General manager Ken Williams being part of the first major deal of these current Winter Meetings was of no surprise. Not with Williams' ability to pull off past trades of significance. Not with the White Sox sitting as one of the two or three teams in all of baseball holding a surplus of Major League pitching.
A few of the pieces of Wednesday's trade involving the White Sox and Phillies might have been a little surprising to some. Ultimately, it was what Williams termed as "the best baseball deal" as he sat down to talk to the assembled media at 10:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday night.
By sending Freddy Garcia to the Phillies in exchange for right-handed pitcher Gavin Floyd and left-handed pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who officially is classified as the player to be named until Thursday afternoon, the White Sox removed an integral piece from one of their greatest moments in franchise history in order to ensure continued future success. Garcia, 30, was coming off of a 17-9 season for the White Sox, a 33-start, 216 1/3-inning effort which saw him finish with a flourish.
Garcia also often has been classified as a big-game pitcher, rising to the occasion whenever the situation dictated, including earning the victory during the deciding Game 4 of the 2005 World Series sweep over Houston. But it was only five or six hours earlier when Williams mentioned to a group of Chicago reporters how the free-spending market, and sometimes wild spending market, might have precluded Williams from signing one of his own potential free-agent pitchers, such as Garcia or even Mark Buehrle, to a long-term extension.
"What we would be talking about, honestly, are numbers and years I'm not comfortable with," said Williams at the time.
So, Garcia was moved before his walkaway season began for top young pitching talent -- an expressed desired return for any trade involving the White Sox. It's the same Garcia who Williams had out-bid teams such as the Yankees to obtain in 2004.
"I think the Phillies just acquired a 17-to-20-game winner," said Williams of Garcia, flanked behind the podium by Mike Arbuckle, the Phillies assistant general manager, scouting and player development. "He's one of the classiest, most determined guys on the mound, and a guy who everyone saw help pitch us to the World Series.
"He's a special, special guy. We went out on a limb to trade for him. He handled the news [Wednesday] with class, and we are going to miss Freddy Garcia.
"Where we are in our ballclub now is we had to create room for what we think is a very special pitcher in Brandon McCarthy in moving forward," Williams added. "If we are to have sustained success, we have to filter in young players, and we think we acquired two special ones."
Williams listed Floyd, 23, and McCarthy, 23, as the top two candidates to battle for the fifth starter's spot during Spring Training. But Williams had been talking about making a spot in the rotation for McCarthy since prior to last season's first pitch, so the lanky right-hander figures to have the decided advantage in this Spring Training competition.
Floyd has a 7-5 record with a 6.96 ERA in 24 Major League appearances. He also has a power arm, with a fastball sitting at 91 to 94 mph, along with a hard, biting curve and a fading change to battle left-handed hitters. Williams believes a few adjustments can be made on Floyd's delivery so the White Sox can get him in a better place with his command.
"He has control right now, but his command is a little different thing," said Williams of Floyd, who has a 38-40 Minor League record with a 3.77 ERA. "We had a chance to watch film of him this afternoon, and we think he can be a top-of-the-rotation type of guy."
"We think Gavin will be a late bloomer," Arbuckle added. "I've compared him to Chris Carpenter and the [Jon] Garland kid Kenny has, who was a little slow to come around, but when he did, he became a very good big-league pitcher. He has the quality of stuff and the athleticism to become a very good big-league pitcher."
Although Gonzalez was commonly known to be part of the trade, Williams slipped up slightly by mentioning the talented left-hander by name during the press conference. The 21-year-old started his professional career with the White Sox, as the 38th overall pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, but he was traded to the Phillies last November as part of the Jim Thome-Aaron Rowand deal.
Gonzalez finished 7-12 with a 4.66 ERA for Double-A Reading in 2006, fanning 166 over 154 2/3 innings. But Gonzalez felt better about his effort during the Arizona Fall League, when he posted a 2.81 ERA over 16 innings. While Floyd could figure in the bullpen as the one missing arm manager Ozzie Guillen was searching for Tuesday, Gonzalez will not be part of the Major League equation in 2007.
"Not this year," said Williams of Gonzalez's chances for an immediate impact with the White Sox. "He needs a little bit more time to grow, but we think he can be one of the top left-handers in the game. He's already one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in the game."
"I'm going back home," Gonzalez told MLB.com on Wednesday night from his home in Miami. "I'm sad because the Phillies helped me out, but the White Sox wanted me more. I tried for the Phillies, and now I have to try again for the White Sox."
While team after team came to Williams in search of pitching, the White Sox general manager tried to stand his ground until he arrived at a deal truly benefiting the team. Wednesday's maneuver fulfilled that goal in Williams' mind.
But the trade of Garcia does not necessarily mean Williams is done making moves, and it doesn't mean he's absolutely done moving starting pitchers. Williams showed with Wednesday's move that he's not above balancing current success with an eye toward a continued flow of excellence.
That excellence begins and ends with stability on the mound in the collective minds of the White Sox organization.
"The White Sox are still open for business for anyone who wants to talk to us about any of our players," Williams said. "Our mission statement is such that we are in a position that allows us to remain equally competitive with a chance to win a title during the 2007 season, but we've set ourselves up for sustained future success."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.