While most teams made moves at last year's trade deadline to help themselves for a stretch run, Chicago White Sox general manager Kenny Williams was planning for 2010.
The White Sox made the boldest move of any team at last year's deadline, as they acquired ace right-hander Jake Peavy from the San Diego Padres. The move was made for 2010, as the trade went through knowing full well that the former NL Cy Young Award winner would be on the disabled list for the foreseeable future.
Williams also took a chance on outfielder Alex Rios with a waiver wire deal in early August. Rios had fallen out of favor in Toronto shortly after agreeing to a big money extension prior to the start of the 2008 campaign.
It wasn't as if Williams did all his shopping before the end of last season, though, as he added speedy outfielder Juan Pierre and former closer J.J. Putz this winter.
This is exactly the type of team that manager Ozzie Guillen has craved since he took the reins back in 2004 and expectations are that the Pale Hose will be back in the postseason for the second time in the last three years.
Guillen's antics aside, this is going to be a very good team. The moves listed above, coupled with a full season from 2009 AL Rookie of the Year candidate Gordon Beckham, and people on the Southside of Chicago think the AL Central is theirs for the taking.
(79-83) - Third Place (AL Central)
Key Offseason additions
Mark Teahan (3B); Omar Vizquel (SS); Andruw Jones (OF); J.J. Putz (RHP); Juan Pierre (OF)
A big reason for the optimism surrounding the White Sox stems from a full season from Gordon Beckham, who will make the shift from third base to second following a tremendous rookie campaign that nearly netted him an AL Rookie of the Year Award.
Beckham, who finished fifth in AL Rookie voting, didn't make his 2009 season debut until June 4, but finished the campaign with 14 homers, 63 runs batted in and a .270 batting average in 103 games. He led all AL rookies in RBI and doubles and was second in home runs.
A shortstop through college, the eighth overall pick in the 2008 draft appears to be a mainstay at second. Honestly, as long as his bat is in the lineup it won't matter where he plays.
At shortstop the White Sox hope for a better defensive season from Alexei Ramirez, who tends to make the highlight reel plays, but still committed 20 errors last season.
At the plate Ramirez's average dipped a little, but his numbers were fairly consistent with his stellar rookie season from two years ago, as he hit .277 with 15 home runs, 68 RBI, 71 runs scored and 14 stolen bases. He also drew 30 more walks than he did in 2008 and raised his on-base-percentage to .333.
Paul Konerko starts his 12th season with the White Sox and continues to be the glue to Ozzie Guillen's lineup. Konerko remained relatively healthy a year ago, and had his finest season since back-to-back All-Star appearances in 2005-06.
Konerko, who will be entering the final year of his five-year contract, appeared in 152 games last season for the White Sox and hit .277 with 28 home runs and 88 RBI. If he is healthy he is going to hit 25-30 home runs again and with Juan Pierre and Beckham hitting in front of him, 100 RBI is not out of the question.
Across the diamond from Konerko will be versatile newcomer Mark Teahen, who was acquired this past offseason from Kansas City for infielders Josh Fields and Chris Getz.
Teahen, who had been dogged by trade rumors for the better part of the last two years in Kansas City, had spent his entire five-year career with the Royals, and has played every position other than pitcher and catcher.
In 2009, he batted. 271 with 12 homers and 50 runs batted in for Kansas City in 144 games.
Behind the plate will once again be A.J. Pierzynski, who has caught more games the last two seasons than any catcher in the American League with the exception of Oakland's Kurt Suzuki.
Pierzynski can pretty much hit anywhere in the lineup, but will likely bat towards the bottom. Defensively, he is often a target to run on, but last year threw out 23-percent of potential basestealers.
A free agent at season's end Pierzynski's time could be coming to an end in the Windy City, as the team has been grooming prospect Tyler Flowers to take over in 2011.
Chicago took a chance on Andruw Jones this offseason, as it hopes he can be its everyday designated hitter. A 10-time Gold Glove winner and five-time All- Star, Jones appeared in 82 games last season with Texas, batting .214 with 17 home runs and 43 RBI.
The White Sox are expecting big things from their outfield this season which defensively figures to be amongst the best in the league.
First and foremost, the team added speedy left fielder Juan Pierre this offseason to be their leadoff man. An upgrade over Scott Podsednik, Pierre batted .308 with 31 RBI and 30 stolen bases over 145 games with the Dodgers last season.
Guillen has already stated that he plans on running Pierre early and often.
Then there is the enigmatic Alex Rios, who came over to the White Sox from Toronto last season. Rios, however, did not impress in his abbreviated time with the club, batting just .199 with three home runs and nine RBI in 41 games.
Of course, Chicago is hoping that Rios can start anew and morph back into the player who hit 24 homers with 85 RBI for the Blue Jays in 2007.
However, the hopes to the White Sox' whole season could rest with right fielder Carlos Quentin, who is coming off an abysmal 2009.
Considered an MVP candidate in 2008, Quentin was bothered for most of last season with plantar fasciitis in his left foot and hit just .236 with 21 home runs and 56 RBI.
Without question the strength of this White Sox team is their starting rotation.
It all begins up top with right-hander Jake Peavy, who the team acquired from San Diego at last year's trade deadline. Peavy was already injured at the time of the deal, but made three starts for the White Sox late in the season and won all three, while pitching to a 1.35 earned run average.
When healthy the former NL Cy Young Award winner is one of the best pitchers in baseball, but, of course, staying on the field has been a problem.
While left-hander Mark Buehrle has been the team's ace since he has been there, he will make a terrific Robin to Peavy's Batman. As consistent a starter as there is in the league, Buehrle could be even better this season, as he spent most of the offseason working on shoulder-strengthening program.
Buehrle was just 13-10 a year ago, but pitched to a 3.84 ERA. Of course, his season was punctuated on July 23 when he tossed the White Sox' first perfect game since 1922.
Left-hander John Danks could be poised for a breakout season. Danks, who will turn 25 early in the season, set career-highs last season with 13 wins and 200 1/3 innings.
Chicago is hoping for a huge bounce-back season from right-hander Gavin Floyd, who wasn't nearly as sharp as his 17-win campaign in 2008. In 30 starts a year ago Floyd went 11-11 with a 4.06 ERA.
Veteran Freddy Garcia will be the team's fifth starter to open the season, but how long he lasts there is up to him. By all accounts he is healthy for the first time in years. Should he falter, though, Guillen won't hesitate to turn to youngsters Daniel Hudson and Carlos Torres.
Despite an offseason of trade rumors, Bobby Jenks once again enters the season as the White Sox closer. Although Jenks has averaged 35 saves the last four seasons, his total dipped to 29 in 2009.
Guillen may not wait long to move Jenks out of his spot if he struggles early on, as the team signed right-hander J.J. Putz this offseason. Putz spent 2009 with the Mets but had his season cut short by arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur in his right elbow on June 9.
Putz's first six years of MLB service came with the Mariners where he was the team's full-time closer from 2006-08. He saved 91 games over that span and has 103 career saves with a 3.24 ERA and 23-19 record for Seattle and New York in 337 appearances.
The White Sox also love left-handed reliever Matt Thornton, who was 6-3 with a 2.74 ERA over 70 games for Chicago in 2009.
Also expected to chip in are right-handers Tony Pena and Scott Linebrink. Pena posted a 3.75 earned-run average and 1-2 record in 35 appearances for the White Sox in 2009 after his acquisition from Arizona in early July. Linebrink, meanwhile, has been a huge disappointment since signing a four-year $19 million deal prior to the 2008 season.
You know your bench is pretty solid when you can bring in an 11-time Gold Glove winner late in games. Arguably the greatest defensive shortstop of all time, Omar Vizquel will play his 22nd big league season and serve as a tutor to both Ramirez and Beckham.
After acquiring outfielder Mark Kotsay from Boston last season, the White Sox signed him to a one-year deal this past winter. He will serve as the team's fourth outfielder, and could also spell Konerko from time-to-time. He will also see a lot of time at DH.
The American League Central is very competitive at the top. However, there has not been a repeat winner in the division since the White Sox halted the Twins' three-year run in 2005. So history would suggest that we could have a new division champion. If the White Sox' staff stays healthy, they are as good as anyone in the AL. There are not better 1-2 combinations at the top than Peavy and Buehrle. Jenks makes things interesting, but comes through more times than not. Gordon Beckham is one of the best young talents in the game and he is only going to get better. This is going to be a fun team to watch and anything short of a division title should be looked at as a disappointment.