Ballantini: Active first day for Sox GM Williams

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Ballantini: Active first day for Sox GM Williams

Monday, December 6, 2010
7:10 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. It was just a matter of a weekend after his triumphant signing of slugger Adam Dunn, but ebullience begat fatigue for Chicago White Sox general manager Ken Williams on Monday evening.

After a couple of monosyllabic responses to questions about retaining Paul Konerko (Nope. Yep.) set a tone of dread for the day, Williams did correct perceptions and acknowledge that the bloom is off the pre-Winter Meetings rose.

Maybe its just because its been a long day, but there is no reason to feel like Konerko is staying or going, Williams said. Todays talks were just an initial conversation that we had, which leads to other conversations.

As you might imagine, the GMs session was relatively brief. The blow-by-blow:

Konerko

Williams laughed off the idea that Konerko might have come to terms with the White Sox before the meetings even officially began.

It just doesnt happen that way, Williams said. Certainly not in conversation No. 1, day one. Absolutely not.

Williams said that more talks were scheduled with Greg Landis, Konerkos agent, and was frank in assessing that Konerko might have to settle for less money than he originally anticipated.

Its a market that has numerous first basemen in it, Williams said. Konerko is coming off a great year, but teams have options, so I dont know that he will get to the salary level maybe he originally hoped for. ButIm surprised all the time. Ive been surprised in the last few days at some deals, so well see.

Otherwise, Williams was expectedly cloaked in his remarks about Konerko, the player hes unabashedly declared as the final big-ticket item on his wish list:

Im not going to take you through a blow-by-blow of our private conversations.
Im not optimistic or pessimistic, just going through the dialogue.
Im not leaning one way or the other on how I feel.
We always have a contingency plan.
Its business as usual at the Winter Meetings. Its 20 hours a day of dialogue with teams and agents, and so forth. You just go through it.
Conversations have to take place and representatives have to go back to him.
Its just a process.
Ive learned not to get too up or too down.

But as patient as hes attempting to be with Konerko (other people call me impatient, but Im patient, to a pointI recognize Konerko is a special case and I need to be even more patient than I think I usually am), the time frame is finite.

Theres a fine line, when you do risk losing your plan B and C in favor of trying to be as patient as you can with your plan A, Williams said. We will wait as long as we can, because Ive pretty much said on the record that Konerko is the guy we want.

Tough Bacon

Prior to Williams session, a rumor inflamed the Twitterverse, identifying the White Sox as the runner-up in the Adrian Gonzalez sweepstakesincluding the news that Gordon Beckham was the centerpiece of the proposal.

Williams was initially coy about the rumor, saying, I cant really talk about it. All I can say is that its always been business as usual for us. We try to go after impact players every year. But Im not going to get into the particulars of those types of things.

Later, Williams again underscored Beckhams untouchable status within the organization, praising the second sacker even in light of a sophomore year marked by slumps and injuries.

Im more confident in Beckham now that he has gone through some struggles as a big leaguer and come out of it on the other side, he said. Its just unfortunate that he had the hand injuryhe was having quite a second half. That Chicago tough I talk about? He showed a little bit of it in doing what he did through injuries.

Bullpen Notes

Williams forecasted the news that J.J. Putz apparently signed with Arizona to become the Diamondbacks closer, saying, We wanted him back, but Putz is headed elsewhere.

As for the recently non-tendered Bobby Jenks, Williams remained open to a return by his five-year closer, with logical hesitation: Hes new to the market, and hes got to flesh some things out before he gets back to us.

With holes in the pen (just Matt Thornton, Sergio Santos, and possibly Chris Sale and Tony Pena project as holdovers in 2011), Williams knows he needs at least one recognizable addition in the trenches.

A trade is quite possibly the way we might have to go because weve taken ourselves toor beyondour payroll limits, he said. I might have to get a little creative with tradesbut I dont think a reliever is going to come at these meetings for us. That will be after.

Future Prospects

Williams has never met a deal he didnt want to strike instantaneously, so forgive his fatigue for today.

The priority was to get as much done as we could, as quickly as we could, said the GM without remorse or rancor. Then see if I could get some sleep.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

Bobby Howry wasn't aware of the fact he was part of one of the more infamous transactions in White Sox history until a few years after it happened. 

In 1997, with the White Sox only 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians, general manager Ron Schueler pulled the trigger on a massive trade that left many around Chicago — including some in the White Sox clubhouse — scratching their heads. Heading to the San Francisco Giants was the team's best starting pitcher (left-hander Wilson Alvarez), a reliable rotation piece (Doug Drabek) and a closer coming off a 1996 All-Star appearance (Roberto Hernandez). In return, the White Sox acquired six minor leaguers: right-handers Howry, Lorenzo Barcelo, Keith Foulke, left-hander Ken Vining, shortstop Mike Caruso and outfielder Brian Manning. Only Foulke had major league experience, and it wasn't exactly good (an 8.26 ERA in 44 2/3 innings). 

Howry was largely oblivious to the shocking nature of the trade that brought him from the Giants to White Sox until, before the 1999 season, he was featured in a commercial that referenced the "White Flag trade."

"I don't even know if I knew it was called that before then," Howry recalled last weekend at the Sheraton Grand Chicago at Cubs Convention. 

The trade was a stark signal that youth would be emphasized on 35th and Shields. Both Alvarez and Hernandez were set to become free agents after the 1997 season, and the 40-year-old Darwin wasn't a long-term piece, either. With youngsters like Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee rising through the farm system, the move was made with an eye on the future and maximizing the return on players who weren't going to be long-term pieces. 

Sound familiar? 

It's hardly a perfect comparison, but when the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox in December for four minor leaguers — headlined by top-100 prospects in Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech — it was the first rebuilding blockbuster trade the organization had made since the 1997 White Flag deal. Shortly after trading their staff ace at the 2016 Winter Meetings, the White Sox shipped Adam Eaton — their best position player — to the Washington Nationals for a package of prospects featuring two more highly-regarded youngsters in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. 

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

And there still could be more moves on the horizon, too, for Rick Hahn's White Sox (Jose Quintana has been the subject of persistent rumors since the Winter Meetings). But for those looking for an optimistic outlook of the White Sox rebuilding plans, it's worth noting that the club's last youth movement, to an extent, was successful.

Only Howry (3.74 ERA over 294 games) and Foulke (2.87 ERA, 100 saves over 346 games) became significant long-term pieces for the White Sox from those six players brought over in 1997. And it wasn't like Schueler dealt away any of the franchise's cornerstones — like Frank Thomas, Albert Belle and Robin Ventura — but with future starters in Lee, Ordonez and Chris Singleton on their way the White Sox were able to go young. A swap of promising youthful players (Mike Cameron for Paul Konerko) proved to be successful a year and a half later. 

And with a couple of shrewd moves — namely, dealing Jamie Navarro and John Snyder to the Milwaukee Brewers for Cal Eldred and Jose Valentin — the "Kids Can Play" White Sox stormed to an American League Central title in 2000. 

"It was great," Howry said of developing with so many young players in the late 1999's and 2000. "You come in and you feel a lot more comfortable when you got a lot of young guys and you're all coming up together and building together. It's not like you're walking into a primarily veteran clubhouse where you're kind of having to duck and hide all the time. We had a great group of guys and we built together over a couple of years, and putting that together was a lot of fun."

What sparked things in 2000, Howry said, was that ferocious brawl with the Detroit Tigers on April 22 in which 11 players were ejected (the fight left Foulke needing five stitches and former Tigers catcher/first baseman Robert Fick doused in beer). 

"About the time we had that fight with Detroit, that big brawl, all of a sudden after then we just seemed to kind of come together and everything started to click and it took off," Howry said. 

The White Sox went 80-81 in 1998 and slipped to 75-86 in 1999, but their 95-67 record in 2000 was the best in the league — though it only amounted to a three-game sweep at the hands of the wild-card winning Seattle Mariners. 

Still, the White Flag trade had a happy ending two and a half years later. While with the White Sox, Howry didn't feel pressure to perform under the circumstances with which he arrived, which probably helped those young players grow together into eventual division champions. 

"I was 23 years old," Howry said. "At 23 years old, I didn't really — I was just like, okay, I'm still playing, I got a place to play. I didn't really put a whole lot of thought into three veteran guys for six minor leaguers." 

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox 2016 first round pick Zack Collins joins the podcast to talk about his future with the White Sox, when he hopes to make the big leagues and the doubters who question whether he can be a major league catcher.   He discusses comparisons with Kyle Schwarber, his impressions of Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, why his dad took him to a Linkin Park concert when he was 6 years old and much more.