Williams: Big free agents unlikely
White Sox likely to look at lesser moves for now
CHICAGO -- The question handed to Ken Williams during Monday's opening afternoon of the 2009 General Managers Meetings at the O'Hare Hilton dealt with respect, and the topic of the respect question was free-agent outfielder/designated hitter Hideki Matsui.
Both of those roles filled so capably by Matsui are positions the White Sox have vacant as the Hot Stove period goes from simmer to full burn.
"I think he's an excellent outfielder and I think he's a World Series MVP. How can I not have as much respect for him as I could possibly have?" said the White Sox general manager with a wry smile. "I would imagine he's going to command in salary more than we can afford to pay him.
"But should he want what we have available ... you never know."
This philosophy espoused by Williams in regard to Matsui should pretty much be applied to any and all big-ticket free agents where the White Sox are concerned. At least that image was depicted by Williams during his 45-minute chat on the state of the White Sox and Major League Baseball's general economic climate.
During a Friday conference call, Williams mentioned how the White Sox would spend whatever they had to break even, but there wasn't much there to spend. That idea was driven home again Monday.
"Our bottom line is we are not going to spend more than we have," Williams said. "Well, there's always hope that people get excited about the club, the economy comes back up and advertising and sponsorship levels increase. I know our marketing and sales people are working their tails off to try to find new ways to bring in revenue.
"So, whatever we have, we will work with it and try to be creative, if necessary," Williams said.
Williams was pushed a little further on this matter, asked if the White Sox had money for one free-agent addition. He quickly smiled and said it would depend on who that free agent would be.
When the name brought up as an example was Chone Figgins, the Angels' outstanding leadoff man, Williams didn't hesitate in knocking down that present possibility.
"If you are asking me today if we have those kinds of dollars, the answer is no," Williams said. "We don't have that kind of money."
In reality, the White Sox did much of their 2010 heavy lifting long before the Yankees were crowned as 2009 champions. Jake Peavy and Freddy Garcia, brought in during the past campaign, leave Williams with a starting rotation set from one through five.
Alex Rios not only should solidify the White Sox outfield but also give the team versatility in searching for a corner outfielder or speed guy in center, he can play all three spots. Even the trade bringing Mark Teahen from the Royals, moving Gordon Beckham to second and giving the White Sox a better, more athletic defensive presence overall in Williams' estimation, happened just two days after the Yankees won.
Figgins has been a popular name associated with the White Sox for the past two years, primarily because of the team's desire for a speed upgrade and a true leadoff hitter -- a job Scott Podsednik filled with excellence last year. But the White Sox won't just simply add a fast player if he doesn't fit the entire team scheme, and while a true leadoff hitter is preferred by Williams, it doesn't appear to be a necessity.
Especially if filling the void would cause the White Sox to spend money they really don't have.
"There's more than just the one spot in the lineup," Williams said. "We are going to win this year based on pitching and defense -- and our baseball smarts.
"We are going to have to fight tooth and nail offensively, no matter what comes down the pipe at this point. You have to be careful adding something you think you might need, ideally that speed leadoff guy, but you are sacrificing on another end. If you are going to be efficient at something, be efficient at it the greatest possible way.
"Remember, sometimes the minor [signings] are the major ones in my mind," said Williams, pausing for a brief laugh. "How many Novembers have you heard that line from me?"
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.