White Sox GM Ken Williams Raises White Flag on Team’s Playoff Hopes
Say this about Chicago White Sox General Manager Ken Williams – he’s not predictable. In less than a month, he went from spending wildly to dumping players at the baseball pawn shop.
On Monday night, Williams made two deadline deals, shipping Jim Thome to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Justin Fuller, a 26-year-old Class A prospect, and sending struggling starter Jose Contreras to the Colorado Rockies for AAA pitcher Brandon Hynick.
Those moves, which came a few hours after Williams sent a fire-sale email to MLB teams, sound like a man who’s given up.
Yet just a few weeks ago, he seemed to be in full “let’s make a run at the playoffs” mode by trading with the San Diego Padres for the injured Jake Peavy on July 31. This move, coming when the Sox were just 52-51 (albeit with the team being only 2.5 games back in the AL Central) surprised even Barry Axelrod, the pitcher’s own agent. Axelrod said he was “flabbergasted that the White Sox would want to make this deal with [Peavy] in his physical condition.”
Axelrod is not the only one wondering what the Sox were thinking. Peavy has one of the more ridiculous contracts in baseball. Chicago will have to pay the $50+plus million left on his contract through 2012.
But that’s not all. Not only did San Diego get freed from this ludicrous contract, but they got four of Chicago’s young pitchers – Clayton Richard, Aaron Poreda, Dexter Carter, and Adam Russell.
While Richard was shaky in his last start, he did win three games for the Padres in August. And reliever Adam Russell has gone 1-0 with a 3.00 in four appearances since being called up from AAA last week. The other two prospects are in the Padres’ minor league system.
At any rate, the players Williams dealt have so far won four more games for the Padres than Peavy has won for the White Sox. He injured his arm in a rehab start and has yet to pitch in a big-league game for Chicago.
The Peavy trade wasn’t the only big-spending move Williams made. He picked up outfielder Alex Rios – and the $60 million left on his contract – from the Toronto Blue Jays on August 11 in a waivers claim.
When Williams made the deal, I wrote that it could be his “$60 million mistake.” And so far, a change of scenery has not done Rios a bit of good – he’s hitting just .179, with an OBP of just .190. Rios has one homer and three RBI in 15 games.
Meanwhile, Nick Swisher, who Williams traded to the Yankees last year, continues his hot streak with the Yankees – he now has 22 homers and a .369 OBP for the Bombers. And Javier Vazquez, another player Williams traded last year for little in return, has won 11 games for the Braves and is sporting a 3.02 ERA.
The White Sox have gone 12-17 since the Peavy trade, and have lost four in a row, and eight of their last ten games. Chicago has looked so bad as of late that manager Ozzie Guillen suggested that the team was “stealing money” from owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
While there is a month left in the season, and the White Sox are six games back, they haven’t looked like a team that has much fight in them. And getting rid of Contreras makes sense – he has been so awful that he lost his spot in the starting rotation. So getting a real prospect for him in return – Brandon Hynick pitched a perfect game in the minors this year – is a coup.
What makes less sense – on both sides – is the Jim Thome deal. Williams, who has repeatedly griped about White Sox attendance, just gave away one of the team’s most popular players, and a 500 HR hitter to boot.
But the deal is a little strange for the Dodgers, too. As DH Thome told Los Angeles Monday night, he can’t play the field anymore, so he’s only going to pinch-hit.
Los Angeles GM Ned Colletti said the team picked up Thome “to come off the bench and be a great influence in the clubhouse.” For that part-time play, the Dodgers will only have to pay part of the $2.3 million left on his contract.
As for Williams, Chicago columnist Joe Cowley described this year’s White Sox as Williams’ “middle-finger team.” The GM said two weeks ago that “this would be the most disappointing season for me if we don’t get in the playoffs and do well in the playoffs.”
So much for Williams’ risky moves. Looks like the Sox are going to stagger to the finish this year, and face a future with over $110 million owed to just two so-far-disappointing players. And that middle finger seems to be pointing back at the Chicago GM.
Photo by mandolux
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