Sox swap Garland for Halos' Cabrera
Gold Glove shortstop should provide stability up the middle
CHICAGO -- Kenny Williams' football background certainly must come in handy during this all-important November Hot Stove period, although the White Sox general manager would have been better served as a Stanford coach rather than a player in order to sharpen his current free agent recruiting skills.
But on Monday afternoon, Williams delivered a recruiting pitch to possible high-end additions which spoke louder concerning the White Sox intentions than mere words exchanged over an informational dinner or two.
The White Sox announced the acquisition of shortstop Orlando Cabrera from the Los Angeles Angels, along with cash considerations coming from Anaheim. The cost of obtaining excellence was not cheap for the White Sox, as they sent durable right-handed starter Jon Garland back to his home state.
In the big picture of this offseason, though, the addition of Cabrera serves as just the first of what Williams hopes will be a number of big moves aimed at immediately turning around last year's 72-90 performance.
"I don't see how it can hurt," said Williams, when asked on a conference call Monday as to whether Cabrera's addition could help influence high-end tickets such as Torii Hunter or Aaron Rowand to sign with the White Sox.
"The message I've been giving everyone we have targeted is that we are 100 percent committed to winning a title in 2008," Williams added. "I have my eyes set on the future, but I will tell you this -- last year did not sit well with any of us."
Cabrera, 33, provides the upgrade up the middle coveted by the White Sox, both with the glove and with the bat. The 11-year-veteran captured a second Gold Glove for his work with the Angels during the 2007 season, and his .982 fielding percentage over the past three seasons leads all American League shortstops.
His .301 average in 2007 marked the first time the career .273 hitter topped .300 in a season, while Cabrera drove in 86 and scored a career-high 101 runs. Cabrera appears to be the No. 2 hitter desired by the White Sox, with just 493 strikeouts over 5,301 career at-bats, and 11 sacrifice hits tying him for second in the AL last year.
According to Williams, Cabrera and his wife were as excited to join the White Sox as the team was to pick him up. Although Cabrera's $9 million salary in 2008 marks the final year of his current four-year deal, Williams plans to talk about a multi-year extension with Cabrera as soon as he finalizes the 2008 roster and budget.
"He has been acquired with the intent of him being part of the White Sox for the long run here and not just a short-term rental," Williams said.
Bringing in Cabrera now presents more than a bit of an issue as to how to use Juan Uribe. The White Sox signed the free-swinging shortstop to a one-year deal, worth $4.5 million, agreed upon at the General Managers Meetings on the same day when the team had to decide on its $5 million option on Uribe for 2008. Shortly after the deal with Uribe was announced, Angels general manager Tony Reagins approached Williams to gauge his interest in Cabrera.
Even after bringing back Uribe, Williams vowed he wouldn't shy away from trying to improve at shortstop. Uribe could be moved to second base, although Danny Richar looks as if he will have the first shot at the position, or Uribe could be used in a utility role.
With Uribe looking for full-time work, though, Williams said he would make an attempt to move the shortstop from the 2005 World Series championship squad.
"I will look at possibilities and field phone calls for possible fits for Juan Uribe," said Williams, who left a phone message for Martin Arburua, Uribe's agent and advisor, after not being able to reach Uribe on either of his cell phones. "We went into negotiations to redo his contract with the best intentions and understanding that other options were not as attractive as bringing him back.
"Well, that changed. I'm trying to make the ballclub as good as it could be. It's the truth. This move gives us a better chance to win a title than what he has shown me."
This move gives the White Sox a younger look in the rotation, with John Danks and Gavin Floyd moving into the back end of the starting five, after one of the many trade rumors involving Garland over the past few years actually came to fruition. It's tough to lose a pitcher with a 92-81 record and 4.41 ERA in 246 games (223 starts) over eight years with the White Sox, including back-to-back 18-win efforts in 2005 and 2006.
Taking Garland's $12 million off the books for 2008, replaced by Cabrera's salary, gives the White Sox a little more room to work with $35.5 million already committed to fellow starters Mark Buehrle, Javier Vazquez and Jose Contreras.
"In order to make this particular deal work, I had to look at this in the way we looked at Carlos Lee's deal [to Milwaukee in 2004]," Williams said. "We moved him for players X, Y and Z and were able to do something else with the dollar savings."
"I'm disappointed that the everyday relationship with Garland won't be there," White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper added. "But Kenny knows what he's doing and got us a dynamite shortstop, a second-place hitter and someone to get us back in a better direction."
At the core of Cabrera's resume are 112 career postseason at-bats, and he has played on a playoff team in three of the past four seasons. Cabrera started at shortstop for the Red Sox in the 2004 World Series championship run, and Williams knows Cabrera will become more than a part of his ongoing recruiting pitch for Hunter or Rowand.
This trade could signal the first block in building a title contender for 2008.
"Hopefully, very quickly, other things will start to happen," Williams said. "This is just the start.
"At the end of the day, it will be judged player-for-player and I'm OK with that. The 155 games we are going to get from Cabrera at shortstop will help us get to where we need to go."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.