Reports: White Sox looking at Vazquez

Sox introduce Mackowiak, eye Vazquez

Apparently, the best way to figure out what's truly going on with the White Sox is to not only listen closely when general manager Ken Williams talks, but read between the lines after he's finished.

Williams spoke to a handful of Chicago media members via a conference call Tuesday afternoon, introducing super-sub Rob Mackowiak to the Windy City. Actually, the Oak Lawn native and jack of all trades already has some familiarity to White Sox fans through his success found against the Cubs with Pittsburgh.

During Williams' portion of the call, the man in charge spoke of Mackowiak developing into a sort of semi-regular and how he also serves as a very solid insurance policy for third baseman Joe Crede and the two herniated discs in his back. Williams understands the need to fix a problem if it suddenly arises during the course of the regular season, but he was not moving into 2006 unprepared when he already knew an issue with Crede could exist.

That same approach soon could be used by Williams where his team's starting rotation is concerned. The New York Daily News reported Tuesday that the White Sox might be on the verge of getting Javier Vazquez, while Arizona general manager Josh Byrnes was quoted in The New York Post that his team was "nearing conclusion" in regard to a deal for Vazquez.

Much like Mackowiak, Vazquez is a player who has interested Williams far more than simply in the recent past. With Vazquez set to earn $11.5 million in 2006 and $12.5 million in 2007, the White Sox probably would want the Diamondbacks to pick up some of the money owed -- although they have not been willing to do so to date.

But with Jon Garland and Jose Contreras both having the potential to walk as free agents after the 2006 campaign, Williams refuses to be forced into making a reactionary move among an inflated pitching market at that time -- not when it's a problem he can fix in the interim, focusing on the defending World Series champion's most important commodity.

"We are looking to get better, and we don't want to put ourselves in a position where our first priority is compromised, and that's pitching," Williams said. "We are not trying to break up anything. We are looking to add to the equation, fortify it, and not anything else.

"I see no reason to change the approach we have had from Day 1. It's the only way I know how to do business, by continuing to be as aggressive as possible. We are aggressive with a little more caution this year, not because we won last year, but we are cognizant of the make-up for the club.

"It wasn't just Jim Thome and his talent, as an example, but also the character of the man," Williams added. "You have to fit with the program."

Mackowiak, acquired for a talented left-handed reliever in Damaso Marte who no longer fit with the program, is such a perfect match with the White Sox that Williams called him the prototype for the grinder's style of baseball he espouses. The left-handed-hitting Mackowiak plays third base, second, first and all three outfield positions, providing insurance at more spots than simply behind Crede.

Williams once again stressed that while manager Ozzie Guillen makes the final call on all lineup decisions, the organization has no concerns with the ability of Brian Anderson, Jerry Owens or Chris Young to fill the bill in center field. For a team to move forward, even a championship team, it has to replenish from within as well as through trades and free agency.

As for Mackowiak, he talked about the excitement of coming back home to play and the challenge of learning a new league. Mackowiak also reiterated the mixed feelings he has in leaving Pittsburgh, the only professional organization he has ever known, the same feelings he expressed last Thursday when the trade was first announced. But being part of meaningful competition, in front of packed and raucous crowds, is what playing the game is all about, according to Mackowiak.

The only meaningful series he previously played in was at the end of the 2003 season, when the Cubs clinched the National League Central at Wrigley Field during the final weekend against the Pirates. Mackowiak's family and friends might be even happier than he is about his relocation, as he received 88 phone calls on the day of the trade last week. Mackowiak had the chance to count them at the Tampa airport, as he was waiting for his flight to Chicago to be officially cancelled last Thursday because of the heavy snowfall.

"You just don't have time to return every call, but it's good to have that kind of support," said Mackowiak, who grew up following Guillen, Carlton Fisk and bench coach Harold Baines as a young White Sox fan. "It's great to come home, really a dream, and to be with a winning team is a benefit."

"We are not trying to break up anything. We are looking to add to the equation, fortify it, and not anything else."
-- White Sox GM Ken Williams

Williams intends to keep the White Sox on top by staying two or three steps ahead of the game. Williams made it clear that Garland and Contreras "will be given the opportunity to stay beyond the 2006 season," with Garland, who is eligible for arbitration, already reportedly having turned down a three-year deal. One of the two could be included in a possible deal for Vazquez, who finished 11-15 with a 4.42 ERA last season, but has worked at least 198 innings in six straight seasons.

The White Sox actually would control Vazquez for three years. Since he demanded a trade, he gave up the right to be a free agent after his contract expires, so they would be able to offer him arbitration for the third year.

Garland figures to earn in the $6 million range through arbitration, but could be replaced by Brandon McCarthy in the rotation if he was shipped to another team. Of course, the White Sox would prefer to move Orlando 'El Duque' Hernandez and his $4.5 million salary, along with a prospect, setting up one of the best rotations in baseball with Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Vazquez, Garland and Contreras.

The goal for Williams is to make his team's top commodity even better. In the same sense, Williams will not be waiting too long for a response from Garland and Contreras in regard to their future on the South Side. Just read between the lines with Williams' ensuing comment.

"They will know when it's time to get serious," said Williams, when asked about the timetable his pitchers were working with in regard to deciding on the team's contract offers.

Williams paused, before adding directly, "By the way, it's probably time for them to get serious."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.