Mailbag: How did Sox miss on Hunter?
Beat reporter Scott Merkin answers White Sox fans' questions
If the flurry of action for Kenny Williams' charges coming around Thanksgiving serves as any indication, the White Sox should have more on their mind than country music when they arrive in Nashville next week.
Let's take a look at your White Sox concerns prior to the Winter Meetings in this week's mailbag.
I'm very disappointed that the White Sox missed out on Torii Hunter. How did it happen?
-- Dana, Lincolnshire, Ill.
Simply put, Hunter wanted to play for the Angels.
Receiving $18 million per year in a five-year deal, as opposed to the $15 million per year put forth by the White Sox for the same length, clearly made some sort of difference. But if there were any uncertainty on Hunter's part, then why didn't he go to the other interested teams and let them counter after the Angels' offer? His mind was made up as soon as the Angels laid out this attractive deal.
I talked to Hunter on Tuesday, and if the Angels didn't come into the picture at the 11th hour or the Dodgers didn't blow him away at a scheduled meeting this past weekend, I'm convinced Hunter would have been the White Sox starting center fielder for 2008 and years to come. But one particular statement he made during that conversation indicated Hunter still was looking for something else.
"I'm actually trying to weigh my options and think about a couple of other things," said Hunter, early on in our talk.
Those "other things" might have included the Angels. The White Sox did all they could in this instance, and even raising their bid to $18 million might not have swung the deal. Suffice it to say that Hunter was impressed by the presentation from Chicago.
Some of you have suggested the White Sox dodged a bullet by Hunter's choosing the Angels, especially not having to give a five-year deal to a 32-year-old. I strongly disagree. Hunter is a dynamic talent who would have been a perfect clubhouse fit. A true first-class act, with first-class ability.
Just like Aaron Rowand, who now looks to be the White Sox center-field target. So, all hope is not lost.
I'm curious behind the logic of trading Jon Garland for Orlando Cabrera. It makes no sense.
With the White Sox preaching pitching as their top priority, why would you give up a person guaranteed to win anywhere from 10 to 18 games for a shortstop when we already have Juan Uribe?
Garland should have netted at least three top prospects. Secondly, Cabrera is scheduled to make $9 million next year, and our weakness is at second base. I am very disappointed. Your thoughts?
-- Rich, Chicago
It's funny how fans' perspective can change in a heartbeat.
When the White Sox announced the one-year deal with Uribe during the General Managers Meetings, I received a decidedly negative response concerning the decision to bring back Uribe. In fact, I counted three people who wrote in via e-mail that they were dropping their season tickets because of Uribe's return. Now, fans seem to be satisfied with Uribe. It's just impossible to have it both ways.
Nothing against Uribe, who is an infinitely entertaining individual and can carry a team when he's on his game, but Cabrera stands as a sizeable upgrade. He fits as a No. 2 hitter, a Gold Glove shortstop, and from all accounts, a hard-nosed clubhouse leader. Williams has great confidence in his young hurlers to fill the void brought about by Garland's departure at the back end of the rotation and wanted to receive something in return now before getting into a bidding war next offseason in trying to wrangle a multiyear deal with Garland. Williams went against the notion of getting prospects because he wants to win in 2008.
The White Sox also used the money they picked up in the Cabrera deal to put toward a contract for Scott Linebrink, a much-needed right-handed setup man. Now, what once was their safety valve in Uribe can be used as trade bait or as a utility player. This is a trade that really works for both sides.
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Will Ryan Sweeney start in the outfield next season? I thought he did a good job this past season.
-- Chris, Orland Park, Ill.
Sweeney finds himself in limbo, much like Brian Anderson, and to some extent, Jerry Owens. The White Sox seem almost certain to add an impact bat in the form of a veteran presence to the outfield mix, but the question remains as to whether a second veteran will follow in the outfield. If not, I would guess Owens has the clubhouse lead for the final starting spot because of his leadoff ability.
As for Sweeney, he finished strong in the Arizona Fall League, and his comments from Phoenix indicated an increasing comfort or confidence with the current state of his swing. By his own admission, opposing pitchers were burning him consistently inside last year before he was sent back to Triple-A Charlotte.
I've written on countless occasions as to how Anderson will be a successful starter in the Majors at some point, but I don't believe it will be with the White Sox. I feel Sweeney also has the talent to be a .280-to-.300 hitter if given a season's worth of Major League at-bats, but I'm not really sure as to what his current fit would be on the South Side. As of now, I don't see him as a starter.
Is Joe Crede going to be the same player coming off last year's season-ending injury?
I'm guessing the White Sox and many other interested teams are looking for a definitive answer to this very same question. It sounds as if Crede is making solid progress in recovering from in-season microsurgery on his back, and from what we've been told, Crede should be able to return to his previous form.
Crede truly elevated himself to elite status during the 2006 season, but now he has to deal with the relative inactivity coming from a mere 167 at-bats in 2007. Basically, Crede's return is viewed with optimism, but his level of play won't be known until he's actually out there every day. Of course, the bigger question is whether he will be wearing a White Sox uniform next season.
How about trading Anderson, Crede and Jose Contreras to Minnesota for Johan Santana? Doesn't Minnesota need a third baseman, and with Hunter signing elsewhere, a center fielder?
-- Paul, Aurora, Ill.
Many questions have been flying toward the mailbag's direction in regard to the White Sox acquiring Santana's Cy Young-caliber services. I decided to pick this inquiry as a representative of the group.
For starters, it doesn't sound as if the Twins want bigger salaries such as those commanded by Contreras or Crede. They are looking for highly-talented younger players. But even with the salaries pushed aside, I don't think Paul's proposed talent package would be nearly enough to pry loose Santana. Remember, we are talking about the best pitcher in all of baseball.
Of greater importance, though, is the fact that the Twins still have contractual control over Santana and they have some say as to where the ace left-hander ends up if it's not in Minnesota. I can all but guarantee that Minnesota will not trade Santana to any team in the American League Central. If Santana does get moved, look at the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets and Dodgers as possible fits.
Since Garland is no longer a member of the White Sox, who will the Sox fall back on to fill his spot?
-- Travis, Amboy, Ill.
As of the last week in November, the back end of the rotation will consist of John Danks and Gavin Floyd. Williams sounds set on staying within the organization to fill the final two rotation slots behind Mark Buehrle, Javier Vazquez and Contreras, and remember, along with Floyd's impressive finish to the 2007 season, the right-hander also is out of options. Even though players who have faced Floyd and played behind him have raved to me about how good his raw stuff really is, as long as Gio Gonzalez stays with the White Sox through the offseason, I'm pointing to Gonzalez as the one to eventually assume that starting role.
From what I've been told, he is poised to take on the Major League challenge on a full-time basis.
With the signing of Cabrera for shortstop and the rise of the Tigers and Cleveland, I say Kenny should try to set the world record for most Cabreras on a team. What do you think?
We should do what ever we can to get Daniel Cabrera and Fernando Cabrera from Baltimore, Melky Cabrera from the Yankees, Asdrubal Cabrera from Cleveland and lastly Miguel Cabrera. Then we have Orlando call his older brother, Jolbert, to be a coach and call Jose Cabrera and see if he wants to come out of retirement. I say we go for it, for no other reason then to make Hawk's job easier.
-- Adam, Wheaton, Ill.
Adam, you've presented a very humorous idea, if not 100 percent plausible. Where acquiring Miguel, Asdrubal and Melky are concerned, I'm sure Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen would be in complete agreement. Daniel and his erratic command of the strike zone would give Guillen and pitching coach Don Cooper migraines after about five innings.
To be honest, I didn't even remember Jose Cabrera until I looked up the pitcher's statistics. Let's not forget trying to coax Francisco Cabrera out of retirement, the owner of one of the biggest hits in the history of the National League Championship Series, for Atlanta in 1992.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.