CHICAGO -- There are just under six days remaining until Major League Baseball's non-waiver Trade Deadline strikes at 3 p.m. CT on Sunday.
And White Sox general manager Ken Williams, who has acquired 163 players in 65 trades during his 11-year tenure, might have to wait until those final couple of days to figure out if he's a buyer or a seller.
"Like [White Sox manager] Ozzie [Guillen] and I were talking about prior to coming out here, this year is a little different because we don't really know where we stand," said Williams, speaking to the media prior to Monday's series opener with the Tigers. "To a large degree, over the next six days, we'll find out.
"So I'll have a better idea. I'm going through the normal drills but with different plans."
Here's the problem facing Williams, one he readily acknowledged while casually chatting with media members after his interview session. In this winnable 2011 American League Central, anything greater than a 1-5 or 0-6 disaster over these next six games against Detroit and Boston probably keeps the White Sox in contention.
Of course, a series win or even a sweep by the Tigers could lead Williams to go into a true selling mode for the first time as general manager. Judging by Williams' comments, he'll become a very popular man around baseball if the White Sox come up short over the next few days.
"General managers out there are like sharks in the water," said a smiling Williams. "There are a lot of them that are pulling for Detroit this week, I know that for a fact.
"They won't say it to my face, but they're saying it behind my back. There are some very interesting deals. We have some very popular players."
One deal being talked about over the weekend was the White Sox having renewed interest in left-handed-hitting outfielder Colby Rasmus, with the Cardinals wanting either right-handed starter Edwin Jackson or left-handed reliever Matt Thornton and prospects in return.
According to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report, talks between the two teams had "accelerated" in the past few days. Williams has never been one to talk about his deals publicly, and a past rule of thumb is when White Sox rumors get to the media, they usually aren't in the works.
Williams didn't completely shoot down the Rasmus possibility when asked directly on Monday, but instead invoked semantics regarding the proposed deal.
"Well, I'm not going to get into who we're talking to or what sort of deals are out there for us, but I will tell you this," said Williams of the Rasmus rumor. "That, as reported, is incorrect."
If Williams decides to become a buyer, he would have to once again get creative after the club's offseason additions raised the franchise-record payroll to $127 million. But even if he becomes a seller, Williams does not have easy options to move.
Mark Buehrle, Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski all have full no-trade clauses. Jake Peavy, Adam Dunn and Alex Rios have sizable, multiyear contracts, coupled with underachieving 2011 efforts. In Peavy's situation, most of the struggles can be attributed to his comeback from last season's surgery to repair a detached lat muscle.
So players such as Jackson or leadoff man Juan Pierre, who both will become free agents after the current season, could draw interest. John Danks, one of the top young lefty hurlers in the game and under team control through 2012, could be moved if the White Sox believe they won't be able to agree with him on a multiyear extension.
Right fielder Carlos Quentin also could serve as trade bait, with Dayan Viciedo ready to move into an everyday outfield role. No decisions can be categorically arrived upon with this talented White Sox squad being almost impossible for Williams to figure out.
"Absolutely, because on one hand you can look at potentially adding, and we would have to add creatively because of the financial situation right now," Williams said. "On the other hand, maybe this is the most opportune time to turn over the entire roster, and get some young, exciting players in here.
"To a large degree, it won't be me deciding, Ozzie deciding, any of the coaches or [White Sox chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf], it will be what [the players] do. They will tell us. Believe me, it's very difficult for me to put my arms around the concept of we're not going to be competitive because you look on paper and you're still hopeful that we can start to play like we're capable of playing.
"Personally, I am with the same mindset that I always am, 'OK, what's the most impactful player we can go out and get to help our situation?'" Williams said. "That isn't so much an option right now because, again, you have to have the finances to do that, and that might not be the best thing. There might be a mix or a formula we can go into where we say, 'OK, we'll do a little bit of this, a little of that.'"
Aside from moving Tadahito Iguchi and Rob Mackowiak for Minor Leaguers in a forgettable 2007 campaign, Williams has never really subtracted at the July 31 deadline. Peavy, Ken Griffey Jr., Jose Contreras and Jackson are just a few of his recent additions.
"Lot of questions for me, lot of questions for them," Williams said. "At the end of the day, I'm the one who puts everyone in uniforms, and I'll fall on the sword if need be."