White Sox likely to monitor bargains
With limited needs and tight budget, Williams observing
CHICAGO -- Under the Ken Williams regime on the South Side of Chicago, the White Sox have been known to target specific players of interest moving into the offseason and then act quickly in the Hot Stove period to fill those particular needs.
That philosophy already has played out on the recent trade front for the White Sox, who waited exactly two days after the finish of the 2009 World Series to acquire Mark Teahen from the Royals in exchange for Chris Getz and Josh Fields. The move allows Gordon Beckham to move to second, making the infield stronger as a whole, by Williams' estimation.
But where the free-agent market is concerned, Williams and the White Sox might be waiting until late January or early February to add the final pieces to the 2010 puzzle. As the period to sign free agents begins Thursday at 11 p.m. CT, the team does not have much money to spend on free agents, high end or otherwise, but Williams still could be adding on with some highly valued bargains.
"I don't know if we determine [spending] so much at this time of the year as the efforts of our marketing and sales people and all they can do," said Williams recently of the White Sox budget. "Fortunately for us, they've been able to step up.
"Sometimes, it's not until the end of the offseason when we get certain things in, when we get an idea of season-ticket sales and sponsorship thrown into the pot. I know they are working tirelessly to give us more revenue and more payroll to work with."
In looking at the big picture that is the 2010 White Sox, approximately $74 million already has been committed to 12 players. That total does not include arbitration-eligible individuals such as closer Bobby Jenks -- who earned $5.6 million in '09 -- and John Danks, Teahen, Carlos Quentin, Tony Pena and D.J. Carrasco.
The good news for the White Sox is that they spent this money wisely and already added on key components in the midst of last season. The addition of Jake Peavy at the top of the rotation and Freddy Garcia and Daniel Hudson at the bottom for a full season give the White Sox a chance for one of the best starting groups in all of baseball.
Alex Rios' presence in center, Alexei Ramirez's second full year on the job at shortstop and Beckham's move to second, coupled with A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate, give the South Siders that desired strength up the middle.
"Well, the process is always evolving," Williams said. "We certainly have tried to be strong up the middle.
"Certain stars have to align themselves where you can reload on the fly, contend at the same time and have part of your youth infused as well. We are finally at a point to where yes, we feel good about center field, shortstop, second base and the catching position."
So, what spots would be left to fill on Williams' agenda? Well, that particular question remains open-ended because there's rarely a deal too big or demanding too much in return for the ultra-aggressive Williams to turn away from, assuming it helps the White Sox in the present and down the line.
Ideally, the White Sox would like to have a true leadoff man, and he could be positioned in the outfield or even as the designated hitter. Scott Podsednik adeptly filled this spot last season, as one of 2009's great comeback stories, and if Podsednik doesn't get the multi-year deal he's seeking and the White Sox haven't moved on at that point, there could be a fit once again.
A fit, though, figuring to come later in the offseason. It's the same sort of scenario for Jim Thome, who interests the White Sox, but the prolific slugger will explore other options in the interim. The White Sox also would like to upgrade their bullpen and possibly add a veteran, right-handed-hitting backup catcher along the lines of a Henry Blanco or Mike Redmond.
"As we stand right now, there's not anything obvious we need other than perhaps another left-handed hitter to put in our lineup," Williams said. "Whether that guy is a power guy or another on-base percentage, speed guy or some combination of both ... I don't know what's going to be available."
There's also the list of non-tenders for the White Sox to eventually peruse in mid-December, a group changing in impact with the economy, according to Williams. It's a waiting process for the White Sox, although Williams believes the shape of the free-agent market might be altered due to how last year's free-agency period played out.
"I don't know if January is going to be January as it has the last two years, where some very good players have been out there," Williams said. "If I'm those players and those players agents, I don't know if I'm going to wait for that team to come sweep me off of my feet in January. You might want to take the best deal you can get, as early as you can.
"That non-tender list will be interesting to watch. Based on what happened last year, where there were some guys who got stuck out there, I would anticipate more deals are made with potential arbitration and free-agent guys.
"You've got a combination of that, combined with your lack of overall talent in my opinion -- impact-type talent -- that is free," William said. "There's impact talent in the league for sure, but they are established guys that aren't moving anywhere or they are young guys up and coming that are more and more difficult to get."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.