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2007 Baseball Preview

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Apr 2, 2007 4:00PM

2006's baseball season brought disappointment to both sides of Chicago. Coming off their 2005 World Series title, the White Sox won 90 games but missed the playoffs — in spite of a number of roster upgrades during the offseason. Did Kenny Williams tinker too much with the chemistry that won them a title in '05? Last year's team never seemed to find its rhythm.

On the North Side, the Cubs climbed ever closer to that century of futility by bringing up the rear in the National League with a 66-96 record. Golden Boys Mark Prior and Kerry Wood ended the season on the DL, and Dusty Baker was seen by all as the lamest of ducks almost from opening day.

Both teams made significant roster changes over the winter, but will it help either team make the playoffs?

Cubs LogoChicago Cubs

The Cubs have no place to go but up, following their 66-win campaign. They replaced Dusty Baker with Lou Piniella as manager (should have gone with Joe Girardi) and spent $300 million on free agents. In addition to slugger Alfonso Soriano in center field, they added pitchers Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis to the rotation. However, they've effectively chosen to move on in regards to Mark Prior and Kerry Wood — one begins the season in the minors and the other on the DL. Carlos Zambrano will again put up Cy Young-type numbers, whether or not he gets his new contract. The rest of the rotation remains a series of question marks. Can Marquis bounce back from a poor 2006? Can Wade Miller stay healthy and productive? If not, can Prior return to the rotation and look anything like he did a few years back?

Key Additions:
Alfonso Soriano — OF
Ted Lilly — OF
Jason Marquis — SP
Cliff Floyd — OF
Mark DeRosa — 2B
Key Subtractions:
Greg Maddux — SP
Juan Pierre — OF
Todd Walker — 2B
Glendon Rush — RP
Prediction: 80-82, 2nd in the NL Central

Sox LogoChicago White Sox

The Sox felt the hangover from 2005 all season, never really getting on track in spite of their 90 wins. They scored a ton of runs, but their pitching rotation clearly showed its fatigue — the staff's combined ERA climbed about a run a game. The batting lineup stays virtually in place, with Darren Erstad beating out Brian Anderson in center field. They also return 4/5 of their pitching rotation from last season. The most feared heading into the season, they didn't live up to expectations. But Mark Buehrle is heading into free agency, so expect him to have a much better year. Garland and Contreras should be better rested, and maybe Javier Vasquez can finally figure out how to go beyond the 5th inning without melting down. Having traded Freddy Garcia and Brandon McCarthy over the winter, the fifth starter's spot was wide open heading into Spring Training. While Gavin Floyd was the early favorite, John Denks won the job — for now. Should he flounder, expect Floyd and knuckleballer Charlie Haegar to get shots, too.

Key Additions:
Darren Erstad — OF
John Denks — SP
Key Subtractions:
Freddy Garcia — SP
Brandon McCarthy — RP/SP
Prediction: 88-74, 2nd in the AL Central