It's finally here! The week that every White Sox fan has been looking forward to since that awful series against the Yankees in August--it's the MLB Winter Meetings!
This December, representatives from all30 Major League teams--and various other hangers-on--will head to Dallas to live like the Texans do; by making crazy deals and swapping assets willy-nilly.
For the White Sox, this coming week has special meaning, as they hope to completely overhaul their roster in a few days, while probably bidding adieu to a franchise legend. That's the general idea of what to expect, but if you want to get all detail-oriented about it, here's a run-down:
(This list is arranged clearly in descending order of importance)
THE UNNAMED HIGH-RANKING EXEC WHO IS PISSED ABOUT THE LATEST SIGNING
Essential to any announcement of a new, blockbuster free agent deal is the corresponding report of some anonymous GM who is “floored” by the price tag for [non-Albert Pujols player], and believes that the market has “gone bonkers” and “is insane”.
The best way to enjoy these reports is to believe that the unnamed GM is always Kenny Williams. Hell, there’s a decent chance it is Kenny Williams. Last year’s exorbitant Jayson Werth contract was hilarious enough, but it was made better by the idea of Kenny hearing the news, spitting out his gin & tonic all over his ipad and whipping a cocktail glass across the hall into Rick Hahn’s office. Such thoughts will offer small comfort when Buehrle’s departing, or the Tigers are signing Yoenis Cespedes, or something else ridiculous.
TRADE ALL OF THE PLAYERS
Having a major-league roster that staggered to 79 wins with no farm system is rough, but the White Sox would feel a lot better if they were paying less people in the $6-9 million range annually for the privilege. As such, pretty much every veteran contributor on a mid-level deal or higher can be negotiated for to varying degrees.
Carlos Quentin – A somewhat crowded outfield (need room for Rios!), and pending free agency make the only other above-average White Sox hitter besides Konerko a prime candidate for removal. He’s injury-prone, and is a one-year rental, but Carlos Quentin is a bat, and thanks to a fine recovery year in 2011, isn’t even a bat that you have to hide at 1st base or in the dugout. You can move those guys.
John Danks – Danks is also an impending free agent, and is one who seems particularly interested in drinking from the money geyser after 2012. With no discernible progress being made toward signing him to an extension, and teams possibly looking for an alternative to paying C.J. Wilson 18 fattened calves, there should be considerable action for a 27 year-old lefty who was ‘just alright’ for prolonged stretches of 2011, but is generally well-regarded. Unless of course, Kenny enrages everyone by asking for the moon.
Gavin Floyd – Being a little bit older, a little bit worse, a little bit more right-handed, and a little bit more affordable with a club option for 2013, makes Floyd a less exciting trade chip than John Danks. That could go a long way toward explaining why his name is appearing in less rumors. Still, he’s hardly unmovable should the right offer come along.
Matt Thornton – 35 year-old relievers with declining peripherals, due to make $12 million over the next two seasons are exactly the type of players you want to trade. Of course, there’s a reason for that, because it’s not a player that’s particularly useful unless you’re a playoff contender and desperate for bullpen help…and a bit reckless. Unfortunately, only a few teams fit such a description, and efforts to move Easy Heat have been fruitless since the trade deadline. There seems to be a rush on relievers with ‘closer cred’, so maybe Kenny Williams has to wait till mid-season to find someone to stupidly overpay for bullpen help.
A.J. Pierzynski – Who wants a catcher? Whooooo wants a catcher!? Who wants half-decent hitting, noodle-armed catcher for one more year??? You can stick him just about anywhere in the lineup and he won’t embarrass himself! For $6 million yoooou can have a 162 games of slap-hitting, weird intangibles-having catcher! What? You’re interested? Really!? Well, too bad, AJ didn’t work hard to get his 10-5 no-trade clause to suffer your fly-by-night curiosities.
Sergio Santos – Well, he’s fantastic and cheap, so KW is sure to demand a blood sacrifice in exchange for him. He’s also a reliever, so he can be had in the right scenario. In all likelihood, the package that would pull in Sergio would be awesome.
A FAREWELL TO SOFT-TOSSING LEFTY ARMS
Nothing about Mark Buehrle demanding three years, a no-trade clause, and a raise from his previous rate-of-pay should register as a surprise, or even unreasonable for the White Sox to offer. However, a highly-competitive market combined with the Sox very much being sellers makes it unlikely that he’ll return. Buehrle will offer the Sox the great courtesy of coming to them with the final offer he’s ready to accept and giving them the opportunity to match it. That will at least ensure that every sentimental bone in Jerry Reinsdorf’s body comes into the decision-making process.
The idea that a long-contributing veteran-player should retire with the team gets trotted out more often than it’s really practical, but in the case of Buehrle—who’s experienced no significant drop-off in play since getting extended in 2007—it’d be a pretty clear case of crappy circumstances and allocations forcing out a player who otherwise should never leave.
Acknowledging that it’s possible the White Sox could clear out their top three starters from the rotation and replace precisely one of them, or create some other scenario where the roster is too carved up to field a team, there could be a cheaply-signed veteran or two to fill the void.
This isn’t an intrinsically exciting idea, because players get their market prices driven down for a reason, but it’s also the process that brought in Jermaine Dye, A.J. Pierzynski, and the irrigation system known as Freddy Garcia.
“Getting younger”, “bargain-hunting”, “cost-controlled players ready to contribute at the major-league level”. These are not outsider-concepts, or huge market inefficiencies that the White Sox are looking to exploit here. They’re looking to unload costs in Quentin and Thornton at a time when many teams are being cautious about their payroll. They’re trying to flip Danks for prospects when teams are hoarding their farm systems more than ever. Even the Yankees trying to get under the luxury tax, and they’re usually crazy.
This is not to say that the White Sox are doomed, or won’t improve their future standing this week, but they might be hard-pressed to achieve the goal of fencing the whole team by Friday. With the obvious positioning as sellers that Williams is in, it might be unfair to expect him engineer the next heist that staves off the necessity of a full rebuild of the organization.
He probably needs to pull off something, though.
Tags: A.J. Pierzynski, albert pujols, baseball, c.j. wilson, Carlos Quentin, dallas, Detroit Tigers, Freddy Garcia, Gavin Floyd, jayson werth, jermaine dye, Jerry Reinsdorf, John Danks, Kenny Williams, Mark Buehrle, Matt Thornton, New York Yankees, Sergio Santos, White Sox, winter meetings, yoennis cespedes