Down for the count
White Sox fire sale imminent as ex-champs founder
Posted: Monday June 25, 2007 11:54AM; Updated: Monday June 25, 2007 4:32PM
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The White Sox are heading south, and we don't mean just 35th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway, on the South Side of Chicago. But much farther south, so far down in the standings that the team-wide selloff appears at hand. One of their own officials recently told me, "It looks like we've quit.'' And the Sox's general manager Ken Williams told the world, "Something's got to happen. I'm sick of watching this.''
It's tough to blame him, and it's hard to fathom that the White Sox, losers of 22 of 27, have fallen into oblivion this quickly. Only two years ago the White Sox were World Series champions and being celebrated as a group of fun misfits, a la the Oakland Raiders, the very football team Williams grew up watching. Well, today they look like the recent vintage Raiders, too, in that they are appearing to be old, awful and ailing.
Unfortunately for them, the impending player selloff that's been much anticipated may ultimately turn out to yield far less than what they hoped for. That is because their coveted pieces comprise the very starting rotation that's kept them afloat while injuries, diminishing performance, contractual situations and high price tags limit the value of their limp lineup and wild bullpen. Veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle surely will be the selloff centerpiece, but thanks to his status as a rental pitcher and seeker of a five-year deal, even White Sox people can't expect big prospects such as the Mets' Mike Pelfrey or Phil Humber in return.
Though, that doesn't mean the Sox won't try. Sources indicate the three names the Sox have sought for Buehrle from the Yankees are Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain, by coincidence exactly the three the Yankees won't surrender. The first contender to blink and offer a bona fide Grade A prospect likely will be the one to land Buehrle. But that's assuming that one does.
Williams is an accomplished dealer, but teams are reluctant to part with top prospects these days, even the Yankees. Williams' biggest problem is that half his roster is grossly underperforming.
Right fielder Jermaine Dye has bombed in his walk year and his value is further compromised by a quad injury that may sideline him. Second baseman Tadahito Iguchi just isn't the sort of impact player contending teams seek and third baseman Joe Crede's back surgery eliminates his chances to be traded in a case of dreadful timing; the Sox are seen as having almost no hope to lock him up before he can become a free agent following the 2008 season.
If anyone wants the hard-throwing relievers who front closer Bobby Jenks, more power to them. Besides Jenks, whom the Sox presumably would like to keep, the only reliever with an ERA below 5.00 is Boone Logan at 4.15 That leaves the members of the rotation as the desirable targets. Jose Contreras (5-8, 4.63) was named in this space last Thursday as a pitcher being mentioned in trades, but one NL executive noted that "his stuff is down,'' and one AL exec speculated that he isn't 100 percent.
If the sale expands, their best trading chips would be Javier Vazquez, who signed a three-year extension in spring, and is pitching better than his 3-5 record and 4.15 ERA would indicate, plus Jon Garland, who is also sabotaged by playing for a surprisingly terrible team and is 4-5 with a 3.51 ERA. But if they trade Vazquez and Garland, they'll have to ask themselves this question: What have they got left?
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