chicago/Kansas City pipeline active.
They really didn’t have room for Thome? He probably adds just a few runs for the Twins, but he would be at least a one, maybe two win improvement over Jones/Kotsay. Of the remaining free agents, Russell Branyan seems like a great fit. He’s a +15/150 hitter. Even with doubts about his back, as a half-time player he probably adds a win. Carlos Delgado would be an improvement as a DH in a platoon situation, too. There are plenty of league-average hitters still out there who could meet the defensive “requirements” at DH.
The White Sox are in a situation where spending a bit on a DH who can hit better than Zombie Andruw Jones and Mark Kotsay is logical, yet so far they’ve passed. But one thing I’ve learned over the last few years is to never count The Enigmatical Kenny Williams out.