White Sox aim to mesh talent with needs
Matsui discussions center on defensive abilities
INDIANAPOLIS -- The 15 minutes Ken Williams spent talking to the Chicago media on Tuesday marked the first time the White Sox general manager left his room at the downtown Indianapolis Marriott or was off the phone all day.
"We've been active," an upbeat Williams said.
For starters, the White Sox have to be sure Matsui can do more than serve as designated hitter. Manager Ozzie Guillen handed out high praise for Matsui's ability during his manger's session on Monday but added the 35-year-old will have to be able to play some games in the outfield.
Matsui did not play a single game in the field during the 2009 season and has two surgically repaired knees. But playing defense still is a desire for the hitter who produced four campaigns of 100-plus RBIs in seven seasons with the Yankees. Salary also will be an issue, with Matsui just completing a four-year, $52 million deal. The White Sox would be looking along the lines of a one-year deal in the $5 million range.
Williams remains cognizant of giving Guillen what he wants in regard to adding the individual pieces in assembling the team, which falls on the proven glovework side in Matsui's case.
"We really do take it on a case-by-case basis," Williams said. "It's very important for me to understand how Ozzie perceives someone. We are giving him our impression of the player's talent, because remember, the coaching staff only sees our games and that can sometimes make it a skewed viewpoint of a particular player if a player plays poorly or extraordinarily well against our club.
"I listen very closely as to how Ozzie feels he's going to use a player and fit into the scheme of things, and we give them as much background on what we think the player is and then how he fits in. If there's a differing viewpoint, it doesn't do me any good, no matter what I think about the player, if we are not on the same page and he won't be used in a fashion to get the utmost out of him."
When asked specifically about Matsui, who features a career .292 batting average and a .370 on-base percentage to go with his .482 slugging percentage, Williams paused, smiled and said, "He's a good player, but I don't know that we are there just yet."
As was talked about Monday at the Winter Meetings, adding on a position player or two could be an ongoing process for the White Sox carrying on through the New Year. The White Sox are in the market for a leadoff-type hitter, with Scott Podsednik, one of the team's most valuable offensive weapons from 2009, receiving the primary focus.
In Monday's press briefing, Williams indicated that if Podsednik believes there is an overall fit and a fit in terms of dollars, then "it's time to get serious" in regard to his talks with the White Sox. Ryan Gleichowski, Podsednik's representative, told MLB.com on Tuesday that those comments don't indicate a hard-and-fast deadline given to Podsednik by the White Sox.
"No time frame on a decision has been discussed by either side," said Gleichowski, who is in Indianapolis and acknowledged the two sides "had some recent conversations."
Coco Crisp is another leadoff hitter/outfielder previously mentioned as a player of interest for the White Sox. But in a phone interview with MLB.com's Dick Kaegel, Crisp listed the White Sox as one of approximately 12 teams with some level of interest.
"They said that they are interested in me but they haven't talked any dollars or time lines or anything like that so I guess everybody's trying to wait and see how the market is going to unfold," said Crisp of the White Sox. "To put price tags on everybody is a waiting game."
And the waiting will continue for Williams and the White Sox. Although Williams explained how he has tried to be more patient as a change he's made through self-assessment at the end of the 2009 campaign, he would like to get something done while the White Sox are in Indianapolis.
"Listen, we like to do things and shake things up a little bit, so we get phone calls with interesting ideas," Williams said. "So you have to have the conversations.
"There are a few [general managers] that are creative and aggressive. I'm really encouraged to see a three-way deal or people want to even venture down the four-way path. Why not? As long as you can have trust in the other person and keep the dialogue open, what's the difference? As long as you get what you want.
"You always would like to get better," Williams said. "What we are striving for is to get better. It's an opportunity while we are here, so we might as well do something. [White Sox chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] is paying a lot of money for the rooms."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.