Sox Drawer: Kenny gearing up

559440.jpg

Sox Drawer: Kenny gearing up

MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin might be known for its cheese, but when he arrived here for the GM Meetings this week, Kenny Williams suddenly found himself surrounded by some very hungry fish.

"There are some sharks kind of circling the waters," said Williams, referring to some of his fellow general managers who came to the meetings and immediately expressed interest in the likes of John Danks, Carlos Quentin and Gavin Floyd, players under contract with the White Sox for 2012, but could be available if the price is right.

Williams has been in these waters before listening to deals for his veterans but has rarely acted on them. He might do more than listen this time around.

To a greater degree, I am more willing to talk about maybe some of our veteran pieces, whereas past practice has been we were looking for those kind of pieces and not as ready to listen," Williams said.

If the Sox do deal any of their veterans, Williams says hed want either impact players or impact-type players in return, meaning guys with big upsides who can contribute right away or might be one year away.

Were more open to making potential moves that take us a little younger, take us a step back and live to fight another day if we can get what weve identified the type of targets you want in such a deal, Williams said. But whether you can get those targets or not remains to be seen. So were more open.

The Sox GM acknowledged that a trade proposal had already surfaced at the meetings that he had not considered.

Would you like to know what it is? he playfully asked a reporter.

Well have to use our imagination.

But no need to guess who will likely bat leadoff for the White Sox next season. The job seems to belong to Alejandro De Aza.

If I was making the lineup out, De Aza would be my leadoff hitter, Williams said. But Robin Ventura makes the lineup out and I have to respect that. He will be given a suggestion though as to the Opening Day lineup.

Williams says he plans on speaking with Adam Dunn sometime during the winter about his approach for next season. When Dunn arrived at spring training, he admitted that he didnt swing a bat during the winter, a routine of his that had worked in the past.

Thats expected to change, Williams said.

The struggles of Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham in 2011 have made Williams job more challenging for 2012, because hes not sure which players will actually show up next season. So as he charts a course this winter, the White Sox ship could be headed in any number of directions.

Its the most difficult offseason that weve had because I dont have a clear-cut direction where were going, and I wont until probably the winter meetings starting December 5, or maybe even after the first deal comes along that we like, he said.

Some might refer to this movement as rebuilding, others might call it retooling. Either way, changes are coming. Its just a question of who and how many.

Were going to explore all possibilities," Williams said. "Just because youre contemplating going young doesnt mean that you wont be talented, doesnt mean that you dont think you still have the necessary pieces to win if things go right and you get bounce back years from certain players.

That, in essence, would be the perfect storm, which is not easy to do, but something the Sox experienced in 2005. Who predicted them to win the division, let alone the World Series? Find the right crew members, get a nice headwind and who knows where youll end up.

Hopefully, land.

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.