Sox not rolling dice on major players
Chicago more likely to upgrade via trade route as Meetings commence
CHICAGO -- Dream if you can, White Sox fans, of a 2009 starting rotation featuring Mark Buehrle, John Danks and Gavin Floyd.
Ok, in reality, that particular dream requires precious little imagination. This trio figures to anchor the South Siders' arms race for many years to come.
But what if Buehrle, Floyd and Danks took up the two, three and four spots in the rotation, respectively, behind a true ace such as, let's say, CC Sabathia. That's right, it was just two weeks ago when a well-respected columnist for Yahoo! Sports suggested that if the left-hander didn't want to take the Yankees' reported $140 million over six years, the White Sox were one of the teams who could be looking for moves to lighten the payroll and possibly allow them to afford Sabathia.
Remember, also, that the 2008 Winter Meetings begin Monday and run through Thursday, Dec. 11, in Las Vegas. What better place than the gambling capital of the world for general manager Ken Williams to roll the dice on a star of Sabathia's caliber, right?
"That's not my money, but no chance," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, answering the question concerning the remote possibility of pursuing Sabathia almost before it was completed. "I like to have depth somewhere else, as opposed to one guy taking all the money."
This little Sabathia vignette falls on a bit of the extreme side for the South Siders, as the money and years being thrown about for the White Sox nemesis don't exactly fall into the team's usual payroll parameters for individual hurlers. Basically, it's an example to illustrate how when White Sox brass arrives this weekend at the home of the $19.99 buffet, they probably will not be major players in the free-agent market.
Derek Lowe, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira all might find themselves at U.S. Cellular Field during the 2009 season, but barring a midseason trade, they will be suiting up for the opposition. Even Orlando Hudson, a slick-fielding, once-talked-about fit for the White Sox at second base, seems out of the picture for them at this point.
If Williams makes moves toward a White Sox upgrade during his four days at the Bellagio resort and hotel, they will most likely be done via the trade. And with 155 players acquired in 58 trades involving the Major League roster on the resume of Williams, who is in his ninth season at the helm, he's bound to have a few moves up his sleeve.
Right-hander Javier Vazquez has reportedly drawn interest from the Braves and the Mets. Right fielder Jermaine Dye has been linked to interest from four or five different teams, although Bob Bry, Dye's longtime agent, told MLB.com they had heard nothing directly about possible moves as of Thanksgiving. Dye has a limited no-trade clause blocking deals to six teams, including the Phillies, Mets, Red Sox and Yankees.
Even Bobby Jenks, one of the game's most reliable closers over the past three years and a pitcher who not only understands ninth-inning pressure but thrives on it, was talked about in rumors involving the Mets. Two sources close to the situation have told MLB.com that they expect Jenks to be with the team when Spring Training starts, but whether they are true or not, these rumors point out how Williams is willing to listen to anything that possibly helps his team currently and in the future.
Shopping Vazquez, who has been almost unfairly maligned for his horrible finish to an otherwise .500 year, and/or Dye, would free up a considerable amount of money. Vazquez will earn $23 million over the next two years, while Dye gets $11.5 million in 2009 and has a mutual option of $12 million in '10 -- including a $1 million buyout.
These deals wouldn't be considered salary dumps, but in the same sense, there's no question Williams is looking to go younger. Not younger, as in accepting far-off prospects in return, but instead younger as in looking for players such as Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez or Gavin Floyd, who can impact the team in the present and down the line.
It's a bit of a risk. But as this trio proved in 2008, it's a risk that could lead to a high reward. The '09 campaign is not one of rebuilding for the White Sox, but more about changing the look of the roster and moving away from station-to-station baseball.
"Listen, I'll be the first one to stand up and say it's a rebuilding year when the time comes," Williams said. "And it will come because it comes for every sports team, no matter the sport. Yes, we are going to be younger, but these are good players. There's nothing wrong with being young and good."
"People have to understand that you put nine guys out there every day for six years, and all of a sudden it becomes, 'Uh, oh. We are done' or 'We are going to show up for the World Series this year and next year we are done,'" Guillen said. "It's not a good way to do business. Kenny continues to work with [assistant general manager] Rick Hahn little by little to try to make progress, to make sure this organization competes as long as we can."
In the middle of this much-talked-about youth movement, Josh Fields (third base) and the combination of Jerry Owens/Brian Anderson (center field) and Chris Getz/Jayson Nix (second base) have been mentioned by Williams and Guillen as 2009 starting candidates. Newly acquired Jeff Marquez is slated to compete with Clayton Richard and Aaron Poreda for the fifth starter slot as the White Sox head into the Winter Meetings.
There's still a good chance at least one or two of these spots will feature a veteran addition between now and February. Don't look for that addition to be a high-salaried, multiyear gun for hire.
Instead, Williams will continue to rely on scouting and his ability to see three or four years down the road as opposed to just the season at hand when looking for talent. It might not mean the highest-profile name, but it will be the best fit for the White Sox championship target.
"With regards to what has been discussed and what will be discussed, we will not do anything that doesn't give us an opportunity to continue to win a championship this year but also set us up for future years," said Williams, who has 19-year-old third baseman Dayan Viciedo expected to be in the fold and needs a backup catcher. "If it doesn't solve both aspects, we don't travel down that road."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.