White Sox confident entering Meetings
Williams hopes to add one more quality arm to bullpen
CHICAGO -- If the White Sox actually completed one-third of the deals involving the names churning through the 2006 Hot Stove rumor mill, there would be very little reason for general manager Ken Williams to show up in Orlando, Fla., this Monday for baseball's annual Winter Meetings.
There was reported interest in free agent outfielder Barry Bonds coming from the South Side, not to mention the same reported desire to pull off a blockbuster trade for the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez. To this day, the White Sox tie-in to free agent shortstop Alex Gonzalez still perplexes and somewhat bothers Williams, and on Monday of this week, the White Sox even were rumored to be a possible trade fit for Boston left fielder Manny Ramirez -- not exactly the prototypical player for the White Sox current style of play.
It's a trade not looking to be anywhere on the White Sox immediate or distant horizon. In fact, Williams and his staff might exit with basically the same roster it entered the home of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Pluto. That particular situation playing out doesn't seem to worry Williams, who is trying to be fiscally responsible within his organization in a market full of inflated salaries, as well as improve a group already pointed toward serious 2007 contention.
"We are in a good shape, with a chance to compete with the team we have now if we don't do a darn thing," Williams said. "I hear how we need to upgrade here and there, but give me names that don't cost $100 million for two years.
"I expect the tenor [of the Winter Meetings] to be depressing because of these ridiculous contracts on the board for middle of the road talent. It's a trickle-down effect, and it affects from year to year what you are able to do as a club in building the best baseball team you can. It is what it is, though, and what's done is done.
"Like I've told people in our organization, we have to rededicate ourselves to the foundation of every organization, which is scouting and player development," Williams added. "What you will see is a lot more teams will give younger players opportunities."
Williams quickly pointed out how his comments weren't intended to represent sour grapes, and he didn't begrudge his brethren general managers who had taken a different path and invested large sums of money in improving their respective teams. His cause for concern was focused more with the industry as a whole and how this recent explosion ultimately could affect the White Sox doing business.
Truth be told, a highly successful White Sox organization has the monetary means and the plethora of talent to make some of the many offseason rumors become reality. But Williams has his team in a position where it isn't forced to overpay, in any area, returning a good portion of a 90-win squad from 2006. Despite the 90 wins, it was a group that didn't quite reach its maximum potential.
Now, Williams has the rare commodity of six quality, rested arms to fit into five slots in the rotation. He has a third baseman in Joe Crede, who is rising up as one of the true burgeoning stars in the American League, but could be wearing a different uniform as a free agent after the 2008 campaign. Yet, Williams only sees a move in either area if the deal helps his team in the present and the future -- something often lacking from many of the creative yet rumored proposals.
Adding outfielder Luis Terrero and exercising the contractual options on right fielder Jermaine Dye, left-handed starter Mark Buehrle and second baseman Tadahito Iguchi were the only moves made by the White Sox until a recent trade of Neal Cotts to the Cubs for right-handed reliever David Aardsma and left-hander Carlos Vasquez. Aardsma's addition gives the White Sox four power arms among the relief corps, a target area for improvement, in Williams' mind.
"I'm not going to force anything, but I would like to put one more quality arm in the bullpen," said Williams, who otherwise could rely on youngsters such as Boone Logan, Sean Tracey, Heath Phillips and Charlie Haeger to fill out the bullpen, as well as non-roster invitees.
Much of the talk for change centers on replacing left fielder and leadoff hitter Scott Podsednik. The fleet-footed left-handed hitter saw his average drop from .290 during 2005's special season to .261 in 2006. Podsednik swiped 40 bases in 59 attempts, a total down 19 from 2005, when he played in 10 fewer games and had 17 fewer official at-bats. There also was the issue of his eight errors in left field, leading the White Sox to use a defensive replacement in late innings.
But as leadoff options drop off the board via free agency, high-salaried free agents who really weren't firmly in the White Sox plans, Williams expressed somewhat strong support for Podsednik. Whether the off-year was due to hamstring problems hampering him from Spring Training or fighting himself once he got into a slump, Williams believes Podsednik doesn't have to change much to return to form in 2007.
"I don't know where the public sentiment is coming from, that he can no longer be a championship type of player," said Williams of Podsednik, who is arbitration eligible, after driving in almost twice as many runs as he did in 2005 and scoring six more. "I thought he proved it pretty darn convincingly in 2005, when he was the leadoff hitter and helped us win a World Series championship.
"From the day that we traded for him, I told Scott we need him to get on base however he can, score as many runs as he can and play good solid defense. Play the game to win, and the numbers take care of itself."
Potential trades in Orlando could fall into the same line of thinking for Williams. If a natural fit arises, the move almost will take care of itself. Otherwise, Williams will spend a great deal of time during the week addressing other people's ideas for his team.
Ramifications from this next week trickle down all the way to a young player such as center fielder Brian Anderson, who has been rumored to draw trade interest from Florida and Texas. Anderson hopes to be part of the White Sox when the team leaves Orlando and for the foreseeable future.
"You can't really predict the future, unless you are an elite player and have a no-trade clause," Anderson said. "I'm just a peon rookie. I'm happy for the opportunity the White Sox have given me and hope to stay here, but I understand it's a business. They are in it to make money and win titles."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.