Williams could change ChiSox’s direction
The White Sox soon could reach a crossroads.
The team’s immediate goals are to add left-handed power, rework the bullpen and compete for the AL Central title in 2011.
But if the Sox fail to get the bats they desire, it is conceivable — not likely, but conceivable — that they could go retool on the run, sort of like the Tigers did last season.
The Tigers traded two 2009 All-Stars, outfielder Curtis Granderson and right-hander Edwin Jackson, in a three-way deal that landed them two younger players, outfielder Austin Jackson and left-hander Phil Coke.
At the time, the trade was perceived as almost a concession of the 2010 season. But the Tigers later signed free agent Johnny Damon and enjoyed a big first half before fading in the second. One year later, they figure to be one of the most active teams in free agency.
For the White Sox to follow a similar path — and a case can be made that they should follow a similar path — they likely would need to strike out on Plans A, B, C and D, whatever they might be.
Not likely, considering that the trade and free-agent markets are flush with left-handed hitting first basemen, designated hitters and even catchers.
Not likely, given the fierce competitiveness of general manager Ken Williams, who is not about to trade a veteran such as right-hander Gavin Floyd for prospects in the low minors.
The White Sox still boast one of the game’s better rotations — Mark Buehrle, Jake Peavy, John Danks, Floyd and Edwin Jackson. Peavy, coming off shoulder surgery, might not be ready at the start of the season. But the Sox have a ready replacement — lefty Chris Sale, their No. 1 draft pick in ‘10 who went almost immediately to the majors and excelled in a relief role.
A team that assembles such a rotation in a division as modest as the AL Central has every reason to be aggressive. Still, the White Sox face the possibility of losing three significant free agents — first baseman Paul Konerko, catcher A.J. Pierzynski and setup man J.J. Putz. They also could part with their closer, Bobby Jenks, rather than give him a raise from $7.5 million in arbitration.
Even if Konerko and Pierzynski return, the White Sox still would need another left-handed slugger. Then again, if a top free agent such as Adam Dunn was too pricey, perhaps Williams could sign a switch-hitter such as Lance Berkman. Or, perhaps he could trade Floyd for a hitter at a similar age with a similar contract.
Floyd, who turns 28 on Jan. 27, will earn $5 million next season and $7 million in 2012 with a $9.5 million option in ’13. He would be expendable if the White Sox were confident enough in Peavy’s health and the depth of their bullpen to move Sale to the rotation.
But there is that other path, too.
The White Sox could seek the rough equivalent of the Tigers’ Jackson and Coke, obtaining additional major-league ready talent to go with their considerable young core.
Come to think of it, Plan E — if that’s what it is — might not be such a bad idea.
The White Sox could stand to replenish. While they have developed players such as shortstop Alexei Ramirez, second baseman Gordon Beckham and third baseman Brent Morel in recent years, they also have traded a number of other promising youngsters — pitchers Clayton Richard and Dan Hudson, and first baseman Brandon Allen.
Williams does not concede. But he does surprise.
A rapid, dramatic transition would be just his style.