Kenny Williams likes to keep his cards close to his chest, so it's never easy to know what he's thinking, or in which direction he's looking to take the makeup of the club. Add the highly questionable Nick Swisher trade to Williams' unpredictability and it's easy to understand why we've been at a loss for words much of this early off-season. As Lincoln said, "better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."A few leaks seem to be springing up surrounding the Sox, however, leading us to be able to draw some conclusions about their off-season intent. The Daily Herald's Barry Rozner gets Kenny to comment on his intent to trim payroll, which, if past quotes are to believed, wasn't maxed out in the past few seasons.
"First of all, it's a continuation of a plan to get younger that started two years ago," Williams said Monday from Arizona. "But secondly, this was going to be needed anyway as a result of the economy.
"We can't hide from it. At the end of the day, the bottom line is you can't spend a dollar if you only have 75 cents, and we're talking about millions here.
Leaving aside Williams' tried-and-true 50 cents statement--Now with 50% more quarters! Adjusted for inflation!--it seems clear that the Sox are looking at some belt-tightening moves this off-season. We've seen multiple headlines on ChiSox.com with the words "Youth" and "Movement" displayed in succession. At first, I thought it was just Merkin looking to fill space around some Chris Getz quotes at Halloween, but now he's also got some Ozzie Guillen quotes nearly a month later. Clearly, this story isn't going away. That means Jermaine Dye and/or Javier Vazquez are gone in addition to letting free agents Joe Crede, Juan Uribe and Orlando Cabrera walk.
Dye has already been connected to the Braves (among others), and Tuesday brought news that the White Sox have shopped him to the Reds as well. Their reported price of Homer Bailey plus something else meshes with Ken Rosenthal's statement that some teams (Mets, Phillies and Rays to be specific) are balking at the price.
I had to laugh at the off-the-record quote Rosenthal got from "one potentially interested executive."
[H]is team was concerned that Dye batted only .210 with runners in scoring position and two outs last season — 36 points below the American League average.
Which is about as relevant as complaining about Dye's shoe size--He needs big shoes!--and ignores a real issue; Dye might be the worst defensive RFer in baseball. It's OK though, with quotes like that, potentially interested executive might have well outed himself as the dumbest exec in baseball. His identity should be revealed when Juan Uribe is signed as a starting shortstop based on his .338 average w/RISP--92 points above league average!
Anyway, it appears the Sox plan is to use Dye, Vazquez, and maybe Bobby Jenks to acquire some more young pitching--hopefully better than Jeff Marquez--and, I assume, a true center fielder, where the word 'true' means fast.
Unfortunately for the Sox, Williams may have mistimed the market. The returns from the Swisher trade were, um, meager. Washignton got Josh Willingham and Scott Olson for a song. The Matt Holliday deal is the only one that seems like a proper return so far this off-season. Right now, it seems very much like a buyer's market, with teams overvaluing their own players and prospects, and choosing to wait out a cloudy free-agent picture.
The free agent market in particular has been unusually slow this year. Last year at this time we were getting daily updates on the Torii Hunter front, with the Angels swooping in as a surprise team and signing Hunter Thanksgiving weekend. They seem to be attempting to use that same attack on CC Sabathia this season, but otherwise no other big name free agents have drawn anything resembling a bidding war. I expect we'll see that at least until the winter meetings, and possibly as long as Christmas, a date by which many athletes (including Mark Teixeira) want to have their '09 plans solidified.
We may be in for a long, sometimes boring off-season, but for the first time since the Swisher trade we might be able to say we have an idea which direction the Sox are headed, even if we don't agree with it.