01/28/10 5:19 PM EST
White Sox won't close door on DH
If more production is needed, options will be evaluated
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
That final Thome roster call seems to have brought a mixed reaction from the White Sox fan base. It's universally agreed that Thome stands as one of the classiest players in the game and an immensely positive clubhouse influence. The future Hall of Famer, who needs 36 home runs to reach 600 for his illustrious career, should be able to produce somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-25 home runs, 70-80 RBIs and 80-90 walks if he stays healthy and gets a significant number of at-bats.
Thome launched 23 home runs with 74 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .372 playing at 39 years of age for the White Sox in 2009. Those backing Thome's return wanted this big left-handed bat back in the middle of the White Sox lineup.
Those fans standing behind Guillen's ultimate call look at the affable Thome as part of the base-clogging, long-ball mentality the White Sox are trying to get away from with their reshaped offense. Yet, the second group has something in common with the first group.
They want another power bat in the middle of the White Sox lineup.
Entering Spring Training, this particular move doesn't appear to be on the White Sox agenda. General manager Ken Williams produced a list of available left-handed bats from his back pocket during a meeting with the media at SoxFest, but Williams also has deferred to Guillen's designated hitter-by-committee after Guillen explained his plan in depth. Guillen added that Thome was the only left-handed bat he was interested in adding at this time.
But there's one major misconception among fans frustrated or even angry with Guillen's decision to bypass Thome or a primary designated hitter, and that misconception would be viewing this move with any sort of finality. If the White Sox, as an organization, believe this DH-by-committee to be a liability, then Williams won't hesitate to upgrade.
"There might be a time in June or July where we look around and say, 'We have to address that need,'" said Williams, speaking in generalities about any missing element on the team. "And we'll go to work."
When Williams was asked if that search could come as early as May, Williams paused, smiled and added, "Perhaps."
Questions for Williams from the weekend Town Hall Meetings dealt with the availability of left-handed bats such as free agent Johnny Damon, who is represented by Scott Boras, not to mention San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez, the subject of an unfounded three-team trade rumor involving the White Sox early in the offseason. When or if the time comes to make a move, no player is too significant for Williams to pursue.
Williams acquired David Wells in January 2001, and it was Williams who made the big deal for Bartolo Colon in January '03. Williams' in-season deals include prying loose Freddy Garcia from Seattle on June 27, 2004, and acquiring Jose Contreras from the Yankees a little more than one month later, a pair of moves contributing to 2005's World Series title. Ken Griffey Jr. also was a non-waiver trade deadline pickup, aimed at pushing the White Sox toward a championship.
Take last season as a prime example of Williams' willingness to correct a shortcoming. The team started the 2009 campaign with Contreras and a second run for Colon at the back end of the rotation, before Contreras struggled mightily at the outset and Colon literally and figuratively disappeared.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time," said Williams with a wry smile, when Guillen brought up the Colon signing at SoxFest.
Instead of sitting back and hoping the team assembled could capture an infinitely winnable AL Central, Williams went after one-time National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy in late May. Williams got his man two months later and has one of the AL's top pitching staffs entering 2010.
In a perfect world for Guillen, the combination of Mark Kotsay, Andruw Jones, Omar Vizquel and Jayson Nix, not to mention the occasional starts for Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin, will more than capably anchor the DH role. Of course, in a seemingly perfect world for White Sox fans, Thome would have continued to stay unattached and continued working out, being there for the signing if the White Sox decided they needed a more singular DH presence in April.
As Thome made clear during a conference call to announce his arrival in Minnesota, he is now part of the Twins organization. Ultimately, it could be the best decision for both sides, although the White Sox won't be afraid to make a change if it's not.
"I looked at it as a difficult decision for them," Thome said. "Ozzie called me and told me it would be hard to get me at-bats.
"I'm excited about coming to Minnesota and doing things to help them win. I will cherish my time in Chicago. It was a great four years, and I'll think about that -- not necessarily what happened last week or last weekend."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.