DURING A winter in
which Johan Santana, Miguel Cabrera, Erik Bedard, Miguel Tejada and Dan Haren
were traded, the White Sox' acquisition of Arizona outfielder Carlos Quentin
barely registered as a blip. Quentin, after all, had hit only .214 in 2007 for
the Diamondbacks and yielded only a Class A first baseman (Chris Carter) in
return. The swap was widely viewed as extraneous tinkering by trade-loving
White Sox general manager Ken Williams, or even worse, a Williams mistake.
On the advice of
Sox scouts Gary Pellant and Joe Butler, Williams looked past Quentin's weak
stats last season. "He basically hit with one hand," Williams says,
citing tears in Quentin's left labrum and rotator cuff that dogged him
throughout the year.
a roster that unexpectedly won the 2005 World Series and having had only one
losing season in his seven at the Chicago helm, Williams—not one to worship at
the altar of statistics in a stats-driven industry—has taken his shots. In
April, Forbes misguidedly named him baseball's third-worst G.M., and he is
unflatteringly portrayed in the popular 2004 book Moneyball. For now, though,
Williams holds the title of the exec who pulled off the Heist of the
Quentin has been the biggest reason for another Williams-crafted South Side
success story. After a poor spring in which he was in jeopardy of being sent to
the minors until speedster Jerry Owens went down with a groin injury, Quentin
finished last week second in the American League in home runs (14), RBIs (48)
and slugging percentage (.571) and sixth in on-base percentage (.396). Quentin,
Williams explains, wasn't merely a target of the White Sox last winter but an
obsession going back to last year's trade deadline, when the club
unsuccessfully tried to deal for him.
all-around player. And he's intelligent, intense and hard-working," says
Williams, 44, himself a former corner outfielder and, like Quentin, a Stanford
Quentin deal and his more headline-grabbing off-season acquisitions of
outfielder Nick Swisher and shortstop Orlando Cabrera, Williams has acquired
152 players in 55 big league trades in the last seven years. The A's Billy
Beane—the only other current G.M. to have played in the big leagues ( Beane's
career average was .219, one point higher than Williams's)—calls Williams his
favorite trading partner.
what he wants," Chicago assistant G.M. Rick Hahn says of his boss, "and
he knows what he's willing to give up."
people understand when they deal with the White Sox, we're not trying to win
the deal," Williams says. "The idea that one team got the best of a
deal—that drives me nuts."
Cabrera, who have both energized the clubhouse, were acquired for commodities
that other general managers rarely trade these days. Swisher was obtained from
the A's for three top prospects, including hard-throwing pitchers Gio Gonzalez
and Fautino De Los Santos (some White Sox people cringed at losing the
righthanded De Los Santos in particular), and Cabrera for serviceable,
middle-of-the-rotation starter Jon Garland. Williams dealt Garland because he
believed young starters John Danks, 23, and Gavin Floyd, 25, were ready to
contribute. They have proved him right: Danks, who was part of a five-player
deal in Dec. '06 that sent Brandon McCarthy to the Rangers, had a 2.86 ERA in
his first 11 starts, and Floyd, who was obtained that same month in a trade
that sent Freddy Garcia to the Phillies, had held opponents to a .193 batting
average in 64 1/3 innings. "If I recall, I was buried at the time [for the
Danks and Floyd trades]," Williams says.