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AL Central Preview: Sale, Quintana, Abreu, and some other ones

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The White Sox have a team for sure.

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The off-season controversy notwithstanding, the White Sox are, in fact, a baseball team. With players and coaches and the whole kit-n-caboodle. Last year's club managed a 76-86 record, which was a shade better than their Pythag of 72-90.

It was a disappointing season, particularly for those who may or may not have predicted that the White Sox would win the division. Though some were agog over the White Sox pitching, none of us could have foreseen how bad the positional group would be.

The pitching as a whole was good enough to compete (9th in fWAR), but the offense and defense struggled. And by struggled I mean they were suffocated by the pungent miasma of their own incompetence. They finished worst in the majors at 3.1 fWAR, more than five and a half Wins behind the Philadelphia Phillies. When your team is getting outslugged and outgloved by the 2015 Phillies, things are going poorly.

There were a few bright spots. Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu managed 3-Win seasons. Trayce Thompson accrued 1.5 fWAR despite only receiving 135 plate appearances. They were the cliff, and below in the valley laid a series of batsmen who performed so poorly that the United Nations considered charging them with war crimes. They did not proceed, as it was determined that anyone watching White Sox hitters did so of their own accord.

Four separate hitters received at least 420 plate appearances and returned negative value. Avisail Garcia received 601 PAs despite being pretty bad at baseball things. Melky Cabrera ended the year with the second-most PAs despite being nearly as bad as Avisail Garcia. Both of them are expected to start in 2016 pretty much every day.

The Sox do have pitching though, particularly starting pitching. Chris Sale is great, Jose Quintana is still the most underrated starting pitcher in baseball, and Carlos Rodon has a lot of promise presuming he doesn't walk very many people. John Danks is also an entity that aspirates and such. David Robertson is the best AL Central relief pitcher that doesn't tilt for the Royals.

Jeff Samardzija, the long-haired sweatsock that tried to pick a fight with Lorenzo Cain, is gone. Fear not, true believers, as the position of obligatory dudemanbro has been filled by Brett Lawrie, the short-haired sweatsock with suuuuper scaaary eye black. They have also managed to pull Alex Avila off of the injury-riddled value bin, hoping that God willing and if the creek don't rise they might be able to have a catcher make it through a season.

Remember that guy Trayce Thompson I was telling you about? He's gone. Traded to the Dodgers for third baseman Todd Frazier from the Reds, in a three-team deal riddled with prospects who have MVP Baseball 2005-esque randomly generated player names (Micah Johnson, Frankie Montas, Brandon Dixon, Jose Peraza, etc.). This means that Lawrie will move to second, because if there's one thing you should always do, it is trade a guy who performed well at a position of need and acquire two starting players who play the same position. It worked out really well for the Red Sox. Then again, the Dodgers also have 14,000 outfielders, and they seem to be doing alright.

But this isn't about them. It's about the White Sox, who really do look like they might be the worst team in the Central this year. Minnesota surprised everyone with their performance in 2015, and they have maturing prospects that at least give you a reason to think that they might stay somewhat good. Cleveland still has one of the most talented rotations in the game, but for some reason they can't translate that into consistent success. Detroit spent a lot to try and reload for one more push.

Chicago traded a promising outfielder for an old third baseman when they had already signed one (who is, granted, kind of douchey). Also one of their players retired, and the fallout caused their star pitcher to say that the GM lied about it to him and others. It's been a magical off-season on the South Side. The kind of magic that gums up your fingers and turns your sister into a ficus.

Which is about how this year might go for the White Sox, resting precariously on the parquet floor as an anthropomorphized potted plant hoping that the family dog doesn't tip them over.