AL Manager of the Year Ozzie Guillen threw Sox fans a curveball last week while discussing the make up of his 2006 squad:
"I want more speed ... Hopefully we can get somebody who can run. I want a second hitter so we can put Iguchi down in the sixth or seventh spot to get more [run production] out of him."
Interesting, since Tadahito Iguchi excelled in the number two spot of the line up this year- to the point where Ozzie called him the team's MVP- it seemed like he would be entrenched in the same role for '06. But the Sox now appear to be in the market for a number 2, 3 and 4 hitter (if Konerko leaves).
Despite the notion in the superficial media that the Sox were a "Smallball" team, the truth is Scott Podsednik was the only real speed threat in the entire line up. When he went down to injury, the Sox offense went down the toilet for a month. So it's not surprising Ozzie is looking for a little more versatility for next year.
Where would a new number two hitter come from? Free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal is one option, but doesn't appear to be in the Sox' sights. The Sox reportedly inquired about Ichiro Suzuki, who is said to be unhappy in Seattle, but were told he is unavailable by Mariners management.
The one name that has popped up recently is Florida Marlins centerfielder Juan Pierre. With the Marlins in another pathetic salary dump mode (they're already in the process of unloading Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Carlos Delgado and won't resign AJ Burnett), Pierre is supremely available and reasonably priced.
Ozzie is familiar with Pierre from his days as Florida's third base coach, so he knows first hand the speed, bunting ability and patience that could make Pierre shine as the Sox number 2 hitter.
Pierre is coming off a down season (though he did seem to get it together better in the second half) so that might make him a bargain (Keith Foulke) or a bust (Billy Koch) in '06. He's only 28 years old and his contract is very reasonable, especially compared to the big bucks Furcal will command.
Pierre is a defensive downgrade in center, and I'm not totally sold the Sox need to move Iguchi out of the number 2 spot. But if Ozzie really wants to, Pierre is virtually the same player as Podsednik, and could be a nightmare for opposing pitchers.