Actually, the Brewers also were in on the festivities, with slugger Carlos Lee moving to Milwaukee in exchange for outfielder Scott Podsednik and reliever Luis Vizcaino during the 11th hour of Major League Baseball's annual event. With the official word coming well after the conclusion of the Rule 5 Draft, it was more like the 11th hour and 59th minute.
Supporters of the White Sox identify Podsednik as the offensive catalyst throughout much of the 2005 season for the franchise's first World Series champion in almost nine decades. But people might forget how general manager Ken Williams also used the money saved in this deal to help sign free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski and veteran hurler Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez. The title wouldn't have made its way to Chicago without ample assistance from both of these players.
Four years later, the White Sox found themselves back out West for the 2008 Winter Meetings and, once again, Williams has taken on the task of reshaping the team's overall look. In this instance, White Sox brass departed Thursday morning without making any noise, even falling short of finding themselves at the center of a few fast-moving rumors.
Yet, Williams' blueprint for success going into the 2009 season holds a striking resemblance to the one he employed for 2005. It's just that the key trades of Nick Swisher and Javier Vazquez to free up money for a special player such as 19-year-old Cuban defector Dayan Viciedo, whose official signing could be announced as soon as Friday, were executed before the brain trust arrived in the city that's open 24/7.
"Again, I think it's important for me to articulate in a much better way that when we made the deal for Nick Swisher, for instance, it was along the lines for what we did with a Carlos Lee," said Williams, before returning home around lunchtime on Thursday. "On paper, I understand what you see as the deal, but maybe in our minds, we are getting the deal and taking that savings and turning that into something of value as well.
"When we moved Swisher [to New York], it was with the idea that, yes, we love [Jeff] Marquez and love Jhonny Nunez. Wilson Betemit will be a nice fit for us. At the same time, we take that money and put it into [Dayan] Viciedo.
"So, it's not three players for Swish but four players for Swish," Williams said. "Yes, that has been part of our mode of operation and it will continue to be."
A Sunday night report from the Dayton Daily News portraying a Jermaine Dye-for-Homer Bailey swap with Cincinnati as a done deal brought the only real excitement of the week for the South Siders. That rumor quickly was refuted by both teams, with the Reds reportedly unwilling to take on all of Dye's $11.5 million contract for 2009 and the White Sox reportedly wanting greater compensation than the 22-year-old right-hander.
If Dye is moved, and not necessarily to the Reds, Williams once again will have extra salary room to use in improving the team.
The New York Daily news reported Thursday that the White Sox would have the inside track for free agent Bobby Abreu under this particular scenario. The powerful left-handed-hitting outfielder, who is close friends with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and had a salary slot of $16 million in 2008 with the Yankees, has driven in 100 runs during seven of his last eight seasons, scored at least 100 runs in eight of his last 10 and swiped at least 20 bases in 10 straight seasons. Abreu also has a career .405 on-base percentage. But with Abreu turning 35 on March 11 his addition would not exactly fit with the White Sox plans of going younger.
That money could be put toward a veteran starter, rounding out the rotation behind Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd and John Danks. It's a creative sort of move the White Sox need to follow, as Williams has indicated his team currently is "bumping up against" its payroll limit.
Williams' hope is that this present maneuvering, focused on the infusion of youth and speed, produces the same fruits as his 2004 work going into 2005. It just will have to happen without the Winter Meetings' exclamation point.
"I don't know what's going to happen over the next eight weeks," said Williams, referring to possible Hot Stove moves on the horizon.
Deals done: None.
Rule 5 activity: None.
Goals accomplished: The White Sox didn't make a move and really weren't even rumored to be in the mix for many -- aside from the occasional Dye-to-Cincinnati reports. There wasn't even much need for talks or meetings on the White Sox part, as they had done their leg work coming in and are waiting for the free-agent market to settle before moving forward.
Unfinished business: It appears as if Dye will continue to be the subject of trade talks, possibly bringing back a young pitcher to compete for a spot in the back end of the White Sox rotation if a deal happens. Williams knows pitching is the key to a title run, and even with his expressed support for Marquez, Aaron Poreda and Clayton Richard, look for the White Sox general manager to add an accomplished veteran into the mix to compete with these youngsters at the fourth and fifth starter slots. He also might try to upgrade at backup catcher.
GM's bottom line: "You know, I never feel we are the No. 1 team. I felt for eight years we could compete for a championship and I have articulated that to you. I was talking to someone about this last year as I was looking over some of the Twins' [division championship] banners in Minneapolis. I thought to myself, 'We have spent an awful lot of time in first place each year, with the exception of '07, to only have a couple of championships.' In some respect, that gives you a certain sense of satisfaction, but in my world, it disturbs you a little bit." -- Williams, on whether he sees his team poised to defend its 2008 American League Central title in its present state