White Sox's Williams made another bold move in acquiring Alex Rios
Competing GM: "It's a good gamble at $30 to $35 million. But $60 million?"
Williams has always been a risk-taker, and quite often his risks pay off big time
Harang and Arroyo both cleared waivers and more notes around the majors
Right after the Blue Jays' talented yet underperforming outfielder Alex Rios was claimed on waivers by the White Sox, Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi gave it a couple shots for a home run. Ricciardi first requested a player off the White Sox's big-league roster, then reduced that request by sending the South Siders a list of prospects he'd consider taking for Rios. Though in the end, Ricciardi couldn't have been shocked when White Sox GM Ken Williams, as experienced a trader as there is, wasn't going for it. Williams instead countered the player request by first suggesting Toronto pay part of Rios' contract, and after Toronto declined to do so, then politely telling Ricciardi something along the lines of, "We'd be thrilled to receive the player, but that's about it.''
In the end the embattled Ricciardi -- who looks suspiciously like a lame duck now -- didn't press his luck, and accepted Williams' best offer. Which was for nothing. Nothing but the $20,000 waiver fee.
Though he didn't squeeze a player or prospect out of the exchange, Ricciardi's competitors universally understand his end of the deal (Rios and the $60 million his contract for the 20 grand waiver fee), even if it's a trade that's being strongly panned back in Toronto. Back there, residents recall that not so long ago Rios was at least discussed in trade talks for star San Francisco pitchers Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum (before Giants GM Brian Sabean came to his senses and said no, anyway).
One competing exec called the non-contending Jays' decision to unload Rios and the $60 mil remaining a "no-brainer." (Up in Toronto, they'd find a different meaning for the term "no-brainer.'')
Although Williams drove the hard bargain, by far the bigger controversy around baseball is whether the consummate dealmaker Williams did right by adding a two-time All Star but current underachiever (.264 batting average, 14 home runs, 62 RBIs) for four and a half more years.
"It's a good gamble at $30 to $35 million. But $60 million? That's a lot of money,'' said one competing GM, a Williams admirer.
The White Sox were the only ones to inquire about injured star pitcher Jake Peavy at the deadline, and they are believed to be the only team to have claimed Rios. They spent $60 million twice when no one else appeared even to be thinking about it once.
Unquestionably, they are original thinkers. They have a history of superb moves. But this time many competitors are wondering about the wisdom of their bookend gambles.
"We're used to not being the most popular kid at the prom,'' Williams told SI.com by phone. "We heard the same thing about Jermaine Dye. We heard the same thing about Carlos Quentin. We (allegedly) rushed (Gordon) Beckham. And (A.J.) Pierzynski wasn't going to fit in. We've heard it. We get it. We get it. Leave us alone. Let us do our thing.''
The White Sox's thing is to surprise everyone around them with moves no one else would dare do. But the results have been consistently sparkling. Williams has made the most trades over the past decade (a few more than second place Billy Beane), and he's made many of the best trades. Even those who don't get the Peavy pickup at all conclude by throwing up their hands and saying, "Kenny's great.'' In the end, it's tough to argue with this sort of success.
While others are also questioning the wisdom of adding that much money for Rios, who is having his worst year, White Sox people are celebrating the acquisition of a player they see as multitalented and believe is in the midst of an aberrational season. The White Sox have payroll flexibility, thanks to Beckham and several more cost-efficient kids coming like Tyler Flowers, Dayan Viciedo, Daniel Hudson and Jordan Danks. That group gives Williams the ability to trade back payroll flexibility for talent, the most cherished commodity. They also have veterans Jim Thome, Dye, Jose Contreras and Octavio Dotel potentially coming off the books after the year for a possible $40 million savings.
"To us, it's obvious,'' Williams said of the Rios move. "He's a plus player on all counts across the board. We have been in a transition from a team that relied solely on the home run and view future years like the '80s, where you have to have speed, you have to have defense and you have to have athleticism. And if you play in U.S. Cellular Field, you have to have players in the middle of the order who can pop the ball out occasionally.''
The Peavy deal especially shocked competing execs, and was knocked by a few, who were stunned that any team would take Peavy while he was still nursing an ankle injury (he's expected back by the end of the month) for four decent pitching prospects, not to mention move him out of pitcher-friendly PETCO Park and the National League to pitcher-unfriendly U.S. Cellular and the American League. Asked if he had any concerns about Peavy's forthcoming transitions, Williams responded, "None whatsoever. Jake Peavy is one of the best pitchers in baseball.''
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