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12/07/06 2:00 PM ET

White Sox downplay Garland report

Deal with Houston apparently falls short as Meetings end

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The only concrete plans on Ken Williams' agenda over the next couple of days were to take his wife to dinner and a movie Thursday night after returning home from baseball's 2006 Winter Meetings and then play golf on Friday morning.

Nowhere on the White Sox general manager's schedule was any sort of time allotment for completing a trade with the Astros, sending Jon Garland to Houston in exchange for pitcher Taylor Buchholz and center fielder Willy Taveras. In fact, Williams and the White Sox strongly denied a report posted on the Web site of the Houston Chronicle that any such trade involving these particular players was imminent.

"We were close to about four or five things that didn't materialize for us, for various reasons," Williams said. "We've got nothing going on."

At 25, the right-handed Buchholz stands as another young arm that would fit into the White Sox overall plan of giving the team a chance to win presently while maintaining a steady flow of future success without overpaying in the wide-open market. Taveras, who turns 25 on Christmas Day, would provide a fleet-footed challenger to both Brian Anderson and Ryan Sweeney for the starting center field slot, but he also could make recently signed leadoff man Scott Podsednik expendable.

But in Garland, a 27-year-old right-hander who has perched himself amongst the pitching elite during the past two seasons, the White Sox clearly would need more return on their investment to complete the trade. Garland has posted back-to-back 18-win seasons for the South Siders and is under contract for the next two years at a seemingly reasonable $22 million.

Foxsports.com reported that in addition to Taveras and Buchholz, the trade may include Houston right-hander Jason Hirsh, a former No. 1 draft pick who is expected to serve as the Astros' No. 4 starter in '07 and also would figure to compete for a starting slot with the White Sox. SI.com also reported the four-player deal hit a snag and fell apart when Buchholz did not pass a physical.

The article in the Chronicle claimed the Garland-for-Buchholz-and-Taveras deal was close enough for a morning announcement to be made, according to Tal Smith, the Astros' president of baseball operations. But Smith denied telling the Chronicle that a "deal was close."

Smith confirmed that the clubs were talking about Garland and that the teams "had some discussions" about possible players who could be included in the deal, but the two sides were "still working on it."

If the Astros were to trade for Garland, that would likely put them out of the running for left-hander Andy Pettitte, who is being courted by the Astros and Yankees and could command upward of $15 million for one year. Pettitte may also desire a multi-year deal.

A trade of Garland by the White Sox would further turn over one of baseball's top starting rotations, and Williams always has been willing to listen to offers for even his top-flight players. But the rumored trade of Garland to Houston at the close of this week's activities Thursday at the Dolphin Hotel does not seem likely in the immediate future.

"There are so many rumors. Sometimes the rumors are right and sometimes the rumors are wrong. Sometimes they are partly right," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said. "We just aren't going to comment on rumors."

Scott Merkin and Alyson Footer are reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.