Williams practicing patience in Florida
Sox may focus more on trade route than signing free agents
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The word patient hasn't often been used to describe Kenny Williams during the White Sox general manager's six-year tenure.
Williams has a plan put together for his team's ultimate success long before the onset of weeklong offseason get-togethers such as the 2006 Winter Meetings, beginning Monday at the Swan and Dolphin Resort on the Disney World grounds. If his particular plans didn't bear fruit during previous Winter Meetings, then Williams left with a slightly less than satisfied feeling.
Over the years of success and through the countless impact moves Williams has managed to execute, patience hasn't quite become a watchword for the White Sox leader. But it now has become a regular part of his vocabulary, especially in a market where many top-of-the-line free agents still have yet to settle.
"I'm acquiring a little patience along the way over the years," said Williams, during his 22-minute chat with the Chicago media Monday evening. "In the past, it has driven me crazy to go into these GM or Winter Meetings and not have accomplished what we set out to accomplish.
"Then again, you might be taking on a little bit more than you are able or capable of. A lot of variables are at play that you simply have no control over. While I might see the logic in an offer to a free agent or a trade situation and feel that's something fair, it doesn't always work out that way."
This somewhat detailed explanation sheds some light on Williams' philosophy brought to Florida upon his arrival Monday. Williams always has been a straightforward operator and spoke of how he uses the general managers' meetings to lay the groundwork in advance, so he doesn't have to "sit around and have gang warfare meetings that sometimes occur during the Winter Meetings, where you have six of your guys and I have six of my guys, and you have charts and graphs all over the place."
Ideally, the groundwork would provide a quick return. But Williams admitted to having no meetings with other general managers on his Monday agenda, or Tuesday and Wednesday, for that matter. One of the White Sox beat writers followed up Williams' open schedule breakdown by asking with a comic tinge, "Then, why are you here?"
After the laughter passed, including Williams' appreciation of the comment, the general manager indicated something could change in the course of the three days spent near the Magic Kingdom.
"You never know what will come along," Williams said. "Sometimes you just sit back and allow clubs to come back to us because we've already stated our intentions. We stated where we are in the free agent market, as well as the trade market."
The White Sox have not been players in the free agent market during the current offseason. Judging by the following comment from Williams, regarding the inflated salaries bestowed especially upon mid-level talent, it's an approach not changing in the foreseeable future.
"I'm worried about the industry, and the industry affects everything that the White Sox will be able to do," said Williams in a recent interview. "You simply, if you are practicing any fiscal sanity whatsoever ... I'm just disgusted."
Following the trade route would be the avenue left for the White Sox, and moving one of their five veteran starting pitchers has been focused on since the end of the 2006 regular season. Williams expressed a desire to get young phenom Brandon McCarthy into the 2007 starting rotation, but Williams reiterated Monday a trade is far from a necessity where his quintet of quality starters is concerned.
There also was a roundabout mention of the team's possible interest in bringing back center fielder Aaron Rowand, a grinder prototype for the 2005 World Series champions, who was dealt to Philadelphia for Jim Thome prior to the 2006 season. Williams quickly mentioned Rowand was under contract to another team so he couldn't talk about him, but when the question was rephrased to inquire about a player who exhibited attributes like Rowand, Williams termed a player of that nature was "interesting."
"Philosophically, sure," Williams said. "But you have to get the stars to align in the right way. I don't know if that's something that's realistic."
Brian Anderson, who struggled offensively during his rookie campaign as Rowand's replacement, received a show of support from Williams. The White Sox general manager also mentioned other prospects with the ability to push Anderson, such as Ryan Sweeney and Jerry Owens.
Filling the reserve catcher void behind A.J. Pierzynski has been revisited, according to Williams, but no progress has been made. Williams pointed to Chris Stewart and Gustavo Molina as capable replacements within the system, expressing the desire to go with what he has if there's nothing available outside to their liking.
That same general mindset will be in play for Williams over the next three days regarding potential changes to his roster. Patience not only will be a virtue in Florida but a necessity for Williams and his staff.
"By the time we get here, if I haven't gotten anything done, I tend to think it's not going to get done," Williams said. "But a lot of times the market shifts, the landscape shifts a little bit and teams come back to you and you find out there is a match. There's a road you can now travel down that you didn't otherwise think you could.
"It's important to evaluate as it is with your standards and not lower your standards to a sub-par marketplace," Williams added.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.