Williams has learned to be patient
Sox GM knows some of biggest deals come after Meetings
CHICAGO -- The word panic doesn't exist in the vocabulary of White Sox general manager Ken Williams.
It wasn't present when Williams watched his team's 15-game American Central lead over the Indians on Aug. 1, 2005 dip to 1 1/2 games by Sept. 24, and it never has been part of Williams' vernacular when navigating the standard heat of the Hot Stove offseason period.
And standing pat presently, or even over the next three months, doesn't necessarily mean Williams has finished building the 2010 squad.
"We have internal answers for every position, so I'm not overly stressed on anything," Williams told MLB.com on Tuesday. "Wherever you are at the end of the Winter Meetings or in January or even when Spring Training starts, it doesn't mean that will be the shape of your team for the rest of the season.
"All it means is where you are now. We are constantly trying to improve our club. You don't have to have things in place from Day 1. Sure, I would like to, but we try not to do anything stupid that limits our ability to make a later move that is of greater impact."
Prime example No. 1, at least where the 2010 team is concerned, points to Jake Peavy. As Williams explained, if the White Sox would have "done some things early on that people were clamoring about last year, Jake Peavy would not have been possible."
Instead, Williams stayed the course during the past offseason and was able to add Peavy's $52 million contract over the next three years at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The move didn't reap immediate dividends in terms of an '09 AL Central title but should give the White Sox a clear-cut '10 division advantage where starting pitching is concerned.
"Right now, we are positioned as one of the best pitching clubs around," Williams said. "It's huge for us going into the season not to react too quickly. If you do something out of panic right now and it inhibits your ability to do something of greater impact later, then you haven't served anybody's good. Remember, 162 games is a long time."
Although some of Williams' best moves have come in-season, i.e. Peavy, Freddy Garcia and Geoff Blum as a few examples, the South Siders' GM expects business to pick up next week in Indianapolis. He expects said business to increase on the trade front, with free-agent signings evolving after teams have the opportunity to regroup and see where they stand after the Meetings.
Williams made the first major Hot Stove move, not atypical for the aggressive White Sox leader, picking up Mark Teahen from Kansas City in exchange for Chris Getz and Josh Fields just two days after the Yankees' World Series victory. Since then, Williams has added bench players such as Omar Vizquel and Andruw Jones, joined by Mark Kotsay, who was re-signed by the White Sox following a successful 40-game stint in Chicago last year.
Strengthening the White Sox reserve corps was by design, according to Williams. He has learned over the years that the heavy lifting doesn't really begin until the Winter Meetings.
"Everything up until then is really just a game being played," Williams said. "It's not that I'm not listening right now. I've just had too many years and too much lost sleep over wasted conversations meant solely for positioning. You learn to stake a step back, and people will let you know when they are serious."
Jones, Kotsay and even Jayson Nix could serve as the White Sox rotating designated hitter, as spoken of by manager Ozzie Guillen. But Williams anticipated some designated hitter "options out there for us," depending on what the team ultimately does at leadoff hitter.
"We've gone with that pure speed guy before," said Williams of the leadoff spot. "We've also gone the Orlando Cabrera route and won that way."
Basically, Williams has options. He could sign or trade for a leadoff man or possibly employ Gordon Beckham at the top of the order. He could add a significant relief presence to the back of his bullpen or pick from a group of four or five young arms in the system to fill the final two spots.
There's no need for Williams to panic. And even if a move is made, it probably will follow the White Sox "thinking-outside-the-box" sort of style.
"Well, probably the biggest roadblocks for us are revenues," Williams said. "It kind of has us in a holding pattern until more information comes in.
"This depends on probably how our fans, advertisers and sponsors feel about our chances and what happens as result of that. As we sit here right now, we will stay in a holding pattern.
"That's not atypical of where we've been before," Williams said. "We just had to be creative to make things work. In our being creative, it sometimes makes people very uncomfortable. But there's more than one way to skin a cat."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.