At the 2006 winter meetings in Orlando, White Sox general manager Ken Williams sat in the lobby and made a friendly bet with me and another reporter that he would not trade any of his starting pitchers.
That night, just hours later, he took the podium to announce that he had sent right-hander Freddy Garcia to the Phillies for left-hander Gio Gonzalez and right-hander Gavin Floyd.
So, when I asked Williams last week about his approach to this year’s meetings in Dallas, I made the usual mental note to myself: “No matter what he says, this man is capable of anything.”
Which is pretty much is what he said.
Williams may trade veterans such as Floyd, left-hander John Danks and right fielder Carlos Quentin. Or, if he deems the offers for such players to be inadequate, he may try to add, even though he already has $94 million committed for 2012, not including the arbitration cases of Danks, Quentin and others, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
A hybrid of those two options also is possible, but a reduced payroll seems likely; the White Sox always tie their payroll to revenues, and their average home attendance dropped last season by more than 2,000 per game, from 27,091 to 24,705.
Anyway, here is the text of my interview with Williams – KW unfiltered. One thing I can promise: He will not trade Freddy Garcia at these meetings. Garcia now pitches for the Yankees.
Q: What is your plan at this point?
A: I’m just gathering information. Who’s interested in our players? Is the level of interest enough to consider going younger and building a new foundation?
If opportunities don’t present themselves, I could see us changing direction a little bit, try to be creative and add. We don’t have the money go out and really add. We would have to get really creative. But I can see that route, too.
The first domino that falls for us will kind of give you an indication one way or another, which way we’re going. But we’re not sure just yet.
Q: How did you get to this position?
We have been trying to compete and do it with fiscal responsibilty over the last decade or so while at the same time filtering in some young players so you don’t have to have a complete teardown or rebuilding.
We’re in between right now. I don’t particularly care to be in between. The conversations we’ve had right now haven’t yielded enough for me to pull the trigger on anything. It’s talk, all talk, until you pull the trigger on something and define where you’re going.
There is one scenario people haven’t talked about: Move some guys, get young talent and filter in veteran talent to go with the guys we already have. That would still give as a chance to win this year and also at the same time build from within a little bit.
Q: Are there any players you won’t trade?
A: I’m listening. Sometimes, it’s not about a particular individual player. It’s about what you’re doing as a whole, what the plan is for this year, 2013, 2014 – and what is the timing of these plans coming together. What is a guy’s point of maximum value? Does that fit in terms of when you think you will be good?
I can’t say anybody falls out of that (discussion). I’m a strong, strong believer in laying your foundation with starting pitching. The next wave . . . we’ve got Chris Sale. (Zach) Stewart showed he could do some things last year. (In the minors, Jacob) Petricka is going to be a good one. We’ve got a screwballer, (Hector) Santiago . . .
When are these guys going to be ready to go 200 innings? When are they going to be throw 200 innings and give you quality starts? It’s a timing thing as much as it is a talent thing. You can bring in a lot of talent at various times. But if they don’t coincide . . .
Q: Paul Konerko can veto any trade due to his service time – 10 years in the majors, five consecutively with one team. He has two years and $25.5 million left on his contract. Is he in play?
A: Paulie’s not going anywhere. We talked about the state of the club before he left (to return home to Arizona at the end of the season). I told him that we may have to do some things. If we get to the point where we have to do that and he wanted to be somewhere where he could have a better chance to win, a more veteran-laden team, I would accommodate him.
He was adamant – ‘Absolutely not.’ He knows that (rebuilding) is always a possibility. He expressed appreciation for us always going after it. He also expressed the opinion that he still felt we had a good nucleus, that we could rebound from some of the things that happened last year. But either way he’s in. Which makes my job easier.
Guys like that – on the field, in the clubhouse – are very difficult to find. Even if you decide to turn over a portion of your roster – we can’t turn over the entire roster – you still want your young players to learn from guys like that.
— Ken Rosenthal