DALLAS -- If a grade was being handed out to Ken Williams for the White Sox Winter Meetings' work this year in Dallas, it would have to be "Incomplete."
That lack of a definitive mark partially stems from a lack of matches with other teams to help facilitate the White Sox rebuilding process. It also comes from an idea that the South Siders might find themselves somewhere between rebuilding and contending for 2012.
"You know, if we have some guys have some bounce-back years and go back to their career norms, yeah," said Williams of his team's chances to contend with Detroit in the American League Central as presently constructed. "Mostly, if a number of things happen offensively, continued growth at third base and second, [Alejandro] De Aza continues to play the way he ended the year, and along with the obvious bigger names."
Williams refers to needed bounce-back years from designated hitter Adam Dunn, center fielder Alex Rios and second baseman Gordon Beckham with the bat, while Jake Peavy rounds back into healthy form at the top of the rotation. Having starting pitchers John Danks and Gavin Floyd and outfielder Carlos Quentin as part of the roster only helps the White Sox cause.
But just because they weren't moved during these four days at the Hilton Anatole doesn't mean they still will be part of the White Sox for Robin Ventura's first Spring Training as manager. Williams said Wednesday that the payroll needs to be tweaked a little bit before February coming off last year's franchise-record $127 million and the ensuing 2011 on-field debacle.
Danks and Quentin are in their last year of arbitration, and Floyd has one year left on his four-year deal with a club option for 2013. This trio, along with left-handed reliever Matt Thornton, stands as prime targets for other teams, but only if they meet Williams' asking price.
"We will all have answers to that in the upcoming weeks and months," Williams said. "It's still a work in progress, but I wouldn't anticipate anything major unless the opportunity presents itself to add impact, young 0-3 [year]-type players. But if that doesn't manifest itself, this just isn't the time to make wholesale changes."
Said Ventura: "When you're looking at who is still on the roster and the guys that you have, you know, I've been through the rebuilding and looking at our roster, it's not the same as what I went through as a player. I still feel confident with what we have."
Last year's White Sox closer, Sergio Santos, who would have ranked near the bottom of potential players moved as part of a rebuilding process, ended up as the team's only Winter Meetings deal. In moving him to Toronto, the White Sox acquired young right-handed starter Nestor Molina.
Molina serves as rotation insulation in case Danks or Floyd is moved. But if they stay put, the White Sox could enter Spring Training intact and revisit possible personnel changes in June or July if they are out of contention.
"Well, I don't think anything right now that we have done is a great step back," Williams said. "No. 1, with the move we made [Tuesday], again we felt like we were insulated enough in the bullpen. We were dealing from a position of strength. We have guys who can fill that void, we think.
"On the other side, we add an impact young starter coming up in the system to help us in the very near future. I don't know that we hurt our chances in terms of this year. If anything, it's neutral, but that will be debated and already has been debated. I'm kind of used to that."
Deals done: Rookie Addison Reed or veterans Jesse Crain and Thornton will have a chance to close in 2012 with the departure of Santos. Although the move caught many people off guard, with Santos under team-friendly control for potentially the next six years, it was in line with Williams' modified rebuilding plan.
Molina finished 12-3 with a 2.21 ERA over 130 1/3 innings last season between Class A Dunedin and Double-A New Haven, earning him a spot on the Blue Jays' 40-man roster. This first full season as a starter for Molina produced 148 strikeouts and a mere 18 walks in 26 games (23 starts). He probably needs another year of seasoning at the Minor League level.
Of course, the White Sox will have to compensate innings-wise and leadership-wise for the loss of Mark Buehrle, who went to the Marlins via a four-year, $58-million deal.
Rule 5 Draft activity: Terry Doyle, who put his name into 40-man roster consideration through a stellar Arizona Fall League showing, was selected by the Minnesota Twins. The White Sox did not lose or take any other player.
Goals accomplished: The White Sox got a bit younger with the addition of Molina, as they try not to get caught in that unwanted middle ground between rebuilding and contending. Their next move depends on what other teams are willing to give up.
Unfinished business: If the White Sox stay as is, they still might look to upgrade with a veteran middle infielder. Otherwise, they will be listening to offers as top free-agent names come off the board.
GM's bottom line: "We have a little bit of a track record to be able to put together pretty good pitching staffs. Hopefully, we will continue to do so and we will see where we end up on the offensive side and if we can balance that out." -- Williams.