12/09/10 10:56 AM EST
White Sox achieve primary goal at Meetings
Club re-signs captain Konerko, will now focus on upgrading 'pen
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
After going through negotiations with Craig Landis, Paul Konerko's representative -- which were spearheaded by assistant general manager Rick Hahn -- Williams got his man when Konerko agreed to a three-year, $37.5 million deal announced Wednesday at the Winter Meetings.
Williams exited quietly Thursday from the happiest place on earth, but there really was no rush for the White Sox general manager to complete this expensive offseason upgrade before departing. He already has added the much needed left-handed run producer in the middle of the lineup through free agent Adam Dunn and brought back the attitude, durability and talent behind the plate of A.J. Pierzynski.
Everything possible was done by Williams, Hahn and their staff to put the team in a winning position for 2011, short of actually selling tickets to bring in extra revenue. These moves, though, should create enough excitement among the White Sox fan base to immediately raise those sales.
Call these additions early holiday gifts from Williams and White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to the devoted people who often emerge as the organization's harshest critics.
"Our fans, hey, listen, we have great, great fans, but the fact of the matter is you have to prove to White Sox fans that you are going to be worthy of discretionary spending," said Williams, during Wednesday's news conference to announce the Konerko signing. "And I don't have a problem with it and kind of take pride in the fact that we have earned their support over the years.
"As such, it's never lost on us that that's only on a year-to-year basis. We have got to continuously prove ourselves, and I don't have a problem with that."
Keeping that demanding fan base in mind, don't think for one moment the White Sox are where they need to be. Sure, they are an improved squad, but without bullpen enhancement, the White Sox might be a 90-win team coming in behind the Twins and Tigers, watching the playoffs on television once again.
Just take a look at how the then first-place White Sox fell on hard times in 2010 when closer Bobby Jenks and setup men Matt Thornton and J.J. Putz all were sidelined by injuries around the same period, throwing off the late-inning alignment. So there is more work to be done for Williams, and he understands the task at hand of finding relief.
This next job will be done without any payroll flexibility, with the White Sox basically out of money. They were very well-spent dollars, though, culminating with Konerko.
Signing Konerko basically stood as Williams' most important goal coming to Florida. So the general manager batted 1.000 during the Winter Meetings, the level he has been operating pretty close to for most of the offseason.
"I've stated before that I feel comfortable, confident in the everyday lineup and the defense that we are going to put out there, as well as the starting rotation and the back four guys in the bullpen," Williams said. "But I think we've got to augment that, just a bit, to make ourselves as strong as possible and contend for the division.
"So we've got some work cut out for us and we certainly, I think, are at a point where we have got to get a little creative, because we are about tapped out right now. So we need to either get creative or we need to get a flood at the ticket counter pretty quickly."
Deals done: Agreed to terms with Konerko on a three-year, $37.5 million contract.
Rule 5 activity: None.
Goals accomplished: This category doesn't take much thought where the White Sox are concerned. They came to Florida with the primary intention of getting Konerko back into the fold, after already signing Dunn and Pierzynski. They leave with their captain intact for the next three seasons.
Unfinished business: Williams has been focusing on roster problems and quickly and efficiently eliminating the voids. Next on the agenda for Williams is the bullpen, where Thornton, Sergio Santos, Tony Pena and potentially Chris Sale need a little veteran help.
GM's bottom line: "I don't want to get into subtracting off the Major League roster if I can help it. If there's something out there that makes sense and makes us good as a whole vs. that one particular spot, then I'll entertain it. But whatever we do, it's not designed to take a step back. It's designed to take a step forward." --Williams