Kenny Williams’ Quiet Trade Deadline

White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams is notorious for being active around the trade deadline. Yet with his team only three games out of first place the morning of the deadline — for the first time in years — all was quiet on the South Side. Williams’ silence was a big change from previous seasons, when he made big splashes for Alex Rios, Manny Ramirez and Jake Peavy (Rios and Ramirez were technically waiver claims). With the AL Central still up for grabs this season — and his division rivals making some big splashes of their own — Williams’ failure to act seems even more puzzling.

One of the main reasons for Williams’ inactivity at the deadline may stem from a directive from ownership. According to a report by Ken Rosenthal, White Sox Owner Jerry Reinsdorf may have told Williams that the team needed to shed payroll. Despite entering the season with a franchise-record $127 million payroll, the White Sox haven’t performed up to par and attendance has been down, forcing Reinsdorf to act. Although the decision to trade Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen was initially viewed as puzzling, shedding payroll is likely one of the biggest reasons Williams made the move. Since he couldn’t add payroll this season, there was no way for Williams to try and make another big splash at the deadline.

Due to age, bad contracts and awful performances, the only players that had significant value on the trade market were the players keeping the Sox in contention this season. Carlos Quentin was a popular trade candidate, but he’s been the second best hitter on the Sox this season, and is one of two regulars on the team slugging over .500 this season. John Danks and Gavin Floyd were also rumored to be on the block, but the White Sox starting pitching — which currently rates third in all of baseball according to WAR — is the one thing keeping them afloat this season.

Keeping that in mind, Williams had two choices: stand pat with his current team and hope for the best; or trade off whatever he could to fortify this team for the future. The first option left Williams with the same team of underachievers he’s had all season; while the second option would be tough to sell to the fans considering the team is still in contention.

While it may have made for a dull deadline, Williams’ failure to act at the trade deadline may have been the right decision. The White Sox have actually gone 42-36 since a terrible April, and — although it may be wishful thinking at this point — there’s no way Adam Dunn and Alex Rios can continue be this bad all season. With 37 games left against AL Central opponents, the White Sox still have the opportunity to live up to their pre-season potential. Despite the quiet deadline, the White Sox are still contenders in the AL Central. This time, the moves that Kenny Williams didn’t make may be exactly what the White Sox needed.




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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.


27 Responses to “Kenny Williams’ Quiet Trade Deadline”

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  1. Gary says:

    You know he traded Edwin Jackson, right?

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  2. Lloyd mclendon says:

    Doug fister makes the tigers invincible

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  3. Drew says:

    “Alex Rios and Adam Dunn can’t continue to be this bad all season” I wouldn’t be so sure about that….

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    • Dan says:

      I bet I can find this exact quote said in June if I looked hard enough.

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      • MikeS says:

        And April, May and July. No doubt we will see it in early September, as the White Sox continue to hover just under .500, 4 games back of whatever power house is leading the AL Central.

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      I think it’s true as to Dunn. However, Rios has shown in the past that he can be this bad for a whole season.

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  4. James says:

    I don’t know how he doesn’t get fired after the season. The problems (payroll, roster construction, farm system) are all his own doing, and no one wants to watch a bunch of overpaid castoffs…

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  5. CircleChange11 says:

    Due to age, bad contracts and awful performances, the only players that had significant value on the trade market were the players keeping the Sox in contention this season.

    In other words … the ChiSox didn’t want to trade their good players. How unlike a contender.

    The ChiSox also didn’t trade away any prospects … and shed salary.

    That’s good for a GM, right?

    Same old stuff.

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  6. I don’t see why Rick Hahn isn’t the GM yet. Everyone around baseball believes he is among the best GMs-in-waiting, and in this era it seems obvious a stat-minded GM is the best option. Kenny, at one time, was a good GM, seemingly winning every trade he made. However, it seems that people have adjusted, and begun to take advantage of his free-dealing personality. I don’t want to see another Hudson-for-Jackson, Swisher for Gonzelz, or Young for Vazquez deal. It’s time for KW to be fired.

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    • Otter says:

      This is pretty unfair since Williams has traded junk prospects for quality major league players. Until last year, I’m pretty sure not many people would say that the Sox missed Young, and Vazquez did get the Sox into the playoffs in ’08 (and then crap the bed in Tampa). The Swisher mess is really more in what he got back than what he gave up (you can’t trade shit for quality), but Gonzelez also netted the Sox Thome, was brought back for Floyd, and then traded again for Swisher. Plus is Gio more than a 3rd starter? I mean, he does walk more batters than most would like and he’s in a great ballpark. The Hudson trade doesn’t make sense, I agree, but the Sox could at least defend it by saying that Jackson was better (true) and had more talent (true again). That doesn’t make up for six years of control…

      That said… Williams shouldn’t be allowed to go after veterans, that’s where he really seems to fall into trouble.

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  7. CircleChange11 says:

    Kenny, at one time, was a good GM, seemingly winning every trade he made. However, it seems that people have adjusted, and begun to take advantage of his free-dealing personality. I don’t want to see another Hudson-for-Jackson, Swisher for Gonzelz, or Young for Vazquez deal. It’s time for KW to be fired.

    Agree and disagree.

    I agree that KW was once a great GM (or was just very fortunate). The number of moves he made that were completely one-sided were tremendous …. not just tremendous in the perception way, but in the WAR way.

    But when GM’s “regress” I don’t think it’s because other teams exploit their aggressiveness, etc. I think it’s for 2 reasons: [1] Simple regression, [2] Arrogance.

    No GM lands it big on every trade. They might make ALL “good trades”, but players don;t always perform as expected. Adam Dunn this year, by statistical measures, was about as safe of a bet or sure thing as they come. Extremely consistent player moving to a hitters park. I want to meet the guy that predicted Dunn’s failures and learn from his process.

    However, early success on trades, can easily lead to the GM thinking they have the Midas Touch and they start to reach further and further for “turd polishing” (as my grandfather would say). So, they start to think that they and their organization can turn around any player or think that they see something in a player that no one else can.

    FG has a few GMs and teams that can’t do anything right. When things work out, they’re lucky. When things don’t, it’s because they’re dumb. KW and the CWS are one of those teams. I get it, and I understand that KW’s “huge wins” as a GM were 5+ years ago.

    But, I do agree that it is time for KW to move along … and take Ozzie with him. I say that because the ChiSox are going to need a more data-based front office, and a manager that is in line with the philosophy and procedures.

    This team also needs to get younger, IMHO. I think one of the reasons that KW didn’t make a big splash trade (along with their not being much to trade away) is that he, and the CWS fans, know that it’s going to take a MAJOR trade to really improve this team’s chances. If it looked like Dunn and Rios were going to turn the corner, then maybe you do something … but since it doesn’t, why bother? This is just an incredibly disappointing 2011 CWS season.

    The problem with the CWS is the same thing it always is … the damn division. They’re just never in a position to “not be in contention” because the division is so mediocre and unpredictable. The CWS should probably be looking to rebuild, but because of the division and their GB, they can’t just say “we’re selling, and we’re looking to the future”. How can you sell when you’re within striking distance of the playoffs?

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  8. MikeS says:

    They were in a tough spot this year. Offense is painfully bad but how to upgrade it without adding payroll? Were they willing to sit Rios and add a CF? They claimed they were going to sit him and play De Aza but Rios has been back in center the last few days. Get a corner outfielder? They already decided they don’t want to bring up Viciedo and take away PA from Pierre. 2B or 3B? Who was available as a significant, cheap upgrade that wouldn’t sacrifice too mjuch defense over Morel or Beckham. Replace Dunn? They already have two other DH’s on the roster in Konerko and Quentin.

    It would have been hard to blow the thing up since, as bad as they are, they are within two good weeks of first place. A nice 10 – 5 run could put them there. There was an article about how they could break the team up a few days ago here so no need to redo that.

    The big problem is they are paying nearly $35M to Pierre, Dunn and Rios and have gotten -3.5WAR out of those guys. Peavy takes alot of abuse but his 2.1WAR/$16M isn’t even in the same league of badness as those three rocks. If those three hitters would have performed up to their contracts and been on pace for just 7 WAR this year they would have been in first place.

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    • Yinka Double Dare says:

      The Sox have faced three straight lefty starters, which is why Rios has been in the lineup. Rios’s numbers against lefties were merely bad as opposed to his utterly pitiful overall performance. De Aza will probably play the rest of the Yankees series, especially since after Rios’s doofus/lazy defensive plays Saturday and Sunday I would think Ozzie would be happy to send him to the bench again.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Oakland had the same situation earlier in the year with their top paid offensive guys putting up -WAR. Funny how that doesn’t all fall on Billy Beane.

      ——————————

      I’m not confident of KW’s willingness to just settle for adding nice pieces here and there to replace the failing ones.

      I think KW is far more willing to reach like he did with Rios and Teahen.

      ——————————-

      There’s something in the water.

      [1] Juan Pierre has been above average 9 of his 11 years in MLB. This year he has been -0.4

      [2] Dunn has been 25+ Batting runs 6 of the last 7 years (17 in the year he wasn’t). This year he is -13.2

      [3] TCQ is now an above average fielder according to UZR.

      [5] The luster wore off of Morel very quickly.

      Seriously, Pierre, Rios, and Dunn are killing the CWS.1230 PAs of -3 WAR production.

      Do you sit these guys?

      Rios BABIP is .220, for a .308 BABIP career hitter.

      Dunn’s BABIP is .243, for a Career .293 BABIP hitter.

      Pierre is pretty much the same hitter he was in 2010 (2.8 WAR), but has made 5 errors in LF that’s killed his UZR.

      You keep thinking Rios and Dunn will “normalize” any day now, and Pierre will remember how to play defense (I wouldn’t play him in LF myself, but he is usually a 2-3 WAR guy).

      How is this not just one of those “we’re Smurfed” years for the CWS?

      ——————————–

      All reports were that Edwin Jackson was being traded for Colby Rasmus … which would have helped both teams. I wonder if KW was instructed to shed payroll, and that’s how AA/TOR got involved … the team that could take on useless payroll, provided that they did add some cost-controlled talent in the process?

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  9. baty says:

    Kenny had to be a spectator this year. I imagine it felt embarrassing to have the Blue Jays use Edwin to snatch Colby Rasmus. And, after Kenny acquired some bullpen depth, he watches the Indians sneak in and grab Ubaldo.

    Kenny couldn’t afford to be “a player” this season. The organization certainly has some limiting concerns to deal with (payroll, lack of prospect depth/presence, a lack of desirable scenarios with the trade commodities they possess), and each issue is tied to one another in a way that can’t allow Kenny to behave the way he has in the past during a trade deadline stretch.

    “Due to age, bad contracts and awful performances, the only players that had significant value on the trade market were the players keeping the Sox in contention this season.”

    The major issue this scenario presents, is that if the White Sox were to deal away any players that own a sense of significant trade value like Quentin, Danks, Alexi, Beckham, Floyd, Santos, etc… the White Sox wouldn’t just fall out of contention, but they would have extreme limitations in the ways they can replace those valuable roster positions. Outside of Viciedo, they have swarms of prospect projections (from A+ to AAA) that fall into “below replacement player ability” categories at this point in time. And, they would most likely have to rely on acquiring prospect talent that is near ready in adequately replacing the player that was dealt away.

    Quentin could have been expendable, but sheesh, a potential outfield of Juan Pierre, Alex Rios, and Dayan Vicedo would have been historically bad (depending on the trade return).

    I think just about any trade deadline scenario past shipping out Edwin Jackson had the potential of putting the White Sox into a deeper financial instability the next few years. If they chose to rebuild, they’d still likely be carrying a $100M+ payroll with declining attendance. If they were to choose to buy their way into a playoff run, risks become more imminent a couple years down the road…

    You can’t plan to make headway near the trade deadline when you have an organizational trend that continues to produce significant draft pick values which plummet in return as they mature. They just don’t have enough talent flexibility anymore to be “smart buyers” in the “typical gun toting Kenny Williams sense”. This has become very apparent since the Carlos Quentin deal. Since then, the lack of farm system depth has been forcing some questionable deals (letting go of Gio Gonzalez and Dan Hudson as an example) as they continue trying to fill gaps to compete in the present. If guys like Lance Broadway, Kyle Mccullough, Aaron Poreda, and Jared Mitchell selections were to produce even a moderate return, you wouldn’t be in such an interesting mess. In my opinion, It’s Kenny’s lack of success in the prospect development department that created a need for his “gun ho” trade reputation, but sooner or later a GM of his doings will end up thin with the options he thrives on.

    And, the Adam Dunn slump in conjunction with a dramatic Alex Rios regression only exposed just how inflexible the White Sox have been these last few years as an organization.

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    • MikeS says:

      Excellent analysis.

      I’m not sure why rival GM’s still accept White Sox prospects in trade. Some are still developing but few have had even a little major league success. The current MLB roster has only 4 players on it who have spent more than a year in the White Sox farm system. Buehrle, Flowers, De Aza and Morel. Only Buehrle and Morel were drafted and developed in house. Compare that with the Twins or Rays. Even teams like Boston and the Yankees who get accused of buying their entire rosters have done much better. The miracle is that they have gone this long before getting into the predicament of too many old, bad, overpayed, immovable players.

      KW’s far from perfect but when he does lose his job it will ultimately be not from bad FA signings, bad trades or blindness to advanced metrics. It will be from his failure to develop the farm system.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      There aren’t too many teams that could handle two $10+M/y above average players playing at replacement level.

      Seriously take Jay and Berkman, Weeks and Fielder, (on and on) and put them at below replacement level and see where their teams are.

      What’s amazing is how much the CWS improve if you just move Dunn, Pierre, and Rios TO replacement level instead of BELOW it. I find that stunning. Being AT replacement level would be a big improvement. Wow.

      I think it’s obvious KW’s hands were tied. It was wasn’t discipline or willful restraint. *grin*

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      • baty says:

        “There aren’t too many teams that could handle two $10+M/y above average players playing at replacement level.”

        Agreed, and that’s certainly the key, but the effect for the White Sox is far different than other teams because of their fragile financial to talent threshold.

        The timing and surprising influence of these two player failures for the “2011 pre season all in approach of the White Sox” unluckily derailed their short term plans, but it would be careless to say that the White Sox couldn’t have taken a different pre-season route. For one, the White Sox didn’t have to place their financial luck within the hands of the DH position. They were the ones who chose to acquire a player that was only valuable within an extremely specific role. The DH position was a huge concern, and Dunn could have been a huge + in that role, but it is what it is. History may suggest that players like Dunn do have the potential of falling off a cliff unexpectedly. Also, the White Sox were pretty stocked within the DH position, but they ignored the possibilities. For instance, Quentin and Konerko could have offered more flexibility in that role because they can at least field to an extent. In terms of Rios, I don’t’ know what to say other than defensively, he’s forced to continue in centerfield because any other internal option is much worse. It’s a risk you deal with when you choose the route of building with old, slow, and/or “un-athletic” defensive players to generate a lineup with great power potential.

        I’m not saying that you can and should bench a $10M player. But if the White Sox had even moderate flexibility they might have been able to contain the issue at least a little bit better.

        On paper before the season started everyone knew the 1 lacking aspect of this team was the bullpen. Most everything else, even with uncertainties at 3rd base and LF, looked fairly respectable and in place for a legitimate playoff run. They surely weren’t expecting this scenario, but while other teams like the Cardinals, Rangers, Giants, etc… have been able to maneuver through some significant losses in player production (mostly because of injury mind you), the White Sox never had the necessary maneuverability to even attempt in compensating for player regression and/or injury.

        In my opinion this lack of maneuverability that has been building the past few seasons has been a sign continually pointing towards a near future rebuild, but Kenny has only done his best to postpone it. He’s kept the active roster competitive for a while now, but without some tremendous luck, I can’t see how the White Sox continue in the typical Kenny Williams way. Legitimate contenders tend to find ways around unexpected set backs. This scenario was still built by Kenny Williams, no matter how likely or unlikely the 2011 outcome.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        everyone knew the 1 lacking aspect of this team was the bullpen.

        I thought it was just the opposite. With Thornton and Sale controlling the 8th and 9th, I thought eh bullpen was solid enough to let Jenks walk.

        I seem to remember the CWS being a solid position, and one of the aspects they get credit for here at FG. Lots of information on how they’ve capitalized on using hard throwers with high K/9 rates with success.

        But, when I look around the division … I don;t see teams/orgs that are doing all that much better. They all have major flaws … and that’s what makes it tough for the CWS. They are never in a position to say “we can’t win this year, we need to look at how we’re doing things”, so we get the same year over and over (so to speak).

        I completely agree that KW should not be able to go after veteran players, especially those that cost big bucks. He’s too much of a gambler for that.

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  10. baty says:

    Just browsing through their situation, it’s really interesting how many complex decisions need to be made the next 12 months…

    Starting Pitching
    Before the season started, we knew that it was very possible to loose both Jackson and Buehrle for 2012 and hopes of extending Danks before he becomes a FA in 2013 have faded. With limitations of inhouse replacements for these players (Humber, Sale, and now Stewart being the only visible options and potentially weak at best), we know that there is a door opening for lots of player movement in order to restructure the rotation. They won’t be in a position to spend.

    Outfield
    You thankfully loose Pierre after the 2011 season. But, you also could loose Quentin very soon. Depending on where they prioritize a Quentin trade acquisition, the future direction points towards a potentially scary outfield situation with upper level internal options of Rios, Viciedo, Lillibridge, Jordan Danks, Milledge, De Aza, Brandon Short, Jarred Mitchell, and Kenneth Williams (son of Kenny Williams and for some reason still having a baseball career in AA). They could shift Alexi Ramirez out there, but either way, there’s lots of tough decisions to be made out there…

    Infield
    We know that as long as Dunn is around, the only spot for Konerko is at first base, and I think Konerko is on a mission to finish his career with the Sox. 3rd base is a major hole right now, but not a major priority because Morel is at least cheap and @ replacement level for now. Juan Silvero is the nearest farm option, and he’s probably a long way away considering he just began A+ ball. Gordon Beckham is probably a fixture. He at least can’t be dealt away until he reacquires some lost trade value. Eduardo Escobar (AAA shortstop prospect) could be a player in the middle infield, and the near future of the infield may hinge on his ability and where he ends up on the diamond. He could be a piece to deal away, but if he produces well, he’d be more valuable on the White Sox cause it would offer flexibility with future decisions regarding Alexi Ramirez (maybe their most valuable/versatile player and trade chip not named John Danks).

    Catcher
    The White Sox triple backloaded AJ’s salary for the second year of his deal @ $6M. He could be dealt since he has a reputation of playing everyday with moderate success, but once again, internal options are shallow. Tyler Flowers has been a flop thus far, and he’s not really a catcher anyway. Michael Blanke is struggling, and Josh Phegley is just sort of there in AA doing ok with collecting time. Ramon Castro is a FA after the 2011 season.

    Bullpen
    Not really mattering to me much, since it’s where any of their failed SP prospects will end up anyway and who knows what that could be, but the issue lies within their ability to use RP trade chips to acquire important building pieces. As this trade deadline proved when dealing away Edwin Jackson, they couldn’t place value in more crucial lineup/rotation concerns (Colby Rasmus?), instead choosing to shore up their bullpen in fear that it would collapse during a half a** playoff run. :)

    Hopefully I’m missing a few guys.

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  11. pft says:

    Best thing Williams could do the strengthen the team is fire Ozzie and his hitting coach.

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