December 2009

Williams supports Bradley

Milton Bradley is not coming to the White Sox.

Ken Williams made that point fairly clear during his Wednesday afternoon media session at the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis. But the White Sox general manager also lent verbal support to the embattled Cubs outfielder, whose potential trade has fueled the rumor mill for three days in Indianapolis.

“You know, the funny thing is I’ve had the pleasure of talking to Milton in the past and it saddens me to a great extent, actually some of the things, or some of the situations he’s been put in, or put himself in,” Williams said. “I would like to see this guy be able to go out there without all of the distractions from everything and do what he can do.

“This guy can play. I don’t know if I see a fit for us, and I probably shouldn’t even be talking about him because he’s not our player but Milton Bradley can play. He’s really a more thoughtful person and a better person that has been portrayed or he’s shown. It’s too bad.”

Acquiring Bradley would make sense for the White Sox only, and the word only needs to be stressed here, in that he has a career .371 on-base percentage and the switch-hitter also can play the outfield from time to time while serving primarily as designated hitter. Don’t look for that move to happen, despite Williams’ backing of Bradley.

“Listen, I don’t like it when people get in our business and I certainly don’t want to step over any lines,” Williams said. “It’s none of my business what transpires with that situation.”

Teahen, White Sox agree to three-year deal

The White Sox third baseman of the present also became their third baseman of the immediate future when Mark Teahen and the team agreed to a three-year, $14-million contract on Tuesday, avoiding arbitration.

Teahen, 28, who was acquired by the White Sox from Kansas City on Nov. 6 in exchange for Chris Getz and Josh Fields, will earn $3.75 million in 2010, $4.75 million in 2011 and $5.5 million in 2012. Teahen was eligible to become a free agent following the 2011 season.

During the 2009 season for the Royals, Teahen hit .271 with a career-high 34 doubles, adding in 12 home runs and 50 RBIs in 144 games. He started 99 games at third base, 31 in right field and three at second, but at this point, looks to be anchored at third for the White Sox.

Tuesday’s announcement leaves the White Sox with five arbitration eligible players in Bobby Jenks, D.J. Carrasco, Carlos Quentin, John Danks and Tony Pena.

Perspective on pursuit of top talent

Here’s a little interesting side note attached to covering Ken Williams during the Winter Meetings or during really any high-traffic period where trades are the focus, whether it’s the offseason or the non-waiver trade deadline. Williams never has been afraid to pull the trigger on a big deal, make that an extremely big deal, and he’s never been afraid to listen on potential inquiries.

No player is off-limits, although some are less likely to be moved than others. Factoring in all of these particular circumstances, and it’s easy to see how the White Sox are linked to many a big-name player.

Earlier in the week, I was talking to Williams and asked him about Jake Peavy. Williams said the two had talked and that Peavy was fired up and ready to go for 2010. He said the purpose of this call to his new ace was to sort of pick Peavy’s brain about a former teammate, getting a feel as to what fit he would have in the clubhouse.

When I asked Williams if that player in question was San Diego’s Adrian Gonzalez, not expecting any sort of direct answer, Williams paused and then gave me a “No comment.”

Let’s move ahead to Monday, the first official day of the 2009 Winter Meetings, and jump to the half-way point of Williams’ 20-minute session with the media. Check out this following interaction.

“If you didn’t have Jake Peavy, would you be in on Roy Halladay?” a reporter asked Williams of the Toronto ace, who is known to be on the market.

“No comment,” Williams responded with a smile.

“Are you in on Roy Halladay?” another reporter asked.

“No comment,” Williams answered, still smiling.

Either Williams is trying to acquire both Gonzalez and Halladay, judging by the similarity of his responses, or the White Sox general manager has become Major League Baseball’s consummate poker player. Before the Halladay press conference is planned at U.S. Cellular Field, though, remember the right-hander has a full no-trade clause, has expressed a desire to stay in Florida for Spring Training and would probably cost the White Sox either John Danks or Gavin Floyd, along with prospects such as Jordan Danks, Daniel Hudson and/or Tyler Flowers, as a purely hypothetical talent package in return.

And there’s no guarantee Halladay would be anything more than a one-year rental, set to earn $15.75 million in the final year of a three-year, $40 million deal. Of course, I’m taking a huge leap based on two simple words from Williams, who would have probably asked about Babe Ruth’s availability if he was running a team at that point.

Then again, it’s easy to dream about the big catch when Williams is at the helm, even though he readily admits the team is in a financial holding pattern. One reporter I was talking to on Monday night said he never would count out the White Sox.

As for the potential pursuit of Juan Pierre, the Dodgers want a starting pitcher in return for the leadoff man/outfielder and the White Sox would want a sizable portion of the $18.5 million owed him over the next two years to be picked up. Doesn’t sound like a fit.

Nothing forced for No. 1 hitter, No. 2 catcher

The fact that free agent Chone Figgins appears close to signing a multi-year deal with the Mariners, as reported by FoxSports.com on Friday, doesn’t really impact the White Sox plan to fill their leadoff spot.

Sure, the White Sox long have had interest in one of the game’s best No. 1 hitters. But this projected four-year, approximately $36 million deal left Figgins out of range where the White Sox currently were able to spend. So, where do the White Sox stand in regard to a leadoff man?

General manager Ken Williams presented a somewhat tongue-in-cheek answer to this particular inquiry during a Friday afternoon conference call.

“We won’t be forfeiting the spot in the order. There’s going to be someone under the ‘No. 1′ in our lineup,” said Williams in a call to discuss the 2009 Winter Meetings, beginning Monday morning in Indianapolis.

Williams once again used the example of a leadoff hitter running against the pure speed prototype by pointing to the team’s usage of Orlando Cabrera during the 2008 American League Central championship campaign. Gordon Beckham, who had a .347 on-base percentage as part of his 2009 rookie season and would add extra-base punch at the top, a la Derek Jeter, would be an in-house leadoff candidate if the White Sox don’t make any further additions.

Judging by Williams’ comments above, he doesn’t seem worried about going to Spring Training without that de fact offensive force at the top.

“As much as 90 percent of the other teams in the league that don’t have the ideal leadoff guy,” Williams said. “You look at some of the teams that are around that have been successful. They don’t have the ideal guy.”

Jordan Danks’ chances to make the Opening Day roster also appeared to get a December boost, although Williams didn’t mention the younger brother of starter John Danks by name. With the top-notch pitching staff in place, beginning with a starting rotation as strong on paper as any American League group, Williams stressed how tightening up the defense in the outfield, going along with the changes already made in the infield, remains a priority.

Danks, 23, was deemed to be ready defensively in 2009. So, the White Sox could take a chance on him as the third outfielder, with the support of veterans such as Andruw Jones and Mark Kotsay.

This same school of thought could lead to Tyler Flowers breaking camp as the team’s backup catcher, although Williams admitted to asking around and having some talks about the spot.

“We don’t see it as a situation where we have to do something if it doesn’t fit overall,” Williams said. “We do have options, and not just Tyler.

“If it turns out we want to put Tyler in this sort of situation, the move comes with expectations that he will grow into the role similar to a young backup quarterback in the NFL. He’ll be learning as he goes, but also losing development time. After the season, that would mean he would have to continue going out and playing somewhere, whether it’s the Fall League or down in Winter ball.

“It’s not something that’s a pressing issue,” Williams said. “We will continue to survey the landscape, but where we sit right now, the way we are designed, we don’t have to make a move that’s uncomfortable or inconsistent to our overall plan.”

More from Ken Williams

Even with three stories soon to be up on whitesox.com, focused on Kenny Williams’ Winter Meetings thoughts, there are still a few more nuggets of information from the White Sox general manager to be shared. So, here they are.

CLOSING TIME
Bobby Jenks is not being actively shopped, according to Williams, who has not had one present offseason trade talk concerning the burly right-hander to date. This assessment doesn’t mean Williams won’t listen to offers for Jenks at the Winter Meetings. In fact, Williams expects Jenks to be a topic of conversation at Indianapolis.

“He’s one of the game’s better closers and people need closers,” Williams said. “But so do we.”

A more in-depth look at the Jenks’ dynamic and the White Sox bullpen will be on the site today.

RUMOR MILL CHURNING
Williams claimed to not have even heard the recent rumor concerning a three-way trade involving the White Sox, Padres and Angels, a rumor termed as preliminary discussions for sending Adrian Gonzalez to the White Sox, Paul Konerko to the Angels and a plethora of prospects to the Padres. The Angels were never involved in such a deal, but check out the following by-play with Williams as representative of possible Gonzalez interest. Well, it just might show interest, as of course, nothing was said directly.

I asked Williams if he had talked to Jake Peavy during this offseason, trying to get a gauge on Peavy’s fire and preparedness for his first full season in Chicago. Williams told me that the two had spoken, with Williams needing to ask Peavy about a player from another team to whom he had interest.

“He’s already pumped up,” said Williams of Peavy.

When I asked Williams if that player he asked Peavy about was Gonzalez, he responded with a quick “No comment.”

Now, Williams could have just been throwing out a standard response when a media member asks him about a specific player. He might have been asking Peavy about catcher Henry Blanco, who played in San Diego last year and has drawn the White Sox interest. Williams has been known to seek out his veterans to get a feel for how a particular trade target would fit on the roster and the clubhouse, much more so than his talent.

Most White Sox fans surveyed would list Gonzalez as a perfect fit, and remember Williams never shies away from inquiring about top talent. He even asked about Johan Santana before the Twins traded him to the Mets.

“If you’re good, I’ve asked about you,” said Williams with a laugh.

WAIT AND SEE
Don’t expect talks to begin any time soon in extending catcher A.J. Pierzynski or first baseman Paul Konerko, whose multi-year deals expire after 2010.

“Way too early,” Williams said. “I’ve got to look at so much focus on 2010. That’s something I can’t focus on.”

ALL ABOUT ANDRUW

The expediency with which Andruw Jones signed with the White Sox, not to mention the $500,000 as the agreed upon salary, with incentives that could add on another $1 million, proves Jones truly wants to play for the White Sox.

“He’s been a great player for a long time and has gotten derailed doing some things that really isn’t his game,” said Williams of Jones. “But he and Ozzie have a great rapport.

“Andruw knows he’s coming here in a backup role. It’s always a key, when talking about a player who has amassed the numbers and accomplishments he has amassed, to be accepting of his role.

“But he really, really wanted to be here,” Williams said. “He wanted to be a part of what we are trying to do. That combination, the player and the dollars, it makes sense for us.”

Williams also knows that he has a player who could be something special if he returns to past form. As for not pursuing Jones prior to the 2008 season, after fellow center field aces Torii Hunter, Aaron Rowand and even Kosuke Fukudome wound up with different teams, Williams explained how the two-year, $36 million deal Jones eventually signed with the Dodgers didn’t even factor into the White Sox lack of interest.

“I didn’t make one phone call to Scott Boras,” said Williams of talking with Jones’ representative in the 2007 offseason. “And that’s not because we didn’t like the player. It simply was because we had our sights set on a different target.”

Guillen already has talked to his friend about coming to Glendale in the best possible physical condition.

“Ozzie has advised Andruw that it’s in his best interest to show up in shape,” Williams said. “But the good thing about Andruw is he knows who Ozzie is and what he is about and didn’t shy away from the challenge.”

NAME GAME
Remember the names Daniel Hudson, Lucas Harrell, Jhonny Nunez, Jon Link, Sergio Santos and Randy Williams. If the White Sox don’t add a veteran reliever, these young hurlers will fill out the final two spots in the White Sox bullpen.

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