All of White Sox-dom is ready for the airy, sustenance-free off-season to suddenly get shattered to pieces with endless activity and trades. A complete revamping of the team that yanks us into attention and includes both a full-gut rebuild, and an all-in spending spree that ends in a starting outfield of Josh Hamilton, Adam Jones, and McShooganah McGillicutty (in this scenario, they run out of money two-thirds of the way through).
But Rick Hahn–as anyone should–has worked to disabuse everyone of such notions:
“You don’t get added points for getting a deal done at the winter meetings,” Hahn said.
Just as he worked to disabuse everyone of notions that his move to the GM chair would signal a great sea chance in the White Sox approach. Good that he did, because it places some possible value on looking back at the past Winter Meetings in White Sox history beyond historical curiosity. I was going to do it anyway, but now, there’s purpose!
2011: Rebuilding! The White Sox convinced everyone that they were selling the whole farm by trading one of their youngest and cheapest assets in Sergio Santos for a single prospect, letting Mark Buehrle walk–albeit for a staggering pile of dollars, and actually saying the word rebuilding for once. The Quentin trade was yet to follow, but considering that speculation about John Danks and Gavin Floyd moving was rampant in the immediate wake, the Winter Meetings were a bit of a false promise of a fire sale. Maybe a full one has the Sox closer to a new competitive window right now, and maybe keeping Quentin and cashing out on Viciedo holds off a September collapse of the bats. Fun things to think about.
2010: Between signing Adam Dunn, scooping in to bring back A.J. Pierzynski, and deigning to have dinner with and be cordial to Ozzie Guillen, Kenny Williams intentions for the 2011 season could not have been much clearer. He had already had his “all-in” moment prior to announcing that his primary goal for the Winter Meetings was to re-sign Paul Konerko. And after re-signing Konerko, he specifically stated that he wanted another bullpen arm, foreshadowing the signing of Jesse Crain. If one were to wonder “Ok, the White Sox have been mum about their intentions for this off-season, but how forthright have they ever been?”, this is the off-season to go back and read about.
2009: The only deal the White Sox pulled off during these Winter Meetings was needlessly giving Mark Teahen a three-year extension after trading for him a few days earlier. That’s emblematic of their approach at large, as the Sox were ostensibly gunning for a competitive team, but building their roster with logs they found in an abandoned field that may or not be rotten and slug-infested. They had already signed Andruw Jones and Omar Vizquel, cast aside Jermaine Dye and committed to a recovering Carlos Quentin and Alex Rios for their outfield. Their announced PRIMARY TARGET of the Winter Meetings was Hideki Matsui, and they would later reach out for a rehabbing J.J. Putz and convince the Dodgers to eat money to ditch Juan Pierre.
This was bargain shopping with the pretense of something far greater. If there is an ounce of aggression in the 2012 White Sox off-season, this could be a form it takes.
2008: The White Sox had quickly made their grievances clear at the end of their division-winning season. Orlando Cabrera was allowed to walk, and two trades were carried out in questionably swift and terse fashion–Javy Vazquez to Atlanta for a respectable prospect haul, and Nick Swisher to the Yankees for a small collection of aquarium gravel in a ziplock bag. Not only did Williams play coy about his willingness to stand pat throughout the Winter Meetings, he dangled the idea of stripping further from a team essentially built around Carlos Quentin. A Homer Bailey for Jermaine Dye trade rumor was the primary feature of the meetings, and it naturally it petered out, just like Dye would the next season.
2007: Kenny Williams was too busy having high-profile misses on Miguel Cabrera and Torii Hunter for much attention to be paid to his swap of Chris Carter for Carlos Quentin. Between Hunter, Cabrera, Kosuke Fukudome, and some idle talk of Andruw Jones, the Meetings were marked by the Sox swinging big to try to recover from their worst season in 18 years, and missing–they couldn’t even reach a consensus on an extension with Joe Crede and his arthritic back. That could have something to do why they have avoided big-ticket bidding wars since, or it could simply be a recognition of the lack of resources that undid them in the Cabrera pursuit.
Williams wound up pivoting to make the trade for Swisher that should have worked, after beginning on off-season with a rather maniacal contract with Scott Linebrink and a curious trade of a rotation member for a one-year rental of Orlando Cabrera.
I would sum up lessons from this five-year look back as:
- Obviously, not everything happens here. Decisive moves earlier on in the off-season are a hallmark, and when the Sox intend to wait the market out, that means they will really wait into as far as late January to sift out bargains.
- They are not as opaque in their motives as they seem. When the Sox have been aggressive, or really active, Williams has been hard-pressed to contain his glee. Since Hahn has been extremely reserved since taking, he would really distinguish himself in that respect if he were to pull off something significant after months of downplaying excitement.
- I would expect a boring Winter Meetings, part of that is because Hahn has told us to, and part of that is the lack of a specific motive, or a specific source of rumbling going in. Certainly this time allows for a lot of up-front conversation, but a four-day window is a small one for something significant to come completely to fruition, and the phones still work the other 362 days of the year.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan