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Where's the Moneys?

by Mike DePilla
Friday, November 19, 2010
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Before we move on to full scale offseason news and plans (the hot stove is finally starting to heat up and the Sox are being linked to a ton of rumors), I want to go back to something James Fegan of White Sox Observer wrote about rebuilding vs. reloading a couple of months ago.

(Random aside: I hope you read the detailed 2010 player recaps by Fegan at WSO and JJ Stankevitz at White Sox Examiner. They've done a great job.)

Anyway, in an article from September 29, Fegan began looking at the offseason and, faced with GM Ken Williams' decision to "go for it" instead of rebuild, Fegan said:

The words about concerns over the White Sox having enough money to fund Williams' ideal spending spree are certainly troubling. Rebuilding through free agency on a tight budget, which the White Sox would need to do certainly on some degree to determine the positions I listed above [C, 3B, 1B, DH, RF] doesn't necessarily work. If you're going to morph a 85 or so win team into better than the Minnesota Twins, it probably won't be solved by $3-$5 million a year steals, but legitimately doing something bold like overpaying for Vic Martinez, Carl Crawford, or Jayson Werth, rather than the half-assed acquisitions that have defined previous seasons.

I was reminded of this yesterday when Williams declared his uncertainty about the direction of the offseason:

"We are in the process right now of determining whether or not adding to the current mix we have would be the most prudent thing to do and gives us the best chance to win a championship or turning some of our players into young, impact guys. What we don't want to do is we don't want to be in the middle."

First of all, I smell BS from Williams in that quote. In his tenure as Sox GM, he has never come anywhere close to rebuilding (with the possible exception of 2007), and I don't foresee him turning over a new leaf now and selling off his assets to look toward 2013. More than likely, he was just riffing on his familiar "fifty cent/one dollar/it's hard out here for a pimp" themes as he actively looks to improve the team for the coming season.

Besides, Chicago is not a city with a good climate for rebuilding. Sox fans, in general, have a very low tolerance for that kind of product, and they would make it known with their wallet: Whether it was a successful haul of young talent or a Pittsburgh Pirates-esque suckfest, there would be more people throwing breadcrumbs to ducks in a nearby pond than there would be people sitting in the upper deck at the Cell.

A lousy turn out like that would diminish the team's stature in this town, and the decreased revenue would lead to an even more reduced budget, with Williams'/Reinsdorf's excuses written by themselves. No. Williams likes to go for it. Sox fans want teams built to win. That's the game plan for the 2011 Sox.

But how can he do it? That's where I find Fegan's thoughts so important. The Sox need significant upgrades to be serious contenders, but have neither the money nor the trading chips to acquire them.

The Sox don't tend to shell out big money and win bidding wars in free agency anyway, and it's hard to see this winter being any different with so little wiggle room to work with. The trade front always appears promising, but is limited because, despite the availability of some big names, the Sox have little on the farm to offer and any big leaguer-for-big leaguer deals might amount to robbing Peter to pay Paul.

For example, the Sox might get in the door with the Diamondbacks about Justin Upton with a Gavin Floyd plus Gordon Beckham package, but how much would that actually improve the team?

The sad truth is, if Paul Konerko is brought back, Williams is going to be right up against his spending limit by just bringing back the failed 2010 team without making any changes or improvements. Let's assume a generous payroll of $110 million, with about $81 million already committed. Here's what's already on the books for 2011:

Oblig $$
Pierre 5
Rios 12
Morel 0.5
Ramirez 2.75
Beckham 0.5
Vizquel 1.75
Teahen 4.75
Castro 1.2
Peavy 16
Buehrle 14
Floyd 5
Jackson 8.35
Thornton 3
Sale 0.5
Santos 0.5
Linebrink 5.5
Viciedo 1.25

TOTAL 82.55

(I shortcut-ed and already included Ramirez's raise and Morel and Sale.)

Now add in the expected salaries of John Danks (~$6 million), Carlos Quentin (~$5 million) and Tony Pena (~$2 million) through arbitration and doling out $13 million to Konerko, and you are at $108.55 million, leaving $1.45 for C, DH/RF and RP. Insert sad face here.

It's a situation that sucks harder than Lopez Tonight. And a lot of it is Williams' own doing- he built an expensive, mediocre team by spending foolishly around the margins. ($12 million of the '11 payroll is already going to bench warmers Mark Teahen, Scott Linebrink and Omar Vizquel. Instead, substitute Alexander De Aza, Omar Infante and Brent Lillibridge there and you've just saved more than $10 million with zero noticeable drop off on the field.)

He took some smart gambles that paid off (Alex Rios- $12 million in '11), some smart gambles that didn't (Jake Peavy- $16 million in '11) and some short-sighted gambles that are TBD (Edwin Jackson- $8.35 million in '11).

Whether smart, dumb, successful or disastrous, all those moves, from Linebrink to Teahen to Peavy to Jackson, have one thing in common: they are all expensive.

The Sox are running low on money for a free agent splash and talent for a major trade. So what should they do? Sacrifice stalwarts Paul Konerko or Mark Buehrle? Gamble again by dealing a Floyd, Danks or Quentin?

If Trader Kenny wants to be more than an 85-win team in 2011, he's going to have to pull a rabbit out of his hat. Let's see what he tries.


  1. I doubt Konerko comes back and if he does it's for $9m or less. With $13m I bet you could have Matsui and Lee. Neither are as good as Konerko but both are better than Konerko + Kotsay.

  2. Even with the myriad 1B options in FA, I don't see Konerko getting less than $11 mil, and even that seems low- so if the Sox want him they'll have to dole it out. I do like your Matsui/Lee idea though.

  3. In the future it would be best as you point out to just not bother spending in that 3 to 5 million dollar range for players like Linebrinck who if they have a career year are going to be average at best. Just warm the bench with a young kid, an unretired guy going for a second chance or something. We aren't the Yankees, no money for the lucky to be average.