White Sox in limbo as Deadline approaches
Team has players it can move, but remains in contention
CHICAGO -- Call it the victory that saved the season.
In slightly less dramatic terms, it was a game that quite possibly reduced a potential 2011 White Sox fire sale to a low simmer.
"I thought they were going to raise the white flag today, but apparently that didn't happen," said a smiling A.J. Pierzynski after Wednesday's 2-1 victory over the Tigers, poking a little fun at the frenzy surrounding the possible dismantling of this underachieving squad.
To be honest, even a potential White Sox fire sale leading up to Sunday's 3 p.m. CT non-waiver Trade Deadline can't become a situation where general manager Ken Williams hangs a sign on the front of U.S. Cellular Field reading, "Everything must go." There are just too many immovable pieces.
Among the accomplished and productive veteran performers from this current campaign, left-handed ace Mark Buehrle, first baseman Paul Konerko and Pierzynski have full no-trade clauses. Designated hitter Adam Dunn (three years, $44 million), outfielder Alex Rios (three years, $39 million) and right-handed starter Jake Peavy ($21 million) have significant years or money left on their deals, and have not exactly had high-quality 2011 showings warranting interest.
There's another reason why Williams won't be in wholesale sell-off mode. The White Sox are three games out of first place in the American League Central entering this weekend's home series with the Red Sox. They aren't exactly chasing down one of Major League Baseball's elite.
It's a dilemma that White Sox players understand but don't give much thought. They feel the postseason is anything but a dream and that any moves made before Sunday won't change their ultimate job responsibility.
"You still have to try to win games," Pierzynski said. "Kenny and [White Sox chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] and [White Sox manager] Ozzie [Guillen] will do whatever they want to do with the team, but you still have to try to win games and not worry about it. You play with the 25 guys you have out there. We are still alive in this division and have a chance."
"No. 1, they have a job to do, and they are entitled to do whatever they want to do," White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham said. "No. 2, I feel like we are in this. So if we were to kind of disassemble the team, I would be kind of shocked."
Williams' first move actually took form before Tuesday's loss to the Tigers and was finished off Wednesday afternoon, with right-handed starter Edwin Jackson and utility infielder/outfielder Mark Teahen traded to Toronto in return for reliever Jason Frasor and Minor League hurler Zach Stewart. Both Jackson and Teahen were high-quality clubhouse presences and had their moments on the field.
With a six-man rotation and Jackson set to become a free agent after the season, he became the logical move to provide some breathing room within a franchise-record $127 million payroll while also improving the team in the present. The Blue Jays taking on Teahen's full remaining salary also was a plus.
But the 2011 White Sox seem to be in a day-to-day existence leading up to the Trade Deadline, as far as whether they are buyers, sellers or staying the course. A pair of losses to the AL-best Red Sox on Friday and Saturday could lead to the departure of any number of players from the following group: hard-throwing left-handed reliever Matt Thornton, All-Star right fielder Carlos Quentin and frontline starters John Danks and Gavin Floyd.
Thornton's two-year, $12 million extension with a 2014 option begins in '12, and the White Sox have Hector Santiago, who could step into a third left-handed relief role. Floyd is under contract at $7 million for '12, with a $9.5 million option for '13. Danks stands as one of the AL's elite southpaw starters; the White Sox might not feel they can sign him to a long-term deal when he becomes a free agent after '12.
As for Quentin, reports on Thursday have the Atlanta Braves seriously interested, with the White Sox having thoroughly scouted the young talent available in return. Dayan Viciedo would be the logical replacement for Quentin, but a sore thumb has kept Viciedo out of action for Triple-A Charlotte since he was pulled in the sixth inning of last Saturday's game.
Quentin also stands as the team's most consistent hitter since the All-Star break, with a .341 average and 11 RBIs in 11 games. One common argument from the White Sox for avoiding significant subtractions is that this team has not gone on a real run this year, and they believe too much talent exists for a long run not to materialize.
Then again, the White Sox have not won more than four in a row, have a 14-21 record in the AL Central and have not been above .500 since April 15. The final decision might not be so much about the White Sox ability to win the division, but how they stack up against the Red Sox, Rangers and Yankees in pursuit of another World Series title.
Players won't be called into meetings before deals are made. Their on-field action this weekend certainly will give them a voice.
"This team has one goal, flat out, which is try to win," Peavy said. "We have three games to make up in the loss column and we still think we have enough to get in."
"I'm sure they are looking at stuff that is different from what everybody else sees on the surface," Beckham said. "Because on the surface, everyone would say, 'There's no reason to blow up a team 3 1/2 out and has a chance to win the division.' But there are other factors going into it. I have not given that much thought, because it's not our call."