In-house moves may be White Sox best option
Big offseason signings may inhibit deadline possibilities
CHICAGO -- The best move made by the White Sox leading up to the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31 just might be a trade from within.
How does that theory work exactly?
Well, Adam Dunn and Alex Rios have had deeply disappointing first halves of the 2011 season. Simply having these two proven veterans return to their normal yearly level of production, and not necessarily above, is like adding a pair of bats without additional payroll or subtracting another valuable piece from the puzzle.
There's also Dayan Viciedo, the converted outfielder who rips through International League pitching on a nightly basis for Triple-A Charlotte. His right-handed-hitting offense could provide the same sort of boost Miguel Cabrera gave to the Marlins as a 2003 callup, or in a slightly different manner, a similar boost as what Bobby Jenks added to the '05 White Sox as a high-octane July pitching addition.
Having these options for improvement from within is a good thing for the White Sox. After going "all in" during the offseason and raising the payroll to $127 million (a franchise record), general manager Ken Williams already has talked about not having the financial wherewithal to add more at this time.
That lack of change doesn't seem to bother manager Ozzie Guillen, who likes what he has in-house.
"I don't expect anything because I don't know how we pay them," Guillen said. "I feel comfortable with what we have. They have to show me how good they are. If we play to our potential, I guarantee we're going to kick some people's butt. But we're not playing to our potential now."
Trading salary for salary -- or salary for prospects -- could be a possibility for the White Sox, who find themselves in another American League Central battle with the Indians, Tigers and Twins. In the week leading up to the All-Star break, Dave Yoakum and Bill Scherrer, both special assistants to Williams and respected talent evaluators, were watching the Braves. Their appearance drew speculation of the White Sox moving an outfielder such as Juan Pierre or Carlos Quentin, with Viciedo waiting in the wings, and getting young Major League-ready pitching in return.
Of course, scouting the other 29 clubs is simply part of the annual coverage for Yoakum and Scherrer, so it could have been nothing more than a coincidence. But even with Brian Bruney's emergence, the White Sox still could look to fortify the right-handed side of their bullpen to work with Sergio Santos and Jesse Crain, or could even get a hurler who could step into the 2012 rotation while relieving in 2011.
Mark Buehrle and Edwin Jackson can be free agents after 2011, and at least one of the two will most likely be subtracted from the six-man rotation, although Chris Sale is a candidate to move into a starting role. The White Sox aim to win in 2011, but they also want to set themselves up for future success.
And with Williams at the helm, no move is out of the question in pursuing a second World Series title since 2005. So expect the unexpected, even if all-in means the White Sox temporarily are all but out of monetary resources.
"In '07, I thought they'd completely get rid of the entire team. We were really, really, really bad then," said White Sox reliever Matt Thornton, referring to the minimal moves Williams made at the 2007 trade deadline. "There was no sign of hope, even at this point. So you never know what he's going to do.
"Kenny is always looking to make the team better in any way possible. Whether it is a bullpen arm, a bench player, whatever it is, he's always looking to make some kind of move to make the team better.
"Right now, you're just waiting for a couple guys to break through," Thornton said. "We've got a lot of baseball left. All those times, how bad the first halves have been for some guys, they turn around and have just as good of a second half."