White Sox readying for busy offseason
Club discusses future plans, signs Pierzynski to extension
CHICAGO -- It's a team sitting on 89 losses entering Sunday's regular-season finale against the Tigers at U.S. Cellular Field. It's a team that started slowly in the 2007 season and never really came close to operating at full speed.
Factor in the strong desire by the White Sox to compete for a World Series title next season, foregoing any sort of extensive rebuilding process, and this upcoming offseason figures to be a busy one for general manager Ken Williams, manager Ozzie Guillen and their respective staffs.
"Not as busy as one may think for a fourth-place club," Williams said. "Look at the base with which you're starting. You're starting with some seven starting pitcher candidates, [four] of which have pitched in big games over the years and don't show any signs of a drop-off aside from obvious ones that a couple of them have had this season.
"We have a closer who is one of the best in the game and two left-handers [Matt Thornton and Boone Logan] that I believe are going to grow into quality guys over the next number of years. And then you take our everyday lineup and you look around and you start to say, 'Wait a minute. Why are these guys where they are?' We don't have the complete answer.
"So that's why it's not necessarily the personnel, in terms of the splashy move, maybe just a fit kind of thing," Williams added. "It might turn out that fit is also the big-name type player, but we're setting out to find the answers. We've missed a little bit of that grind and edge and we've got to get that back."
This particular answer was provided by Williams during his 33-minute press conference at the U.S. Cellular Field Conference and Learning Center Saturday evening, where he addressed the White Sox successful past, their hopes for a return to greatness in the future and attempts to find answers to the dismal present that is the 2007 season. Before speaking with the media, Williams announced a two-year extension with catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
Pierzynski, 30, who came to the White Sox as a free agent prior to the 2005 season, still has one more year at $5.85 million left on his current deal. The durable backstop will be paid $6.25 million for both the 2009 and 2010 seasons under his new contract.
The process to bring back Pierzynski began approximately six weeks ago, when White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf approached him on the field and began the negotiations. Although the temptation of free agency following the 2008 season appealed to Pierzynski, he wanted to stay at a place he considers home.
"They brought me in when kind of no one else wanted me, Kenny, Jerry and Ozzie," Pierzynski said. "They've been nothing but fair with me since the day I walked through the door. I consider this my home now, and the place I want to stay for a long time.
"Both sides agreed on something that was fair. I wasn't looking to break the bank, and it worked out."
Williams believes Pierzynski, who hit .263 with 14 home runs and 50 RBIs this season, still has room to grow as a player.
"A.J., to a large degree, still has some untapped talent," Williams said. "I still believe he can be a .300 hitter like he was prior to getting here. I also believe he can hit with power and drive in some big runs, and he's done that over the past few years.
"More importantly, he's a guy we have won a championship with. It's our last bit of housecleaning before we started the offseason."
What sort of interesting maneuvers from the ultra-aggressive Williams will this offseason feature? Williams didn't specify his plans, although much of the truly heavy internal lifting already has been done.
Mark Buehrle and Jermaine Dye agreed to multi-year contract extensions within the season, and Guillen's contract also was extended. The only 2008 player options remaining are for reliever Mike Myers ($1.1 million), outfielder Darin Erstad ($3.5 million) and shortstop Juan Uribe ($5 million).
Although the evaluating process will pick up steam at the October organizational meetings in Arizona, Williams seemed to lend his support to Uribe on Saturday.
"Well, here's the thing," Williams said. "We're going to, again, every position on the field, we're going to take a look at and see how it fits together and whether or not we can return to championship form with these particular players.
"Juan is a championship-type shortstop. I traded for him four years ago because we needed someone to catch the ball in the middle of the infield and not too many people do it better than Juan Uribe.
"Is he a little frustrating sometimes at the plate with some of the inconsistencies?" Williams added. "Absolutely, but only because you see so much talent in there. He's a top quality shortstop, but we don't know what we're going to do yet.
"We're going to go out and look at every position and see if we can get better. Can we improve the team as a whole, not just at that particular spot? It has to all fit together."
Changing the White Sox roster could include major free agent signings, with the names of Torii Hunter and Aaron Rowand bantered about. The alterations could come through a trade, with the White Sox sitting on a plethora of talented starting pitching, or it could come from within the organization.
A combination of all three probably will be employed by Williams to improve the White Sox. Williams already is a step ahead of the curve with his core in place, a group of players who believe they can win again, as much as Williams believes they will lead the team to the ultimate victory.
"I definitely think we have a chance to make a run and we have a chance to get all the right pieces this offseason," Pierzynski said. "We've done it before and we know how to win. It's not like you forget to win overnight. The World Series is a lot to ask for, but you just want to get to the postseason and go from there.
"I'll put it to you this way: There isn't one player out there that will be available that we will turn away from," Williams added. "If that player can help us, we're going to go down that road to see if the fit is there and the economics match."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.