Winter Meeting Wrap-Up: League reels upon itself, melts; White Sox react "Eh, let's see where this goes"

Winter Meeting Wrap-Up: League reels upon itself, melts; White Sox react "Eh, let's see where this goes"
Forget you, Dallas // Mike Ehrmann, Getty Images

If Day 3 of the Winter Meetings were defined primarily--for White Sox fans at least--by crushing loss and the rolls of cookie dough that were eaten to cope with it, Day 4 was defined by Angels owner Arte Moreno dousing the free agent market in gasoline, lighting it aflame, and then laughing as he flew away on a magic carpet woven entirely from $1000 bills.

At nightfall on Wednesday, the Marlins were being ushered out of the bidding for Albert Pujols after a long and drawn out courtship, with nothing but faint whispers of a mystery team keeping him from waltzing back to the Cardinals.  Surely Pujols had just been jacking up the price for his hometown team...like you do.

By the time I woke, the Angels were a surprise bidder, and by the time I reached work, it was a done deal.....and there was still a mystery team.  The terms--10 years, almost $260 million--were so gargantuan, C.J. Wilson nearly slipped into Anaheim alongside him without being noticed.

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Hell, was anything else noticed?  Is there time to even trifle with the Cubs-Rockies crap-for-crap trade when Pujols just switched leagues?  Why not?  It beats the pants off of the Brewers signing Alex Gonzalez to replace Yuniesky Betancourt, or someone actually trading for Dana Eveland....or a post explaining who Dana Eveland is.  Anyways, back to the Angels.

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Seeing as he was the top starter on the market, Wilson's $77.5 million over 5 years comes off as borderline reasonable.  Sure, Wilson's got a short track record of effectiveness and they're paying him till he's 36, but it's basically just the Buehrle deal with an extra year, and he's been throwing in a homer factory in Texas to get his current numbers.

Obviously by nabbing Pujols and Wilson, the Angels over-extended them--well, did they?  They over-extended themselves with an onerous absorption of Vernon Wells' cancerous contract last off-season, and responded to it by spending over $300 million in free agency.  I really don't think I have a grip on what their payroll limits are anymore, but I'm guessing it's more than my best estimation.  Maybe the rest of their infield entering free agency after 2012 is no problem whatsoever for them.  Maybe the Angels front office is taking a year or two off from acknowledging "problems" as something relevant to their existence.

Regardless of Pujols possibly being in decline, the upgrade from Mark Trumbo no longer being their biggest power bat and adding Wilson to the rotation should turn the AL West into a bloodbath with the Texas Rangers for a few years.  It may be hard to snatch a Wild Card birth in the AL for a while.  Fortunately, I know just the friendly hometown team that's ready to punt the next few seasons...

The Chicago White Sox stood pat for the remainder of the winter meetings, literally doing nothing after trading Sergio Santos to Blue Jays.

Well, not nothing.  They met with other teams, quoted exorbitant trade prices, and shunned the urge to purge all their trade chips in an impulsive burst of disaster.  Huzzah!

But the Sox did nothing in the sense that they didn't appear in any serious trade rumors for the last two days, will now leave Dallas with the bulk of the roster re-working left to be done, and left no evidence to indicate their awareness that the Rule 5 draft exists as a thing.

Not that any of those things actually damaged them in any real way.  Ever since teams were granted an extra year to protect their prospects in 2007, Rule 5 players are basically worthless as a population.  In sum, The Sox lost RHP Terry Doyle to the Twins off the strength of fantastic Arizona Fall League, and made no selection of their own.

"It sucks", said Kenny Williams, in reference to the loss of Buehrle but totally applicable to the pool of talent available in the draft.

They probably have actually lost Doyle for good.  First, Doyle's a flashless, strike-thrower, so the Twins obviously adore him.  Second, the Twins are in a state of flux, have plenty of innings to be eaten, and are as capable as anyone of hiding Doyle around in different roles as necessary to keep him on the MLB roster all year.  Unless of course he got really shelled, in which case the White Sox will get back a pitcher who apparently can't cut it in the majors.

While he was one of the few minor leaguers generating positive stories of recent, Doyle is still a guy who's 26 years-old with no real prospect status.  He could definitely be capable of providing some fill-in starts, but how much more does anyone want to see him over Dylan Axelrod?  Or Hector Santiago?  Or John Q. Sinkersliderwithashowmechange?

Pretty much any September call-up start is hopefully Nestor Molina territory now.  Is there any clear situation where the Sox would make room for him? Does a playoff rotation ever include Terry Doyle?  I hope so!  That team clearly scores a truckload of runs.

I can see why they White Sox would protect Doyle, but I can't work up the energy to criticize them neglecting to.

The wait on pulling off trades is more clear to understand.  While the White Sox have decent chips, they lack the premier target at any position, and are thus better served by waiting for reduced supply to drive up the price.  As such, it might take till after Gio Gonzalez is dealt to set the demand for John Danks and Gavin Floyd,  and it might not be till Cuddyer and Willingham are signed before teams starved for bats real bring themselves to pony up for Carlos Quentin.

On the other hand, maybe if a legit package comes up for Matt Thornton they should just take it.  Octavio Dotel signed a contract with the Tigers and it was completely reasonable. The jig may be up as far as fleecing team for guys who pitch 60 innings a year.

So the Sox are waiting things out, or they're done, or they plan on trading absolutely everyone you can possibly imagine being on the table.  Every logical thinker approaching the situation has reasoned that Kenny Williams is drawing things out with a purpose.

He's got one chance to cash out what waning promise is left in the White Sox organization, so he's making damn sure he nails it.

That's good.

And I have confidence in Kenny Williams' decision-making process, his ability to optimize the value of his assets and fortify the future of the organization, so much so that prolonged periods of inactivity do not serve to ratchet up the anxiety that things are going awry.

No, that's a lie.

 

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  • Thanks for the wrap-up James. No other media source picked up on the massive implosion and deliquescing of the league (or the White Sox indifference to it). Nice scoop.*

    You should hang on to that react quote* from Kenny. "It sucks" is going to be an applicable response to much of the White Sox goings-on over the next few years.

    *No, I am not a seasoned journalist, but I picked up some lingo watching season 5 of The Wire. Now I pretend to be a pretend-to-be-reporter.

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    Margalus offered the idea of Williams being sincere about being satisfied about the current state of the roster, standing pat and trying to compete in 2012.

    My blood. It is curdled.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    I haven't read Margalus yet, but let's hope it's tactical on Kenny's part, since announcing to the league "Hey! We're rebuilding!" clearly didn't work out for him in trade negotiations.

    Of course the benefit of the doubt here would depend on your level of "confidence in Kenny Williams' decision-making process, his ability to optimize the value of his assets and fortify the future of the organization."

    Yeah, some blood curdling is probably warranted.

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    The basic upshot, is "Yeah, that's what you figure he has to be doing. But he's a known veteranophile, and this roster isn't that hard to squint at and make yourself think 'Hey, maybe they could'".

    Kenny's right too. If they got career norm bounce-backs from Rios, Dunn, Danks, Floyd, Peavy, and progression from Morel, Beckham, and Sale, that's a competitive team. The problem is HOLY CRAP THAT'S 8 PEOPLE. You don't have everything swing right like that usually, and a couple of things are going to go wrong that went right last year.

    Konerko is going to age 800 years because he's too far away from Buehrle for the dual power-rings they wear to work anymore. Or AJ's going to hit an empty average again, but this time it's an empty .240, Carlos Quentin is going to blow out both achilles while changing the tablecloth on his dining table. Something! Something that reveals "Oh wow, we were really marginal contenders at best, and having nothing but a moldy traper-keeper from 1999 in the farm system means there's no one of remote competence to promote, oh well, Lillibridge is our leadoff hitter now/starting shortstop. Go get 'em!"

    ...That got way darker than I thought it was going to go.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    Embrace the dark side.

    I had two humorous baseball pix on my fb last year. One was Posada sitting in the dugout with my caption "I swear I told them it was a BAT strain" and the other was Pujols being waved back to first at a Cubs game with the caption being "Just stay there. Next year we will give you a glove."

    Unfortunately, there is nothing humorous at all about the Sox these days.

    Obviously, Kenny Williams needs to be fired out of hand. I've said that consistently since I started following you last season, but I told you so isn't very sweet off the tongue when you really care about a team.

    Deal Paulie before his knees fall out the bottom of his pants. Keep AJ but only to train Flowers...and at least have one recognizable veteran on the team.

    Deal Quentin before anyone realizes he's a fourth outfielder who has gotten a lot of sunshine because the Sox only have about one and a half.

    Dunn and Rios - make them wash Jerry's car while Kenny looks for another job (preferably out of baseball).

    The Twins had a problem like this awhile back, if I am not mistaken, and it's common with ballclubs who win the Series - you're trapped by unrealistic expectations and allow the rot to grow from within whilst foolishly trying to keep it together ONE MORE YEAR.

    So, you seamheads will correct me no doubt if I am wrong, I think the Twins went into the tank for a few years and totally rebuilt their farm system. The same farm system the Sox appear to lack. They do have a few good young players and that's great, because those guys are going to be the nucleus of the new team that will be built starting now.

    Since the money is pretty much already spent, there isn't a lot of room there. What the Sox need to do is focus on finding young (YOUNG) talent and bringing it up as fast as possible.

    This is of course the opposite of Kenny-think. Roster decisions need to be made on age rather than money now, and the younger the better. Sure, lots of the kids will suck, but hey, the Sox are in for a couple hard years no matter what.

    You say they have 8 guys? OK, start with that. Build the freaking team one position at a time. But do it with homegrown guys.

    Look at Mauer - he is not only a stud when healthy, he puts butts in seats because he is a homegrown Twin. The Sox need to go that same route and quit this jagoff trying to plug holes in a crumbling dike.

  • In reply to Charlemagne:

    Joe Mauer is on his way to the mound to settle you down Charlemagne.

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    Heh.

    So, I'm finalizing a overly-long post on this topic, I apologize for not being here to address these very extravagant and wonderful comments directly right off, but I will say this:

    Quentin has a 118 wRC+ for his career. I think that plays in anyone's outfield, especially Minnesota's. (sticks out tongue).

  • In reply to Charlemagne:

    I get what you're saying on the Twins putting the effort to rebuild, but they're just a liittttle bit lower budget than the Sox, who can afford to both a bit more. Understandably their focus is on the big league club because they saw themselves as a perennial contender in the wake of the WS title, but that investment certainly didn't tie their hands to the point where they needed to become the cheapest team in terms of draft spending year-in, year-out. It was their own distaste for the volatility of amateur talent that did that.

    Until that mindset changes (and I believe you suggest how that would happen, but Reinsdorf is certainly complicit with it), I think rebuild-on-the-fly is still their preferred route. In which case, sigh.....hope to catch lightning in a bottle again.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    I have three thoughts battling it out in my pea-sized brain all day:

    This thought started it all by taking Poland: This past White Sox season was so weird that it's tempting for me to believe that it was some kind of aberration, like a rare eclipse or the 100 year locust, and that the team will return to a natural state of competitiveness if left to its own devices.

    This thought attacked Pearl Harbor: Sort of like we couldn't have imagined all that was going to go wrong in 2011 last offseason, it now seems like too much would have to go right for the Sox to compete in 2012. (see James' comment above)

    This thought is storming the beach at Normandy: I overestimated this team last year. When PECOTA forecasted 82 wins for our White Sox I was shocked and offended. Somehow, the east-coast bias had found its way into the empirical test algorithm. Well, they won 79 games. The White Sox were not supposed to be, and in fact were not, good. That, plus a $127 million payroll and a depleted farm system? For chrissakes rebuild. Trade whoever you can under contract. Except Lillibridge.

    I gotta get off the war metaphors. That's not me. Then who is it? Who am I? And why am I typing this internal monologue . . . apologies.

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    I like war metaphors...well, historical metaphors. I was a history major, you see, which goes a long way toward explaining why I spending 25 hours a week writing a blog for almost nothing as "recreation".

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