White Sox have Winter Meetings targets
Early signings signal team seeking more flexibility
CHICAGO -- A few tongue-in-cheek quips popped up recently after the White Sox agreed upon free-agent deals with seasoned veterans Omar Vizquel and Andruw Jones.
Basically, those sarcastic comments pointed out how these moves would have been major steps in the right direction if they were made by the team some seven or eight years ago during their primes. But instead of looking at this White Sox offseason glass as half-empty or about to spill, let's examine these moves for what they really represent.
General manager Ken Williams spent close to $2 million combined -- with the possibility of another $1 million through performance bonuses for Jones -- for a pair of professionals who, at the absolute least, will strengthen the White Sox bench. And the additions of Vizquel and Jones present the White Sox with a definite Hot Stove theme of versatility as next week's Winter Meetings in Indianapolis approach.
Vizquel, who turns 43 in the first month of the 2010 regular season, provides a steady glove in reserve from third to second, not to mention an adept handler of the bat with a bit of offensive pop remaining. Jones, who turns 33 one day prior to Vizquel's birthday, might seem older because he'll begin his 15th Major League season with the White Sox and due to the fact that his numbers have dropped off following monster efforts in '05 and '06.
Nonetheless, with the White Sox budget limited per Williams' assessment, Jones serves as a part-time designated-hitter candidate who also can play the corner outfield slots. He fits well with first baseman/outfielder Mark Kotsay and infielder/outfielder Jayson Nix as potential designated hitters who are able to play more than that particular role.
"When [Jim] Thome got hurt last year or couldn't play for a few days, we were in a position like, 'What do we do now?'" said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen on filling the White Sox DH slot. "I would like to rotate the DH and see if it works, with the DH being able to help at different positions."
Even the slightly-higher-profile acquisition of Mark Teahen through a trade with the Royals for Chris Getz and Josh Fields with the Royals reinforces that versatility theory. The left-handed hitter currently has been slotted at third base, but depending on how the White Sox fill out their roster, Teahen also could be moved to first base or even right field.
|"If you are at the stage where you are still assessing where you are, then I think you've missed the boat on some things."|
|-- White Sox GM Ken Williams|
Tyler Flowers, the team's top catching prospect, could serve as the team's 2010 backup backstop to A.J. Pierzynski and be rotated in as designated hitter, but the White Sox might send him back to Triple-A Charlotte to catch every day. That move would leave an opening for a right-handed-hitting veteran, such as Mike Redmond, strong at handling pitchers and defensively.
With Williams showing during his decade in charge that he's not afraid to move prospects to improve the big club in the present, Flowers also might end up as part of a trade to acquire a leadoff hitter. See the Peavy deal, where young pitchers Clayton Richard and Aaron Poreda were part of the four hurlers sent back to San Diego, as an example.
One certainty is that Williams and his staff will enter Indianapolis with names in mind to acquire or sign. They never walk haphazardly into MLB's annual get together.
"Yeah, it's not difficult," Williams said. "You've watched your team for about 200 games, including Spring Training. If you are at the stage where you are still assessing where you are, then I think you've missed the boat on some things.
"We've known quite some time what are targets are, and we go down the list and try to acquire them. You see what the possibilities are very quickly and very efficiently. If it works out, it works out. If not, you move on to the next guy."
Those targets include free-agent outfielder Coco Crisp, whose agent confirmed the White Sox preliminary interest, and Scott Podsednik, their own free agent, who presently is looking for a multiyear deal the White Sox aren't offering. The St. Petersburg Times recently named the South Siders as one of the teams interested in B.J. Upton, perhaps attainable in a trade, which could involve closer Bobby Jenks.
Even if Jenks stays put, the White Sox will want to upgrade their bullpen. They have been listed as one of eight teams interested in Takashi Saito, but also seem likely to add a left-hander to complement Matt Thornton.
These goals all are on the agenda for Williams, who's shown with his earlier moves that he's not one to wait around until December to begin holiday shopping when his club is concerned.
"I follow what goes on because I care about our organization and want us to do well," said White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker of the Hot Stove activity. "But I don't have any more insight than you do.
"You probably have more. I live in the South Georgia swamp right now. I barely get the Internet. If I hold the computer just right I can get it. I let Kenny make those moves, and I coach whoever shows up in Spring Training."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.