CHICAGO -- Freddy Garcia interests the White Sox.
It's hard to turn away from a Major League starter who simply knows how to pitch and more importantly, knows how to win, even though Garcia's fastball is more likely to touch 85 mph as opposed to 95 in the 13th year of his career.
"He is one of my favorite competitors I've ever run across in athletic life," White Sox general manager Ken Williams told MLB.com on Thursday.
At this stage of the offseason, though, that White Sox respect has not translated into a contractual offer to bring back a 34-year-old Garcia to Chicago. Williams talked to Garcia's camp about the White Sox rotation situation, although no numbers were exchanged and Williams said there haven't been talks with Garcia for at least two or three weeks.
The White Sox figure to be in need of a fifth starter at the start of the 2011 season, with Jake Peavy's recovery continuing from 2010 season-ending surgery to repair a detached latissimus dorsi muscle in his right posterior shoulder. Regardless of how great Peavy feels during his ongoing rehab, the White Sox steadfastly will not put the determined right-hander on the mound unless he's completely healthy.
Rookie southpaw Chris Sale was talked about as a short-term replacement for Peavy. But pitching coach Don Cooper expressed as far back as late October a desire to have Sale either stay completely as a reliever or a starter during the entirety of the 2011 campaign. Sale looks more likely to start the season as the White Sox closer rather than their fifth starter.
Garcia would fit in nicely as Peavy's replacement, but he also would have to understand that a bullpen move probably is on the horizon sometime in May. Williams has every confidence in Garcia being able to handle a relief role, but isn't sure if that sort of job fits with Garcia's present mindset.
A monetary issue exists, as well. The White Sox "all-in" philosophy has raised payroll to a franchise record near $123 million, so only a small amount remains for someone like Garcia. This nominal total figures to be below the $1 million base salary Garcia had in 2010, possibly even half of what he earned.
All of this information was conveyed by Williams to Garcia's side.
"I wouldn't describe it as a formal offer, and I wouldn't describe it as a formal rejection," said Williams, disputing rumors that the White Sox made an offer to Garcia and he turned it down. "I had to check in, but I wanted them to know where we stood and how we've got X amount of dollars left.
"There is some uncertainty with Peavy in our rotation, but we think we have candidates for what we believe will at most amount to one month. But we don't have candidates we are as sure of as Freddy Garcia."
White Sox interest in Garcia hasn't disappeared. But Garcia still would have to understand the split role.
"We have no idea what is going to happen in Spring Training, regarding Peavy at this point, other than what Peavy tells us," said Williams with a laugh. "So, [Garcia] would be coming in with no guarantee that he would start at all.
"If he did start, it would only be for a shorter time and then he would move to the bullpen. Somebody would move to the bullpen, as [manager] Ozzie [Guillen] tends to go with whoever is pitching the best.
"That situation doesn't seem like one Freddy wants to be in," Williams said. "But I'm not sure what's out there for him or what motivates him. I know he likes Chicago."
Williams and Guillen are both stunned by the lack of serious interest in Garcia. Although he was lit up during his final two Cactus League starts, Garcia proved to be one of the most consistent starters in the 2010 White Sox rotation.
In fact, Williams readily agrees Garcia's final 12-6 record should have read more like 15-6 with a little bullpen help behind him. Garcia only lost consecutive starts once, and his 9-1 combined record in May and June kept a bad White Sox start from becoming dreadful.
Guillen knows Garcia as well as anyone in the game and certainly would attest to his capabilities.
"Just make sure to talk to Coop or me and make sure to know who is Freddy, what kind of pitcher he is, how he goes about his business," said Guillen of teams having interest in Garcia. "Because people don't like the way Freddy goes about his business because they don't know him.
"Last year, he gave up 30-something runs in two games in Spring Training. Well, we knew what we had."
Equally strong support would come from Williams in regard to Garcia if another team checked in, as long as the question wasn't coming from the Twins' Bill Smith or the Tigers' Dave Dombrowski.
"Another team outside the AL Central called me, and I would recommend him highly. If someone from the AL Central called, I would lie through my teeth," Williams said. "I don't want to have to face Freddy. For the life of me, I don't know why he's not getting more interest than he is. He deserves it."