Bargain or Bust: Who 'killed' Kenny?

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Bargain or Bust: Who 'killed' Kenny?

Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010
5:54 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

If Chicago White Sox general manager Ken Williams matched his reticence in the media with reserve at the trading table, chances are hed have a lot sunnier reputation among White Sox fans. But then, if Williams was any less aggressive in the offseason, hed likely be out of a jobafter all, favored son or no, there arent many GMs out there who last a decade with a team at any level, in any sport.

Indeed its Williams bold nature that keeps the White Sox competitive. And contrary to those clearly on the side of manager Ozzie Guillen in the Ozzie-Kenny wars (full disclosure: I love both), a big reason why the White Sox are on the short list of talked-about clubs isnt simply the whatd Ozzie say? factor, but because Williams consistently brings in intriguing players who more often than not aid in White Sox victories.

The White Sox have averaged 85 wins per season during Williams decade of service a number he probably wants to kick the crap out of himself because its not 90. But there can be no doubt why Williams remains in the GM chair on the South Side he builds winners.

Back in July, I detailed some of Williams top deals and estimated hed brought in via trade alone some 41.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) to the White Sox in his tenure; thats a near All-Star per season.

In 2010, there were a number of stinkers that killed GM Kenny and earned an inordinate amount of attention, and in spite of squeezing 88 wins out of a Jake Peavy-less team, most judge 2010 as a failure for the White Sox. And contrary to Guillens lament at midseason, most fans judge Williams harshly for the DH conundrum that hamstrung the club, not the manager.

So, how did Williams do as Chicagos general manager in 2010? This analysis draws upon the player season values at FanGraphs (where they basically assign a value to players WAR, with one win above replacement equating to 4 million) to see if the White Sox got their moneys worth from each player on the roster.

Positional totals come from the players FanGraphs value subtracted by season salary, and numbers below are expressed in millions. Only the substantive members of the White Sox (non-italicized) are included in the bolded positional sums. The added value beyond salary is labeled as team profit.

Catcher (4.5 million in team profit)
Ramon Castro 3.7
Tyler Flowers -0.1
Donny Lucy 0.7
A.J. Pierzynski 0.2

The decision to bring Castro back for a season that fell just short of his career best transformed an otherwise unprofitable position. Pierzynski had a solid year (7 million value), but his relatively high salary meant he basically met his salary expectations.

First Base (4.8 million)
Paul Konerko 4.8

In only two of his latest contracts five years did PK outperform his 12 million salary, and the 2010 season was one of them.

Second Base (1.2 million)
Gordon Beckham 3.2
Brent Lillibridge -2.0

Taking into account how little Beckham and Lillibridge are paid tells everything about their modest production in 2010.

Shortstop (14.1 million)
Alexei Ramirez 14.1

Ramirez is hardly well-paid, but it was his over-the-top performance in 2010 that delivered 14.1 million in profit to the White Sox. Its safe to assume there is no better shortstop bargain in baseball.
Third Base (-8.3 million)
Brent Morel 0.2
Jayson Nix -1.8
Mark Teahen -6.3
Dayan Viciedo 0.0
Omar Vizquel -0.4

If you had a gut feeling that third base was the nightmare position for the White Sox, this value analysis proves that out. Even Nix managed to take a bite out of the team before he was waived early in the season. It remains to be seen whether Morel, apparently the incumbent starter for 2011, can add much value to the White Sox at this point it would be a win for the Chisox if 2011s profit at the hot corner mimics that of second base in 2010.

Left Field (6 million)
Juan Pierre 6.0

Combine Pierres incredible production for the White Sox with the fact that the Los Angeles Dodgers are paying the majority of his salary, and youve got an easy win in left field.

Center Field (4.5 million)
Alejandro De Aza -0.6
Alex Rios 5.1

Rios went from one of the worst values in all of baseball in 2009 to well outperforming his contract in 2010.
Right Field (3.7 million)
Andruw Jones 6.9
Carlos Quentin -3.2

Think those of us who feel that Quentins likely 4 million salary for 2011 would be better spent in bringing back Jones for two seasons are nuts? Joness defense or the lack of it from Q makes the big difference here. But even discounting D, Jones was a better value in 2010.

Designated Hitter (-7.3 million)
Mark Kotsay -4.3
Manny Ramirez -3.0

No, DH wasnt the very worst spot on the team, as evidenced above. But aggravating the issue was the fact that Jim Thome, who left the White Sox, delivered 13.1 million in profit to the rival Minnesota Twins as Kotsay, Jones, and later Ramirez failed in Gentleman Jims old spot. Kotsay had posted negative WAR seasons in three of the past four years and to have expected an uptick was a foolish gamble. Ramirez apparently did a lot of good behind the closed doors of the White Sox clubhouse, but on the field, he couldnt come close to making up for his 4 million throwaway salary for September.

Starting Pitchers (30.6 million)
Mark Buehrle 1.2
John Danks 14.0
Gavin Floyd 14.6
Freddy Garcia 4.4
Daniel Hudson 0.4
Edwin Jackson 3.8
Jake Peavy -7.8

If Peavy hadnt gotten injured, there wouldnt be a single negative figure in the rotation and Peavys debit was due to injury, pitching just half a season at a 15 million salary. Floyds 14.6 million team profit makes him the best value on the White Sox.

Relief Pitchers (5.9 million)
Lucas Harrell 0.1
Gregory Infante 0.1
Bobby Jenks -1.3
Scott Linebrink -5.4
Jeffrey Marquez -0.6
Tony Pena -0.2
J.J. Putz 3.0
Chris Sale 0.9
Sergio Santos 3.5
Matt Thornton 6.3
Erick Threets 0.8
Carlos Torres -0.3
Randy Williams -1.0

As indicated by the long list here, the bullpen was a bigger mess than the rotation in 2010, but aside from Linebrink, there were no awful values. Its safe to assume Threetss value could have approached that of Putz or Santos had he enjoyed an injury-free season as well.

Williams Grade: B

All in all, Williams got almost 62.8 million in profit from his core players. That takes into account all the negatives (meaning their performance value to the team didnt offset their salary) from Lillibridge, Teahen, Vizquel, Quentin, Kotsay, Manny Ramirez, Peavy, Jenks, Linebrink and Pena.

Even if you dismiss the incumbent roster and judge Williams only by the players he brought onto the White Sox this season, they came at a sum profit, albeit a modest one. You can chop it in many ways, but counting Castro, Morel, Teahen, Vizquel, Pierre, De Aza, Jones, Manny Ramirez, Kotsay, Garcia, Jackson, Putz and Sale as new players (yes, Garcia and Kotsay were on the roster at the end of 2009 but were free agents at the end of the year), Williams brought in players who delivered 14.3 million in value above their 2010 salaries.
For some perspective on where the White Soxs profit lands them among MLB teams, see sidebar.

As well as Williams managed this season, he has better years on his resume. And with the White Sox clearly dominating the Twins only in starting rotation (yes, the key piece), it is incumbent on the GM to earn equal marks to Minnesota this offseason, lest the White Sox spend 2011 playing well but again looking up at the perennial division winners.

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

David Robertson, Nate Jones return to White Sox after WBC victory

David Robertson, Nate Jones return to White Sox after WBC victory

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Having experienced a playoff-like atmosphere at the World Baseball Classic, David Robertson and Nate Jones already feel prepared for the regular season. 

The two relievers returned to White Sox camp on Friday morning bearing gold medals from a Team USA WBC title run that concluded on Wednesday night with an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Robertson, who recorded the final three outs of the clinching victory, said he's glad to be back and won't need much of a tune-up to be ready for the April 3 season opener.

"Back up to speed?" Robertson said. "More like slow down and get ready for the season. I'll probably play catch (Friday). I didn't throw (Thursday), I spent the day traveling. Probably play catch today, and be ready to throw (Saturday). If I needed to throw today, I could. I feel like I'm season ready right now."

"It feels good to be back. It's been a long trip doing this WBC, so it's good to be back and relax a little bit. Have a couple days before we start the season."

Both Jones and Robertson appeared four times each for Team USA with similar results. Each allowed a solo home run but nothing else. Jones said he brought his gold medal back to camp because he isn't yet ready to put it in his safety deposit box. His favorite moments of the tournament were brought on by raucous crowds.

"Once you get a crowd chanting USA that was a pretty cool moment," Jones said. "You're proud of representing your country, and once they did that, it all kind of set in, like, ‘Wow, this is happening.'

"It's just pure excitement, everybody going crazy."

Jones and Robertson said they're pleased to have returned to the relative tranquility of White Sox camp after they lived out of a suitcase for the previous 18 days. Both were set to meet with pitching coach Don Cooper and manager Rick Renteria to discuss their upcoming schedule. Jones said he expected to throw a side session on Friday in front of Cooper to have his mechanics reviewed. Robertson last pitched on Wednesday and didn't know when he'd throw again.

"They've been busy, obviously, with Robbie finishing up the last game," Renteria said. "We'll see how the schedule lines up in terms of their usage for the remaining 9-10 days."

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Robertson is pretty sure he won't need much work. Whereas the team's closer normally waits until the first week of March to appear in a game, Robertson has pitched in plenty this spring. Each of the last four has had a ton more intensity than any normal Cactus League work.

"It felt like playoff baseball really early in the year," Robertson said. "Just coming from Miami, trying to win a couple days in there was really hard. Fans were really loud. That place was a very intense environment, and it didn't feel like you were the home team at all.

"It felt like (a home game) when we were in San Diego We were the home team there, and when we got to L.A., same thing. Although, I will say that when we were playing the Japanese, it erupted a couple times when they had some big moments in their game. It was just a lot of fun to play in this whole event. It was definitely more than I expected."

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

 

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Quintana has been named the Opening Day starter — for the White Sox.

While many are surprised he still hasn't been traded, few should be shocked by the news manager Rick Renteria delivered on Friday, when he announced Quintana would pitch the April 3 opener.

With Chris Sale gone to Boston, Quintana, a first-time All-Star in 2016, has been the odds-on favorite to take over as the team's ace. The only question seemed to be whether or not he'd still be in a White Sox uniform when the season began. But the club made it clear Friday that Quintana is their guy and he'll face the Detroit Tigers in the first game of 2017. The only one who seemed a little taken aback about the news is Quintana.

"I was surprised," Quintana said. "I knew I may get the ball for that day, but they didn't say nothing, so you didn't know. I just kept going and doing my workouts and all my stuff. I'm really, really happy with this opportunity. It's huge for me. I can't wait for that day to come.

"I'm excited to have this opportunity. It's a huge honor for me to have the ball for Opening Day the first time in my life. And I think it's a once-in-a-life opportunity."

Asked about the announcement earlier in the week, Renteria said he needed more time. Many speculated that it meant the White Sox were continuing to listen to offers for Quintana, who has drawn constant interest since the team began its rebuild in December.

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Quintana, who went 13-12 with a 3.20 ERA and 181 strikeouts in 208 innings last season, has looked fantastic all spring. Pitching in front of more than a dozen scouts on Thursday, Quintana made his first Cactus League appearance in a month and allowed two hits over seven scoreless innings. The left-hander also put on a brilliant performance for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic on March 10 as he retired the first 17 Team USA hitters he faced before allowing a hit.

"He's very happy about it," Renteria said. "He has obviously earned it.

"I don't know if he was surprised as much as he was elated and proud to be given the opportunity to be the Opening Day starter. It's a privilege."

Quintana's resume of consistency made him a clear-cut choice for the nod. He heads into 2017 having pitched at least 200 innings in each of the past four seasons. In that span, he's produced a 3.32 ERA and 18.1 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. That figure represents the seventh-highest WAR total among all big league pitchers in that span.

Even though he's viewed as the staff ace, Quintana — who potentially has four years and $36.85 million left on his current contract — said he was surprised by the news because the club hadn't yet informed him of the honor.

"It means a lot for me, especially after last year when you make the All-Star team and this year the opportunity to play in the WBC and now you have the opportunity to pitch on Opening Day," Quintana said. "That's a lot of things happening for me now and I'm happy. And really blessed. You just try to do all my things every time.

"Maybe they don't know what it means for me, but it's a big thing."