Pretty sure Kenny wishes he had this one back. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
After the White Sox won the World Series back in 2005, General Manager Kenny Williams decided he needed another top line starter to take the place of Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez. Williams thought Hernandez was at the end of the line and wasn't ready to give over a starting rotation spot to Brandon McCarthy. So the decision was made to trade Hernandez, reliever Luis Vizcaino and a center field prospect to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Javier Vazquez. That is where the first domino fell on the recent run of bad moves of Kenny Williams.
The Sox had plenty of CF prospects at the time, including Brian Anderson, Ryan Sweeney, Jerry Owens and Chris Young. The decision was made to keep Anderson to be the heir apparent to Aaron Rowand and Young was sent to Arizona.
After all, Anderson was the former first round pick and had risen quickly through the White sox system. Young was drafted in the 16th round and while he rose quickly and had success, hitting 50 homers over two minor league seasons in 2004 and 2005, wasn't ranked in the top 100 on 2005s Baseball America's prospect list. Anderson, meanwhile, was ranked 37th. Ahead of guys like Shin-Soo Choo (51), Curtis Granderson (57) and Nick Markakis (65). Sweeney was also on the list as well, just below Anderson, at 42. It wasn't like Young wasn't on anyones radar though, as he checked in at 6 on the White Sox top 10 prospects and was deemed the fastest baserunner and best athlete in the system.
Kenny and Ozzie were both sure that Anderson could take the place of Rowand.
"We are going to miss Aaron on the field and off the field," said Guillen, speaking of the move recently at SoxFest. "He's one of my favorite players. But I feel comfortable having [Anderson] play there."
"If this kid catches the ball, he's ready right now," Guillen said. "I expect him to play the best defense possible.
"He will carry this team [in the future]. If we wait for Brian to carry this team now to win this thing, then we have a problem."
"When you have an impact type of young player, you have to push that young player or players into action not at a time when you are rebuilding," Williams added. "You want to bring him in while you are winning, so they can grow from the bottom of the order up and develop."
Unfortunately, Ozzie didn't stick to those words. Anderson struggled terribly with the bat in the first half and before long, Rob Mackowiak was inserted into CF. He ended up starting 51 painful games in center as the Sox fell short of the playoffs.
In 2007, Anderson was in the doghouse and only played in 13 Major League games even though he actually showed signs of improvement in the 2nd half of 2006, as he hit .257 after the break compared with .192 in the first half.
After it was apparent that Mackowiak couldn't play centerfield, the Sox went out and signed Darin Erstad and called up Jerry Owens to take over in center. Luis Terrero also received some time as well as the Sox won 72 games and made the World Series victory seem like a distant memory.
After the 2007 season, and the failures of Anderson, Mackowiak, Erstad, Owens and Terrero, Williams decided he needed to address centerfield again. He offered a massive contract to Torii Hunter, but lost out to the Angels. He tried to work out a deal for Rowand to return, but wasn't willing to offer up the years that Rowand wanted. Finally, he decided to go the trade route. Just after the New Year, he acquired Nick Swisher from the Athletics in exchange for Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney and Fautino De Los Santos.
Swisher ended up starting 69 games in center and moved to first for 49 games when Paul Konerko was injured and underperforming. Anderson was back in the picture as he started 37 games and Dewayne Wise made his first appearance as he started 17 games in center. At the deadline, Kenny went out and acquired future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. to play center. Griffey told Williams that he couldn't play the position like he could years ago, but Williams dismissed Griffey's worries and the aging veteran was out there for 32 of his 41 career White Sox appearances. However, Griffey was plagued by general soreness and there was no way the Sox were going to pick up his 16 million dollar 2009 option.
Swisher also wore out his welcome and was banished quickly to the Yankees for a package that included Wilson Betemit, Jhonny Nunez and Jeff Marquez. Swisher has regained his form, having three productive seasons for the Yankees while the White Sox got absolutely nothing in return.
For 2009, Dewayne Wise was given the center field job out of spring training but then,shockingly, he played like Dewayne Wise and was soon splitting time with Anderson again. The Sox then picked up World Series hero Scott Podsednik and played him in centerfield 48 times, even though they were unwilling to do that 3 years prior. Anderson, was finally dealt near the trade deadline to the Red Sox for Mark Kotsay, which eventually led to the revolving DH that saw Jim Thome playing for Minnesota instead of the White Sox in 2010.
In August of 2009, with the Sox on the cusp of contention, Williams made and was awarded the waiver claim of Alex Rios and the rest of his 60 million dollars. Rios was awful in 2009, had a good 2010, a brutal 2011 and still has 3 years and 37 million dollars guaranteed on his contract.
So since that fateful day that Williams pulled the trigger on Young, the Sox have gone through Anderson, Mackowiak, Owens, Erstad, Terrero, Swisher, Griffey, Wise, Podsednik and Rios. All while trading Gonzalez, Sweeney (who never was given a shot here and has played decently in Oakland), De Los Santos, Nick Masset and Swisher and taking on an albatross of a contract for Rios.
Meanwhile, Chris Young has played a solid centerfield for Arizona since 2007. He has been worth 10.1 wins in bWAR, has hit 118 homers and has stolen 108 bases all while playing solid defense.
Can we get a mulligan?