Kenny Williams lists roster certainties for 2012; there are few of them

Kenny Williams lists roster certainties for 2012; there are few of them
"Sure, call it rebuilding. Just know that when I wrote out my plan last night, it ended with me landing Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, and Chipper Jones to play the outfield with Alex Cintron as the full-time DH," said Williams while preparing to share an orange creamsicle shot with Mike Rizzo.

Major League Baseball is set to reach a labor agreement that could bring very significant changes to the sport.  There are larger, long-term elements like the transfer of the Houston Astros to the the American League West, year-round interleague play, and issues with more immediate fallout such as draft bonus capping and free agent compensation re-structuring.  The latter of which could directly impact the level of urgency the White Sox feel to trade their crop of players poised to hit free agency after 2012.

But it hasn't been signed yet, so because off-season blog topics don't grow on friggin' trees, and because the owners may yet decide to take Frank McCourt up on that idea to spurn the agreement, raid their franchise's coffers and pool their funds together to build the world's largest--and very first self-sustaining--chocolate lava cake, let's hold off that for now, and delve into roster intrigue for your very own, reigning AL Central 3rd place finishers, the Chicago White Sox.

Kenny Williams was playing coy and funny with reporters at the 2nd day of GM meetings on Tuesday, and generally he's in a more playful mood when he he hasn't just angrily chucked a Faberge egg at his manager's head, and when he isn't too handcuffed by salary commitments to make a fun and jazzy trade.

Williams also took the time to identify the White Sox players with guaranteed roles for 2012, and given the limited number, he has a lot of room to jazzercise.

Firstly, Williams gave credit to Alejandro De Aza for doing absolutely everything one should need to do to earn a starting outfield gig and the leadoff spot for a team that's theoretically cutting salary.  The "he's not a prototypical leadoff hitter" cry has now become a standard feature of every beat writer column somehow (We miss you, Brett), but at least the Sox won't be eschewing De Aza's suitable production in pursuit of such a nebulous and mystical concept.

Also committed to were Paul Konerko--someone's gotta hit that one solo HR every game--Alexei Ramirez, and Brent Morel.

Paul Konerko could certainly have some value as a bat-for-hire in an absolute fire sale, but whether he's being retained to maintain some semblance of offensive viability, fan base sanity or just clubhouse stability, it's hard to really fault it.

Ramirez could pull in a ransom from a team that valued his defense, but the whole cornerstone-of-the-team thing and the lack of a even remotely viable replacement is reason enough to keep him.

It's interesting to see Brent Morel included.  His cheap cost and defensive value made it a good idea to keep him in the fold, but apparently a gonzo September may have been enough to remove the temptation of any kind of veteran upgrade.  Whatever keeps the Sox out of the Aramis Ramirez conversation, can't be a bad thing.

In the name of helping friends, let's add a few for Kenny that he left off his list: Adam Dunn, Jake Peavy and Alex Rios.  It's hard to trade away the anchor of the ship.

We can likely add Chris Sale to the bunch, too.  He was just announced as officially being on the move to the rotation, and his youth, cost and upside all represent what the Sox need more of on their roster.  Since he hasn't started a game yet in the bigs, it's hard to imagine getting something worth the move if the White Sox believe in him anywhere near how much they portray.

With Williams newly encouraged by the trade market, it would seem like everyone else can go.  Everyone?  Everyone.

Sergio Santos' intensely team-friendly contract would make his departure unlikely, and Dayan Viciedo is likely not mentioned as a lock only because he played too poorly to end 2011 to be guaranteed a spot, but both of them are player-types (closer, offense-only slugger) that are easily overvalued.  You don't chain yourself to your 65 IP-a-year reliever and future DH.

From there on the commitments get shakier.

A.J. Pierzynski is more than likely the Opening Day catcher, but the organization isn't nearly terrified enough of Tyler Flowers for AJ to not be in play, Carlos Quentin just got a clean bill of health for dealin', the bullpen is deep enough for pretty much any individual to be available, and Gordon Beckham...c'mon, who wouldn't be interested in finding a 2nd basemen who hits better than Gordon Beckham??

As J.J points out, Beckham is as likely as anyone to get a chance with a new regime, but there shouldn't be the strict 'non-starter' tag placed on deals for him that there's been in years past.

The versatility suits Williams, who gets punchy enough to accept a world like "rebuilding" when he gets the notion that he can spurn the slow-cooking process for a flash-fry.

This is not to say that sufficient value to avert the franchise's decline will come back for this collection of broken toys.  And I certainly wouldn't want to suggest that eschewing every opportunity to replenish a positively moribund farm system, even as they line up to smack you in the face with their obviousness isn't still a dreadful way to go about this.  But Kenny Williams working on a tight budget, trying to grapple with a way to re-form his roster by deciding which assets he could live without was the last time he bore a strong resemblance to Successful Kenny Williams.

It won't save 2012 by any means, and it doesn't qualify as an actual direction for the franchise, but it's something to watch for.  I'm interested in what Williams can do with a variety of options for trade and removed from a self-imposed mandate to win now at all costs.  Interested, without too much temptation to sub in the word "dreading".  That's a start.


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  • Great post, as usual. Can someone help me to decipher this KW quote from the Padilla article? Granted, there was not much context:
    “For the last 12 years, we’ve been grinding it out, trying to put forth an effort to win a championship. It’s difficult to do that for such a long period of time – rebuild at the same time as you’re trying to compete. Fortunately we’ve had some teams that have done better than others, and there have been teams that didn’t meet our expectations."

    "For the last 12 years, we've been grinding it out" - Not really. Maybe you were grinding it out before you won the world series, but since you've just been adding payroll. A side thought: It's possible White Sox staff has a running bet to see who can use the word "grind" and its related forms the most times in public statements.

    "trying to put forth an effort to win a championship." - trying to put forth an effort? I think you mean it hasn't worked.

    "It’s difficult to do that for such a long period of time – rebuild at the same time as you’re trying to compete." -Agreed, that's why it's called "rebuilding" and not "built." But you say this is what you have been attempting to do. How does this help make your case?

    "Fortunately we’ve had some teams that have done better than others, and there have been teams that didn’t meet our expectations." - Now you've totally lost me. What is "fortunate" about having some teams better than others? I think you have a totally warped sense of positive outcomes! What other meaning can I possibly garner from such an inane statement?! ARRRRGGGGHH!

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    I don't think you're far off with the idea that they're obsessed with "grindiness". I think they ascribe a level of nobility to themselves for never entering into full rebuilding for any prolonged stretch of time, and gunning for a divisional crown every year despite not being a top-5 revenue club. I mean, they'd have to, right? The alternative is to admit that it's foolish.

    This mentality is only heightened by the fact that the roster is lined with well-traveled veterans and no super-elite contributors. Nobody has the "silver spoon" or was "coddled through their development" or something like that. You stay with the same bull-headed approach for 12 years without developing your own mythology. I know that's true for me. I've definitely convinced myself there's something noble and/or grindy about staying up late into the night writing jokes about Frank McCourt.

    Otherwise, yeah, sounds like GM-speak gobbledygook. Doesn't have to make sense, just a lot of dancing around the idea that they acknowledge they're screwed, but will just try to adjust on the fly like always.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    If there are no super elite contributers, it's not by design (Dunn, Peavy, to a certain extent Rios were supposed to be). And I think there comes a time when the gobbledygook is so far from anything tangible that it becomes empty rhetoric. I suppose there can be some debate over what "rebuilding" means (aquiring cheaper, durable, major league ready, good young pitchers counts for something), but there is no question that this roster is now so top heavy with veterans and a bloated payroll, with no young talent below, that it is about to collapse in on itself. That happens to franchises I guess, but don't tell me it's grindy. That's just annoying.

    I'd like to hear some of those Frank McCourt jokes.

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    I grant you that Peavy was supposed to step in and win the Cy Young or invent new pitches or whatever, but I think Dunn and Rios are a little different.

    Dunn's a walks-and-dingers mass producer, but as a DH who probably eats up some of his own value in poor base-running, he's never entered an MVP conversation for a reason. Guys like that fill a need for offense--which we totally had--but aren't elite players like say a Jacoby Ellsbury or 2007 Grady Sizemore. Beyond that, while I led the charge at his signing for people to ignore his batting average. It's not irrelevant. He only posted an OBP over .400 once, and was only at .356 in 2010. He was very good at getting on-base. Never great. I loved the idea of him paired with Konerko, not so much an offense centered around him.

    Rios was definitely supposed to be that ballyhooed 5-tool star when he came up, but when the Sox acquired him, he was a buy low candidate. He was being waived, after all. That's how the White Sox acquire guys like that (like trading for an injury-prone Quentin, or taking a chance on an injury-prone De Aza, or trading for disappointing 4th overall pick Gavin Floyd). They're right to do so, because they're likely to return to acceptable levels of performance due to their talent, but most MVP/perennial all-star types weren't being given up on by their teams at some point.

    You can snag a lot of 3-4 WAR players like that, but not many 6-8 types. Peavy had top potential, but was paid absolutely premium value for in terms of prospects, and obviously the Sox don't have the capability to do that anymore because the system's gone to seed.

    Frank McCourt spending $100 million on a self-sustaining chocolate lava cake is all I got for now.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    Fair enough. I've been listening to too much Jeff Manto. Damn you Manto.

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    Yup, Manto's job is to be enthusiastic about Adam Dunn. It's why they pay him the big bucks.

    Big bucks = 20th percentile salary for MLB hitting coach.

  • I see you already covered the "anchors of the ship," but....

    ...with your references that a CBA could affect compensation for free agents, and especially that it could result in year round interleague play, what happens to such assumptions as that Dunn (and some other players) are only good for being DHs? No DH everywhere or 16 DH openings? I can't conceive of continuing the current system that DH depends on the league of the home team, when interleague play was the exception rather than the rule.

  • In reply to jack:

    There's been no word about changes to that coming soon, but yeah, you'd expect it to get unwieldy with the near constant flip-flopping of rules. Managers might prefer it though. With a long NL road trip they're hard-pressed to keep their DH engaged, but now not so much.

    Dunn's career might as well end if the DH is eliminated though. He was positively brutal at 1st base. I know he was rumored to be not terrible in Washington, but no range, bad hands, and poor instincts isn't a great combination to have as a first-sacker.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    If the DH were abolished, then the assumption would be that it would be definite that the Sox would be on the hook for a contract for $14 million a year for three more years for nothing, as opposed to the assumption that he might snap out of the batting slump. Probably similar for others, such as if Thome wants to come back to Cleveland.

  • In reply to jack:

    Yeah, it'd be pretty much disastrous for any team that had made a big commitment to defensively-incapable DH. The only solace for the White Sox is that Adam Dunn is probably a disaster for them anyway. Thome's signing with Philadelphia indicates there might be some jobs for these hulking, gloveless types by serving as a Masher On Call off the bench, but obviously that'd be at a drastically reduced price.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    I can't imagine the players union conceding to the elimination of the DH without a fight. The position means million of dollars annually for veteran players who would otherwise be pinch hitters or out of baseball (as you both point out).

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    Excellent point. Hadn't even thought of that.

    But wait!!! 15 extra-utilty guys will lose their jobs if things slide the other way and there's a league-wide DH! Who will fight for the 5th outfielder!?! The completely unnecessary back-up 3rd basemen!?! Gasp! The third catcher!

    Does Geoff Blum still have a major league job if there's a league-wide DH?

    Follow-up: Is it weird that Geoff Blum has a major league job?

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    Sadly, no one. From a negotiating perspective all those guys do is drag down the avg player salary.

    Probably not.

    Yes, definitely.

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    Ah, the sacred league average salary. So then the follow-up question would be, "does a league-wide culture of investing heavily in the draft have any affect on the free agent market?"

  • Ah, the sacred league average salary. So then the follow-up question would be, "does a league-wide culture of investing heavily in the draft have any affect on the free agent market?" . . .

    I'm sure it does. It makes sense that at least some of the money that would be doled out to free agents now goes to high draft picks. So we've come back to your post from one or two days ago. The players union is happy with the am. draft hard cap because they don't give a rats rump about draftees, and veterans will conceivably get more money. So in theory, slot caps are not only good for the owners but good for mlb players; i.e. the cap is not really a concession as far as the players union is concerned. Is that what you're getting at?

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