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Posted: Wednesday March 11, 2009 1:07PM; Updated: Wednesday March 11, 2009 7:29PM
Jon Heyman Jon Heyman >
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Appreciating ChiSox GM Williams, best winter contracts, more (cont.)

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His trades this winter already look better than when he made them, as offloading $44 million in contracts (both Javier Vazquez and Nick Swisher have $22 million remaining) seems prescient now in these brutal economic conditions. The Swisher trade saved them $4 million for 2009, which was exactly the signing bonus they gave hotshot 20-year-old Cuban import Dayan Viciedo, who's already ready to hit in the bigs.

Swisher hit .219 last year, but the stat people say he was especially unlucky. The Sox don't seem so sure, as one other Sox person said, "We would have traded Swisher for a bag of balls."

Williams would only say Swisher didn't fit into the plans. In any case, neither of those players would now bring the haul that Williams got. He loves powerful Tyler Flowers, who came in a four-prospect package for Vazquez, and young pitchers Marquez and Jhonny Nunez, who came for Swisher.

When Williams picked up Danks and Floyd, those deals were widely panned. When he got Ramirez, it received little notice. And he was the only one talking up Quentin when he got him from Arizona last winter.

Quentin was on his way to an MVP season when a self-inflicted injury killed his chances. (And probably hurt the White Sox's chances.) Though Williams isn't making any excuses. "The fact of the matter is, we went to Tampa [for the Division Series] and couldn't get it done," he said. "So, start over."

And start with less. Williams trimmed the payroll by about $15 million, and with three positional questions plus veterans Contreras and Colon likely manning the Nos. 4 and 5 spots in the rotation.

The future looks secure to Williams. But he surely isn't giving up on now, either. Rebuilding, remarks a colleague, "just isn't in Kenny's DNA."

While others see a rebuilding, last-place team, Williams sees another surprising Sox squad.

Best winter contracts: The Lucky 13

Williams was relieved that Type A free-agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera finally signed, meaning the White Sox get two draft choices. In this tight market Cabrera was squeezed to $4 million since teams don't want to surrender draft choices, and his new A's contract contains a stipulation disallowing Oakland from offering arbitration should be remain a Type A free agent.

All in all, with the economy tanking and a greater emphasis on draft choices, agents had to endure a negotiating minefield this winter, when the market took a turn south about midway into it. The ones who got their players signed soonest generally did the best.

Here's a look at the best contracts, and best agenting jobs of the winter ...

1. Edgar Renteria, Giants, $18.5 million, two years.
Agent: Barry Meister.
Even commissioner Bud Selig weighed in on this one, telling confidants that this contract shocked him. Renteria supposedly took a step back last year, but apparently the Giants don't think so.

2. A.J. Burnett, Yankees, $82.5 million, five years.
Agent: Darek Braunecker.
Burnett has lots of knocks, including nine stays on the disabled list, yet still hit the jackpot. A Marlins person called Yankees GM Brian Cashman to warn him about Burnett's eccentricities, basically telling Cashman that while Burnett may be the most talented pitcher in the game and is as tough a competitor as they come, he also has the ability to stub his toe and be out two months and could become "another Pavano" for them. Cashman listened, but still took the advice of his scouts and players who loved Burnett's ability. Braunecker said from the beginning that he would get five years, and he did just that.

3. Derek Lowe, Braves, $60 million, four years.
Agent: Scott Boras.
Lowe's durability and consistency paid off in a big way. Atlanta had lost out on Jake Peavy, and legend John Smoltz had just left, turning Lowe into a virtual necessity for them. A very solid pitcher at a very high price tag. One of the rare big deals that came after Jan. 1.

4. Carl Pavano, Indians, $1.5 million guaranteed, plus $5.3 million in incentives, one year.
Agent: "Miracle Worker" Tom O'Connell.
I told agent O'Connell at the beginning of spring if he got a major league deal for Pavano I'd refer to him as "Miracle Worker" Tom O'Connell. Pavano spent four years out of shape and injured, and making enemies in the Yankees clubhouse. Joe Torre's book The Yankee Years confirmed just how unpopular Pavano was. The Indians people are as smart as they come, so I'm not writing this off as a loss yet. But I can say this without reservation: He didn't deserve this deal.

5. Willy Taveras, Reds, $6.7 million, two years.
Agents: Scott Shapiro and Barry Praver.
Once in a while a released player ends up doing better with his new team, and that's what happened with Taveras. The Reds needed a leadoff man, and he capitalized.

6. Kyle Farnsworth, Royals, $9.5 million, two years.
Agent: Meister.
His rep fell precipitously during his time in New York, where Torre lost faith in him, then Joe Girardi did, too. Yet, his salary held up OK.

7. Mark Teixeira, Yankees, $180 million, eight years.
Agent: Boras.
Consistent all-around performer hit the jackpot after five teams bid at least $160 million despite only one All-Star appearance in six years. The Yankees are thrilled to have beaten the rival Red Sox in the bidding war as they love Tex already.

8. CC Sabathia, Yankees, $161 million, seven years.
Agents: Greg Genske and Scott Parker.
Sabathia told Brewers teammates that he wanted to play in his home state of California and didn't especially relish the idea of going to New York. Though, now that he's in the Yankee clubhouse he seems to be adapting quite nicely. The Brewers' bid was for about $100 million over five years, and he's believed to have had two other offers -- though Sabathia himself recently said that the interest from the California teams "wasn't what you'd think." The three-year opt out is a nice bonus.

9. Raul Ibanez, Phillies, $31.5 million, three years.
Agents: The Levinsons.
"He's not nearly the player that Bobby Abreu is, and if anyone thinks Abreu's not a great outfielder, they're going to find out that Ibanez isn't nearly as good as Abreu," one competing GM said. For whatever reason, Ibanez was a chic pick this year. He's a late bloomer with a great clubhouse rep. New Philly GM Ruben Amaro did a very nice job locking up his own stars this winter, but this contract looks a tad steep after the market tanked.

10. Willie Bloomquist, Royals, $3 million, two years.
Agent: Boras.
Not bad to get a multiyear deal for a utility player in this environment.

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