2013 wasn’t exactly a season to remember for the Chicago White Sox.
Their 63-99 record was good for dead last in the American League Central Division, just one season after coming close to winning the division.
If the Sox were left scratching their heads at such a dramatic change of fortune, so were their fans. While they still have fond memories of their 2005 championship (the club’s first in nearly a century), they undoubtedly want to see more from their team in 2014; a return to playing competitive baseball in September and October.
What are the keys for the White Sox to make themselves relevant once again in the American League in 2014?
Odds To Win Championship: 40/1
Key #1: Money well spent
The White Sox broke the bank in the off season, winning the league wide sweepstakes to sign Cuban slugger Jose Abreu.
A six year, $68 million deal will have Abreu wearing Sox colors for the foreseeable future. The coveted free agent said one of the keys to his decision was the presence of fellow Cubans on the White Sox roster.
Having just signed the richest contract in franchise history, Abreu will be expected to earn every penny and help jump start a Sox offense that sputtered in 2013 with the fewest runs in the AL. Adding Abreu to the middle of the lineup should do a lot to bolster that offense.
During his career in Cuba, Abreu put up terrific power numbers and played solid defense at first base, but the White Sox could also employ him as a designated hitter. There will surely be an adjustment to the big league game, but raw talent like his is sure to break through; the Sox hope it’s sooner than later.
Key #2: Victory lap for Konerko
In recent White Sox history, few players have meant more to the team than Paul Konerko.
Beloved in the city for his years of contributions to the team, and his key role in their 2005 championship, the veteran Konerko has yet to decide if he is going to return for one more big league season in 2014. The emergence of Abreu into the lineup would seem to leave little room for the veteran, but he has been quoted saying he’d accept a more limited role to stay with the Sox for one more year.
It would be great to see Konerko retire in a Sox uniform, and one more year in the Windy City would give Konerko the chance to act as a valued mentor for Abreu and other youngsters on the roster.
Key #3: Closing the door
The White Sox have an emerging star in their young closer, Addison Reed. After a breakout rookie season in 2012, Reed was even better in 2013, shutting the door in game after game on his way to 40 saves. The scary thing is he will only get better.
Click here to get more baseball odds and up-to-date lines.