Kenny Williams made the morning rounds on the Chicago sports talk radio circuit sneaking a White Sox segment in between Bears Super Bowl talk and discussion of the impending firing of Dusty Baker. Williams didn't say much, or at least not much that you haven't already heard or read, but his tone regarding Joe Crede, his back, and his future with the Sox spoke volumes.
A little over a week ago, I hinted that Crede's back would be the largest issue in contract negotiations. Williams did nothing to dispel that notion in the interviews, in fact, he only strengthened my belief that if Crede doesn't have the surgery his days in a White Sox uniform are numbered. Williams said that it was Crede's agent, Scott Boras, who has a well known history of strained relations with the White Sox, is the one who sent Crede to a doctor who would advise against surgery.
In the past, Crede has said that he would not let Boras be the one pulling the strings regarding contract decisions, and I believe him, to an extent. Crede wants to remain with the White Sox, but Crede also doesn't want to go under the knife. (I can sympathize. I hate doctors, needles, and even the smell of a hospital.) Boras knows this, and he's already exploiting it for his own gain.
Boras' goal is to make the most money for himself and his clients, in that order. The best way to do that is for the players he represents to reach free agency as quickly as possible. Crede's back, and his initial reluctance to undergo surgery, is simply the tool that Boras will exploit to get Crede to free agency in the quickest way possible.
The White Sox want to sign Crede to a long term deal, but won't do so unless they have some assurance that Crede's back will be as healthy as it can be for the life of that contract. That's completely understandable from the Sox perspective. They want to know that the player they're making a long-term commitment to is going to be worth their money.
Josh Fields presence makes the issue a little bit easier to deal with, but he's definitely not the answer at 3B in '07. Crede still has 2 more seasons of arbitration before he reaches free agency, and he figures to be a more productive hitter than Fields for the first, if not both, of those seasons. Fields should play out the majority of the year in Charlotte, playing all of his games at 3B. He'll be just a phone call away when Crede inevitably aggravates his back after the All-Star break.
The Sox should shop Crede this year, but probably should hold onto him unless they are completely blown out of the water by a deal. Next year, with hopefully another solid season under his belt, and (hopefully) with a viable replacement beating down the door in Charlotte, the Sox will be in a much better position to deal with the loss of Crede.
I've definitely been wrong about the contract negotiations in the recent past, (see: Garland, Contreras) but I think this is one elephant we can't forget.