One man's guess: Williams might hold, but won't fold

Many men have damaged their reputations trying to predict what Kenny Williams will do, and many more will fall.

However, since I’ve taken the bait so many times already, there’s no risk in making a bold, declarative statement.  So hell — barring a collapse over the next few weeks, I am convinced that Kenny Williams isn’t going to sell.

Here’s what does it for me:

IP
H
BB
K
ERA
WHIP
76 1/3
52
21
60
2.00
0.96

That line represents the combined Junes for Gavin Floyd and John Danks.  Floyd saw Danks’ seven shutout innings against the Cubs on Sunday and raised him two more outs, blanking the Indians for 7 2/3 innings in the White Sox’s 6-3 victory over Cleveland.

As long as the Sox’s young starters are locked in and Mark Buehrle is healthy, this is a team that’s much closer to competing than they are to falling off a cliff.  But allow me to flesh out my thoughts further.

Cash in?  For what?

By my count, there’s one guy on the White Sox with optimal trade value: Bobby Jenks.

Now that he’s back to striking out a batter an inning, it’s hard to find a way to knock his performance.  And while he’s going to get expensive eventually, he’s still two years away from free agency.  Any team that needs a big-time bullpen arm would want Jenks.

Nobody else on the Sox could command that kind of return.  Octavio Dotel is very tradeable, but probably only for a Jon Link-type arm.  Maybe a little more if the team in question won’t hesitate to offer Dotel arbitration.

Jim Thome has a complete no-trade clause, and any team closer to a World Series ring doesn’t need a full-time DH at his salary.  Not to mention that he’s not worth any draft picks.  Paul Konerko and Scott Linebrink aren’t exceptional enough at their salary commitments, plus they have no-trade protection.

Even if you think the Sox’s Cubans could trudge forward without Jose Contreras, he just tweaked his back in his last start.  Half a season of a high-maintenance “37-year-old” probably isn’t going to net a player who can improve a team.

That leaves Jermaine Dye, and even though his name has been tied to the San Francisco Giants as they try to restore the 2005 team, the Sox would be better off planning for a reduced one-year extension instead of trading him.

Salary relief isn’t necessary

This became pretty clear when Kenny Williams showed himself as willing to trade league-minimum types for Jake Peavy’s $52 million contract.

The Sox are carrying a $96 million payroll this year.  They have just $45 million committed toward their 2009 salary.  If you want to count Jenks in next year’s plans, consider it $53 million. 

On top of that, Doug Laumann has not referred to any budgetary concerns in their quest to sign picks with signability issues.

Maybe the Sox could save $5 million or more in ditching a veteran by July 31, but the net cost would show a lower figure — especially since, as Ozzie Guillen put it, the fans don’t show when the team is (expletive).

The next wave is already setting up shop

For the next couple of years, the Sox have a chance of running out a five-man rotation that costs less than $25 million, especially if Aaron Poreda can stick as a starter.

They have half of the diamond covered with long-term solutions at depressed prices (Gordon Beckham, Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez and eventually Tyler Flowers).  Brandon Allen could be in the plans as soon as the start of next year, and Jordan Danks won’t be far behind.  In 2011, Dayan Viciedo becomes another true impact possibility, and maybe even Jared Mitchell if all goes well.

Even if a couple of the names above fall flat at the big-league level, they’re giving Williams plenty of reasons to supplement them with a veteran core…

What has the past told us?

…if Williams doesn’t trade them.

After the 2007 season, everybody expected Kenny Williams to officially close the window of opportunity.  Instead, he extended Dye, Buehrle and A.J. Pierzynski, traded his most attractive asset for an older shortstop and mortgaged the farm for Nick Swisher.  It worked.

Williams is nearly impossible to predict, but here are two things I know about him:

No. 1:  He doesn’t make obvious decisions in obvious situations. 

This is a guy who let a 90-win team sink under its own weight, then went and bolstered a 72-win team.  Given that this team is literally a .500 club, there may not be a clear-cut path Williams “should” pursue. 

It’s probably something along the lines of, “Get something for Dye, Thome and Dotel, because you aren’t going to get draft picks,” so I’m going to go in the opposite direction.

No. 2:  He’s loath to make public concessions.

Williams does know when start over, and 2007 is a good example.  He chose to reshape his rotation aggressively by trading for Danks and Floyd, but they had to take their lumps before his vision came to fruition.

This time around, the new guys are getting the hard-knocks treatment, but the Sox aren’t taking on water yet.  I don’t see Williams bowing out, especially with the money coming off the books.

So, hold or buy?

When the idea of a playoff push deserved a Jim Mora-style reaction earlier this month, I didn’t see Williams making a trade simply to make a trade.

Even though they’re in better position to buy, I haven’t changed my mind on that front.

At the risk of reading too much into one incident, I’m going to bank on the Peavy non-trade being the template for the White Sox’s deadline maneuvering — sidling up to other teams and saying, “Hey, baby, if you don’t want that extended contract in this economy … here’s my number.”

If the deadline comes and goes without any activity from the Sox, I wouldn’t be surprised — especially if Quentin is anywhere near 100 percent after the All-Star break.  That’s a big acquisition in and of itself.  Alternatively, I can see this year being an active one for post-deadline deals with payrolls being an issue.

What I can’t see is any scenario that makes the Sox a lesser team in August.  Nor can I see any reason to be disappointed by that prospect.

***************************

I haven’t compiled a list of trade candidates (the Cheat has tried to figure out Williams’ “safe” column) but here’s one hunch I’ll throw out.

Dan Hudson and Dexter Carter each began the year in Kannapolis.  Hudson received a promotion to Winston-Salem, took a few lumps, then dominated to such an extent that the Sox boosted him to Birmingham.

Carter, on the other hand, remains in Kanny despite a strikeout-to-walk ratio that’s roughly 4:1.

It reminds me of the second time the Sox traded Gio Gonzalez.  Though he appeared to have mastered Double-A despite spending the entire previous season at that level, the Sox refrained from testing him in Charlotte.  Then they dealt him in the package for Swisher, and given his struggles in the majors with Oakland, the Sox did indeed appear to trade him at his peak value.

Using seat-of-the-pants analysis, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Sox are waiting until the deadline before givin
g Carter more difficult competition.  They’d rather have his adjustment period take place in August than July, if you get my drift.

Although, now that I think about it, the same thing could be said for Flowers.  I hate it when I scare myself.

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The Cleveland Indians, on the other hand, are definitely in sell mode, and I’ve found a couple of interesting reads exploring their fate.

Jerry Crasnick at ESPN.com touches on a lot of the same points made by a better Let’s Go Tribe piece that beat him to the punch by a week, but this part is worth singling out from a Sox fan’s perspective:

The Shapiro-Antonetti tandem gets more love from national media outlets than, say, White Sox GM Kenny Williams, who is perceived as arrogant and overly blunt. Is it because the Cleveland guys are media favorites? Perhaps. But their front office peers also regard Shapiro and Antonetti as extremely bright, people-oriented, innovative thinkers.

Jay at Let’s Go Tribe says the problem may be that the “bright, people-oriented, innovative thinkers” all think the same things.  If the relationship between Williams and Guillen is any indication, it’s likely that the Sox front office might encounter slightly more internal dissonance.

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Minor league roundup:

  • Charlotte 12, Buffalo 7 (10 innings)
    • Lucas Harrell threw a quality start in his Triple-A debut despite allowing too many baserunners.  Six innings, three runs on nine hits and three walks.  He struck out three and recorded 11 groundouts.
    • Three-hit games: Norris Hopper (three RBI), Miguel Negron (double, two RBI, two walks), Josh Kroeger (double, RBI) and Wilson Betemit (double, two RBI).
    • Cole Armstrong hit his third homer, a solo shot.
    • Brian Omogrosso continues to struggle, allowing two runs on three hits and a walk over an inning of work.  He struck out one.
    • Brandon Allen went 0-for-6.
  • Mobile 6, Birmingham 5
    • Tyler Flowers went 4-for-4 with a walk and an RBI, not to mention his second stolen base.
    • John Shelby went 2-for-5 with a double, RBI and his 11th steal.
    • Stefan Gartrell hit a solo homer, his 13th of the year.
    • Justin Cassel, who switched places with Harrell, allowed three earned runs on eight hits and two walks over seven innings, striking out four.
    • Dayan Viciedo went 1-for-5; Christian Marrero drew the collar.
  • Potomac 6, Winston-Salem 2
    • Making his first start since his no-hitter, Levi Maxwell strugged: 4 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR.
    • Jimmy Gallagher went 2-for-4, providing the runs with a two-run homer.
    • Brent Morel went 1-for-4.
  • Elizabethton 11, Bristol 5
    • Steven Upchurch didn’t have much: 4 2/3 IP, 12 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 2 HR.
    • Jimmy Ballinger (11th round) was also hit around in his debut, allowing two runs on five hits over 2 1/3 IP.  One walk, two K’s.
    • Misael Tavarez went 3-for-4 with a double; Shaydon Buckridge drove in three.
  • Great Falls 7, Missoula 4
    • Zach Kayne and Nicholas Ciolli both went 2-for-4 with a double.
    • Kevin Dubler and Orlando Santos joined them with two hits apiece.
    • Brett Graffy struck out five over three scoreless innings of relief, allowing three hits and a walk.
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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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