I* was originally going to write a post speculating that Alejandro De Aza might end up as the single best free agent signing by White Sox GM Emeritus, Kenny Williams. Though Williams had a well-earned reputation as a wheeler and dealer, he never extracted much value out of the free agent market – partially because he didn’t like spending money there, and partially because he didn’t spend it wisely.
Unfortunately the thesis of that article was built on an unsteady foundation – not unlike Bluth Company homes – because De Aza wasn’t a free agent acquisition. He was actually claimed off waivers from the Marlins after the 2009 season, so he can’t contribute to KW’s free agent record.
(Were he signed as a free agent, though, De Aza would be in line to pass Jermaine Dye and Tadahito Iguchi in fWAR and become the fourth most productive free agent signed by Kenny Williams, behind Alexei Ramirez, A.J. Pierzynski, and ESTEBAN LOAIZA.)
Despite a lack of savvy when it came to free agents (or perhaps because of it), the Kenneth Royal Williams regime was adept at finding talent where others weren’t looking. The Ramirez/Dayan Viciedo signings from Cuba are one example, and De Aza is another. In fact, KW may be baseball’s king of the waiver wire. Take a look at four other major acquisitions that cost the White Sox nothing but a little cash, in ascending order of impact:
Manny Ramirez – Ramirez certainly didn’t live up to expectations, providing a measly 0.1 fWAR over 88 plate appearances in his month on the South Side. Still, he proved more valuable than fellow should-be Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr., who cost two prospects, and Roberto Alomar, who cost four prospects in two separate transactions and rewarded the White Sox with a total of -0.5 fWAR. If you’re going to acquire the moldy remnants of someone else’s meal, dumpster diving is better than paying for leftovers.
Philip Humber – Claimed off waivers from the Athletics (by way of the Royals, by way of the Twins, by way of the Mets), Humber chipped in 3.6 fWAR in 2011, a perfect game in 2012, and 18 losses to the 2013 Houston Astros (presumably). Don Cooper should probably get half the credit for turning Humber into useful piece – actually, Don Cooper should probably get half the credit for just about anything that’s happened on the Sox since he dethroned Nardi Contreras. Nonetheless, the kid from Nacogdoches was baseball’s 37th most valuable pitcher in 2011, and Williams got him for free.
Alex Rios – Probably Kenny’s most famous claim, and certainly his biggest gamble, the Sox claimed Rios and the $60 million left on his contract in August 2009. He’s gone on to post 6.2 fWAR in Chicago, including 4.3 last season. Despite his wild performance swings, the two years/$26 million he’s still owed looks far less onerous than it once did.
Bobby Jenks – The definition of a flier, KW & Co. claimed a fat drunk who could throw 100 MPH from the Angels in December 2004. Ten months later, he clinched the club’s first world championship in 88 years. WAIVERS!
Herbert Perry – Claimed from Tampa Bay in April 2000, six months before Williams replaced Ron Schueler as GM. The Milkman was worth 2.9 wins while playing third base for the 2000 division champs. Meanwhile, Vinny Castilla put up a .562 OPS for the Devil Rays. Remember when Tampa Bay was terrible?
*Author’s Note: I’ve been an avid reader/occasional poster/mostly lurker of SSS for the last few years. I figured it was finally time to step up and add to the discussion. My name’s Greg. Nice to meet you.