11/30/10 12:00 AM EST
Williams' plans for Winter Meetings unclear
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
"I will expound on any thoughts, ideas, formulation of plan or plans at the General Managers' Meetings," said Williams, staying well below the radar, where the White Sox thrive on operating.
Those General Managers' Meetings have come and gone, with Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings set to begin on Dec. 6 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and it's not completely certain as to which direction the South Siders will be traveling for the 2011 season. Then again, there hasn't been a great deal of free-agent movement overall around the game.
Victor Martinez appears to be the most significant signing to date as far as the White Sox are concerned, as the catcher/first baseman/DH agreed to a four-year, $50 million deal with American League Central rival Detroit. Although it was reported that the White Sox presented Martinez with a $48 million deal, either at three or four years, a Major League source has confirmed to MLB.com that an official offer was never made.
There was interest in the talented switch-hitter on Chicago's part, but clearly not at this particular level. The bottom line is committed money, and decisions to be made over the next few days will influence how the White Sox operate.
Tuesday marks the deadline for first baseman Paul Konerko and right-handed reliever J.J. Putz to accept or decline the salary arbitration offered by the White Sox on Nov. 23. If either player accepts, he will be under team control for 2011 at an increase from last year's respective salaries. Konerko earned $12 million in 2010 in the finale of a five-year, $60-million deal, and Putz earned $3 million.
Both are expected to turn down arbitration in pursuit of multiyear deals. Their decline would mean that the White Sox would receive two Draft picks for Konerko and one for Putz. It wouldn't mean that the White Sox are done with an organization staple for the past 12 years, in Konerko, and a key cog to a talented bullpen, in Putz.
With just more than $80 million already earmarked for 13 players and with a 2011 payroll expected to only slightly exceed 2010's $104 million mark, the White Sox won't have much room to work when they make their way to Florida. At least one left-handed-hitting run producer and a veteran arm or two to solidify the bullpen remains on the agenda, with a replacement for Bobby Jenks also a possibility, although the White Sox have Matt Thornton as a capable in-house choice.
Adam Dunn and/or Hideki Matsui would make sense in terms of filling the needs on offense, and both are more than simply pure designated hitters. It seems unlikely that the White Sox could bring on Dunn and bring back Konerko without making trades to free up salary space, so one of the sluggers signing would appear to affect the other.
But let's examine a broad-sweeping, potential "What if?" scenario. What if Dunn signs with the Rangers and Konerko signs with the D-backs, as purely hypothetical examples? What if free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski, the team's backbone for the past six years who was not offered arbitration, takes his skills to another city?
What if the White Sox non-tender Jenks on Thursday if they are unable to work out a trade? And finally, what if the White Sox can't pull off a deal using their surplus of high-end starting pitching to fill another void in a cost-effective manner? Do those worst-case endeavors mean the White Sox will be dormant at the Winter Meetings and beyond?
Not necessarily, especially with Thursday's date to tender contracts to players under team control presenting a new crop of non-tender free agents. Then again, the White Sox could go young, an idea floated by Williams.
It isn't about going young through rebuilding, with the White Sox having little chance to contend in 2011 -- not with the starting rotation they possess. It's more about giving such dynamic young players as third baseman Brent Morel, catcher Tyler Flowers, left-handed starter Chris Sale, outfielder Jordan Danks and slugging infielder Dayan Viciedo an earlier chance to prove their worth.
That decision won't come without growing pains, according to Minor League director Buddy Bell, who has a strong working knowledge of the aforementioned players.
"In our situation it's about, 'How much patience do you have and can you have?' " said Bell of the White Sox going in a younger direction. "You go into a season expecting to get into the playoffs."
Bell certainly believes that these players have Major League capabilities, but it's more about this talent playing out over a full season. Look at Jordan Danks, who is probably Chicago's best defensive outfielder but still has room to develop offensively.
"Guys have shown the ability to have stretches of playing like big leaguers, but inconsistency always is going to be expected in that situation," Bell said. "Again, it's about how much patience we have. It's hard for me to look into a crystal ball and say honestly what's going to happen."
Williams could make the same claim as the front-office crew prepares for the Winter Meetings. One thing to always remember about Williams is to expect the unexpected, which covers a great deal of ground with the GM not saying much about his team's plans.
"I've learned to worry about everything but obsess over nothing," Williams said.