White Sox GM Kenny Williams, who never hesitates to roll the dice on a move he thinks will help the Sox win, made perhaps the biggest signing of this offseason so far when he inked DH/1B/OF Adam Dunn to a reported four-year contract worth $56 million, pending a physical. The White Sox have scheduled a news conference for 2 p.m. Friday, presumably to announce this deal. Dunn would probably be best served -- and so would the Sox -- if he stuck to designated hitting, but he told Bruce Levine on ESPN 1000 yesterday that he'd like to play some outfield. Time will tell on that one.
So Williams heads to the the MLB Winter Meetings in Orlando next week with a big bat under contract, and reportedly A.J. Pierzynski also re-signed for two more seasons, but he'll need to address some other Sox issues as baseball's GMs get together.
There may be only one sure way for him to catch his tormentors, the Minnesota Twins. How about changing the Sox uniforms to more resemble the Yankees -- in turn the Twinkies' bogeyman -- and maybe get a holographic background depicting Yankee Stadium whenever Minnesota visits The Cell? Obviously, that's impossible, but Williams could still use another bat.
With the Dunn signing, it's uncertain whether Williams has enough cash left to re-sign fan favorite Paul Konerko. Since Dunn could replace Konerko's bat, that raises the question of who will play first base. Williams must take care in wheeling and dealing to not overplay his hand. Does he deal Gavin Floyd for more offensive help and have whiz-kid Chris Sale fill the gap in the rotation?
That's wrong thinking. With Bobby Jenks likely gone after Williams non-tendered him Thursday, the Sox now have a gaping hole at the end of the bullpen. Pitchers like Matt Thornton, who might be more comfortable in setup roles, might be force-fed the closer's job if Williams doesn't land an experienced ninth-inning man from outside.
Failing the latter, Sale is needed to maintain the Sox's good bullpen depth. The kid is absolutely filthy against lefty-handed hitters, and overexposing him as a starter takes away that nastiness. Remember, he's still just six months out of college. He's the ultimate long and lanky pitcher. Do the Sox want absolute power for five innings and then a quick fade from Sale as a starter, thus putting a strain on his replacement and others in the bullpen? And do they want to tempt fate, in which young hard throwers stand more of a chance at catastrophic elbow or shoulder injures the more innings they log as a starter?
Leave Sale right where he is, since a deep bullpen is just as important as a lights-out rotation. Williams should be more in the market for a starter if he's not bringing back slop-thrower Freddy Garcia. And he surely needs another rotation arm as insurance for Jake Peavy's recovery from one-of-a-kind surgery in which his detached "lat" muscle was re-affixed to his shoulder. Williams himself suggested Peavy might not be ready for Opening Day. And what kind of pitcher he'll be when he does return still is in question. An orthopedic surgeon of my acquaintance has doubts Peavy will be a hard thrower when he comes back. You hope he does not turn into a Garcia, because that's not what the Sox are paying for with his megabucks contract.
If any Sox pitcher might be dangled in a deal, it ought to be Mark Buerhle. The ol' lefty is showing more signs of wear and tear, and declining effectiveness. With his contract running just one more year, Buerhle could work as a back-of-the-rotation guy for a contender in a bigger ballpark.
At some point, Williams will run out of trading chips. What limited talent the Sox farm system has produced has been dealt away for veterans. The GM has done a decent job keeping the team competitive since the 2005 World Series triumph. He has no other choice. Sox fans won't support their team unless it contends. And that axiom seemed shaky last season, when crowds at The Cell were disappointing, to say the least, when the Sox tore up the league at mid-season and held first place in the AL Central before the Twins and Detroit Tigers worked them over.
What Williams needs is more desirable farm products and a bigger payroll from chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. He won't get either when he plunges into the flesh markets of the Winter Meetings. The result: the most frantic Chicago dealmaker since old "Trader Frank" Lane of Fifties vintage will need his greatest magic show ever this off-season.