White Sox general manager Kenny Williams was his usual blunt self as he responded to questions on ESPN 1000’s “Talkin' Baseball” on Saturday.
I asked Williams point blank if the White Sox were still in the running for free agent outfielder Johnny Damon. The cagey White Sox executive refused to address Damon by name, but did say that anything that would make the 2010 White Sox a better team would be something he would be interested in pursuing.
It appears the White Sox may be the trailing team among the three main players for Damon’s services. The teams, in order of what’s being perceived as possibilities, are the Detroit Tigers, Atlanta Braves and the Chicago White Sox. Detroit has been kicking the tires on a possible Damon signing for over six weeks. It’s been reported that the Tigers have talked one- or -two-year contracts with the Tigers. Damon reportedly turned down a two-year, $14 million offer from the Yankees before the deal was taken off the table in January. Presently, the White Sox appear to be a long shot in the process, although it’s just like Williams, assistant GM Rick Hahn and owner Jerry Reinsdorf to be laying back in the weeds ready to pounce on a gutsy move like signing Damon.
The 37-year-old outfielder is still capable of 25 home runs, 80 RBI and 15 to 20 stolen bases. Due to the fact that Damon can still play the outfield, he would fit into manager Ozzie Guillen’s DH spot quite well. White Sox owner Reinsdorf, a guest on Chuck Swirsky’s “Chicago Bulls Live” show on ESPN 1000 said Saturday, that the likelihood of Damon coming to the White Sox was remote.
Williams is still looking for another solid bullpen pitcher. Major League Baseball sources told me the White Sox have talked to the Toronto Blue Jays about the left-handed relief pitcher Scott Downs, who if acquired, would be an upgrade as the second left-hander in the Chicago Bullpen. The Sox have also asked about Padres closer Heath Bell. San Diego officials insist that Bell will not be traded at the beginning of the season, the likelihood is that by the time the trading deadline approaches july 31, that bell will be dealt. The same scenario exists for Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
Williams also said on Saturday that his biggest concern for the 2010 White sox team is starting pitching, and the health of right fielder Carlos Quentin. Quentin, who stated at SoxFest a few weeks ago that he’s in great health, missed a lot of the 2009 season, battling plantar fasciitis. Quentin played in just 99 games in 09, still able to amass 21 homers, and 56 RBI in 356 AB. The ever-injury prone outfielder had a breakout year in 2008, hitting 36 home runs, driving in 100 runs, before missing the last month of the season with a broken hand. Insiders tell me the White Sox payroll is maxed out at $104 million for 2010. Reinsdorf is a stickler for economic responsibility; however he’s always been a progressive owner, giving his front office the go-ahead as recently as 2009 to spend 120 million in contracts in an 11-day period. On July, 31, Jake Peavy was acquired from the Padres in a trade. On Aug. 10, the White Sox claimed Alex Rios on waivers from Toronto, absorbing the $60 million left on his deal.
Never underestimate the White Sox search to improve on the field, and at the box office. Vice President of Marketing Brooks Boyer is always consulted by Reinsdorf and his baseball people before a trade is made. The reason for this is that the marketing department helps the team determine what kind of corporate and ticket sales can be expected for the upcoming season in support of those types of moves.