Williams' style apparent in Peavy pursuit
White Sox GM stays aggressive in going after ace righty
CHICAGO -- In order to put into proper context Ken Williams' pursuit of Jake Peavy, even with the San Diego ace seemingly set on staying in the National League, the White Sox general manager relayed on Friday another sort of unlikely conquest from his youth."I had a girl in high school that always said she wasn't going to go out with me. I ended up taking her to the prom," said Williams with a smile. "I don't much care about odds. People say the odds are this and the odds are that. I've been [beating the odds] my whole life to accomplish things. "If you allow roadblocks to be put in front of you and you don't feel like if you aggressively go to try to knock those roadblocks square on their tail, how much are you really going to accomplish in life? Hey, it's hard to win a championship. In order to win a championship, you've got to do some things sometimes that are a little bit aggressive. Certainly proactive." And at the core of Williams' ill-fated attempt to acquire Peavy was that aggressiveness making him the most active general manager, trade-wise, since he took the job in 2001. This deal wasn't necessarily about worries with a starting rotation that has been incredibly inconsistent behind Mark Buehrle's 6-1 start. Once again, it was more about Williams looking past the idea of simply winning the American League Central and trying to grab baseball's ultimate brass ring as the White Sox did in 2005. It was about adding one of the game's top starters to the 2009 rotation and for at least the next four years. Knowing that Peavy had preferred to stay in the NL, where he had found great success and could continue to hit, didn't stop Williams from trying to add on the talented right-hander as far back as the Trade Deadline in 2008. It was this sort of commitment to excellence that made the unlikely somewhat plausible for Peavy, according to his agent, Barry Axelrod. "Kenny made it a tougher decision than I thought it was going to be," Axelrod told the Waddle and Silvy Show on ESPN 1000 in Chicago during a Friday morning interview. "I thought it was a slamdunk 'No thank you. I'd rather stay in San Diego than go to the American League.' But Kenny made Jake think about it, I'll say that." During a 72-hour window allotted to finalize the deal, which was in place pending Peavy's waiving his no-trade clause, Williams actually had a chance to talk directly with the pitcher. Axelrod recounted how Peavy asked well-researched, White Sox-related questions about Jermaine Dye's status and the possibility of the right fielder being moved during the season, how long Jim Thome was going to be in Chicago, Carlos Quentin's health and even if Williams was giving up so much for Peavy that the team wouldn't be competitive in the next three or four years. Axelrod stressed that at no time were questions asked about manager Ozzie Guillen and added that playing for Guillen was not a problem for Peavy. Williams was impressed by Peavy's questions and encouraged by his interest. "He was very familiar with our history. He was very familiar with my history, as well as our players and where they are right now and what the potential is for this club," said Williams. "It was a very positive conversation. I woke up yesterday morning thinking that we had a 70/30 shot. "We probably didn't do ourselves any favors yesterday by having an afternoon game, where he could probably tune in the Major League Baseball channel. That probably didn't help us too much, 20-1, in which we kicked the ball around a little bit. We pretty much did a little bit of everything wrong." This miserable White Sox loss didn't factor into Peavy's decision, and Axelrod said the reported desire for Peavy to have his $22 million club option guaranteed for 2013 if he was moved never came into play. "No, not at all," Axelrod said. "We never got to a discussion of what if anything we might require to accept the trade." So, where does this deal presently stand? Axelrod said during Friday's interview that he would "never say never" concerning Peavy pitching in the American League but he would stick with Peavy's strong preference to work in the NL. Williams admitted that Peavy was caught a bit off-guard with this deal happening in mid-May and not July, near the Trade Deadline, but while Peavy and his camp take a step back to review the situation, Williams articulated that the White Sox won't sit around for long waiting. With Plan A put on the back burner, Williams simply will move to Plans B, C and D in order to improve his struggling team. "That's all we're about. We're going to continue to be about that," Williams said. "If it turns out at the end of the day, for whatever reason, if we have exhausted ourselves to try to get ourselves better, and as a result of a failure here and there to do so, that I'm the one that ends up with egg on their face, I don't much worry about that. I can sleep at night if I know we've exhausted ourselves to try to win a championship. "Listen, like I've said before, if you don't take a bat up to home plate and take a whack at it, you can't hit a home run. We've got business to take care of, so we'll keep taking our cuts."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.