White Sox leave Meetings with more to do
Leadoff hitter, power lefty bat on GM Williams' agenda
INDIANAPOLIS -- Don't talk to Ken Williams about the pace picking up in regard to moves made around Major League Baseball with the tender date for 2010 contracts to unsigned players coming this Saturday night. Don't ask him if business will pick up now that teams gained a firmer grasp as to what they have to spend in the free-agent market.
The White Sox general manager approaches every part of each given season, whether or not it's an unofficial designated period of movement such as this past week's Winter Meetings at the Marriott in downtown Indianapolis, with the same drive to improve his team.
"There's always a sense of urgency in conversations I have," Williams said. "Most of the time, I create it. It's always urgent and important, every decision we make."
Williams' urgency wasn't quite reciprocated during the four days spent in Indianapolis, as agreeing to a three-year, $14 million extension with Mark Teahen was the only move made by the team. But the White Sox have laid the groundwork for other potential additions -- some could happen fast, while others might take a while to play out.
J.J. Putz, the one-time Seattle closer who is recovering from surgery to remove bone spurs from his pitching elbow, stood as a prime target for a White Sox bullpen upgrade. Although Putz has numerous teams interested, the White Sox could have a decision by the beginning of next week or move on to another pitcher.
Hideki Matsui remains a designated hitter of interest, as a left-handed power bat who would support the middle of the White Sox lineup. But Matsui's side continues to have talks with the Yankees, and with the White Sox basically at budget, it might take until January before they can decide on how to fill this void. Finding a leadoff hitter as the third outfielder might stand as more of a priority, with Scott Podsednik and Coco Crisp still possible fits.
Although the lack of activity and missed opportunity in Indianapolis always bothers someone as aggressive as Williams, he has positioned the White Sox as one of the American League Central's top teams. That spot comes from having one of the AL's best starting rotations and with some of the other perennial contenders such as Cleveland and Detroit losing top players over the past few years.
Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson was the latest All-Star to leave the division, moving on to the Yankees this week via a three-team trade that also involved Arizona.
"Well, we like it," said Williams of top talent such as Granderson, Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia, to name a few, moving on from the AL Central to new destinations. "It can't be a bad thing for us, but when good older players leave, they are being replaced with good young players. It will give more life to some of these clubs and give them a great opportunity in the future.
"All we ever tried to do is make our team the best it can be that given year, regardless of the competition. We just have to worry about playing up to our level."
Of course, Williams never has been simply satisfied with winning the division. His goal centers on bringing home to the South Side of Chicago the second World Series title in the past six years. With that single focus in mind, there might be more dynamic trade options popping up in the coming weeks that might have just been briefly discussed in Indiana. And Williams has very few, if any, untouchables.
"I have an open mind. Sometimes it's more open than others, depending on the player," Williams said. "Some of the clubs you talk to, they have a long list of 'Do not touch' type of players.
"No one player is better than the whole of the team. You have an opportunity to put the whole of the team together, vs. one person, and it leads you to a championship? Well, isn't that why we are here?"
Deals done: The White Sox agreed to terms on a three-year, $14 million extension Teahen.
Rule 5 activity: None
Goals accomplished: Signing Teahen to a three-year deal allowed Chicago to avoid arbitration with the new acquisition at third base and locked up an important piece of its infield. It also presented the White Sox with some cost efficiency to make an extra move in the present.
Unfinished business: A decision on what to do with the leadoff spot must be reached, and that decision could come sooner than later with non-tender free agents opening up a new list of talent. The White Sox also will look to fortify their bullpen and then see what sort of money is available to add a left-handed power bat.
GM's bottom line: "We are not here to have the most popular player on a team. We are here to win another championship." -- Williams
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.