Sunday, December 24, 2006

Part 2 of Grandmaster Kenny Williams' Attack

In chess, a player must think ahead; he must plan his attack many moves ahead of his current move. It is said that a great chess player can see 20 (!) moves ahead of where he wants to end up in order to account for all scenarios.

When accumulating talent in today's MLB, a GM has to have the foresight of a great chess player. With minor league options, arbitration, and the Rule 5 draft all part of the landscape of MLB economics and scouting , he has to have a plan of attack talent-wise and salary-wise. He has to think not only for today but four years down the road. And let's not forget there's talent evaluation and speculation to take into consideration as well. A GM must have more than just one eye surveying the entire playing board of running a team; that's why he's paid the big bucks.

A few weeks ago when White Sox GM traded away pitcher Freddy Garcia to the Philadelphia Phillies for Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez, most people nodded in agreement knowing a spot must be opened for stud-in-waiting Brandon McCarthy. KW's underlying strategy: do not give up MLB-level pitching without getting young pitching prospects in return.

Today, KW made another deal with that same strategy in mind; he traded the aforementioned B-Mac to the Texas Rangers for the very highly touted John Danks and less regarded Nick Masset. Unlike the Garcia deal this move has left more than a few casual fans scratching their heads and for good reason. As it stands, without B-Mac or another move the White Sox are looking at an inexperienced pitcher (knuckler Charlie Haeger, Floyd, Danks) starting every 5th day in 2007, and the even the most casual fan will remember the debacle of 2002-2003 when the Sox had the unfathomable string of games where no starting pitcher in the 5th slot recorded a win for the White Sox.

But there's a deeper method to KW's madness.

From to 2003 thru 2005, KW somewhat ravaged the minor league system to bring in players who could immediately contribute. He traded away the future for the present, and a 2005 World Series championship says he was justified in doing so. Even though the White Sox didn't repeat, last year's moves were also shrewd and well thought out adding Thome, Vazquez, Thornton and MacDougal. But with those moves the minor league system was spread thin, and in a pinch, the Sox were left without much talent to develop looking toward the closing years of the decade. So beyond opening a spot in the rotation, this off-season KW has restocked the higher-level minor league pitching talent, and no longer can the Sox' system be looked upon as being devoid of true prospects -- both Danks and Floyd were high first round draft picks.

That Danks is a lefty (and he's younger than B-Mac) also gives the White Sox some insurance should Mark Beuhrle decide to move on after this season. Remember the AL Central has the likes of left-handed hitting Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Sean Casey, Joe Mauer, MVP Justin Morneau and even Sox killer Mark Teahan to deal with, and the odds of the lefty Beuhrle resigning with the Southsiders after 2007 are 50/50 at best.

As with the Garcia deal, the surprise moving of B-Mac -- once thought of as the only untradeable commodity on the Sox 40-man roster -- seems like a prelude to something bigger, some splashy move KW -- the new Jerry Krause? -- has cultivated quietly behind the scenes. Could some of the recently acquired prospects be used to pry a Rocco Baldelli or Carl Crawford from the Orlando Bay Devil Rays or maybe even an Ichiro Suzuki from the Mariners?

To many observers and fans the LF/ CF situation is still untenable. Even though he resigned with the team, Pods has worn out his welcome with the fans, game winning homerun in the World Series be damned. And as last season showed, Brian Anderson -- he of the Venezuelan stomach virus -- learning on the job doesn't give the Sox the best chance at winning right now. (Impatience with prospects like BA is now the norm, especially when playing in the shadow of World Series trophy.) An upgrade at one of the two positions is expected in light of the glaringly bad 2006 seasons those two had, and now KW has the resources to make such an upgrade.

Or could there be an even bigger fish to catch, say one season of the Rocket Roger Clemens maybe?

So while other teams are dubiously and maybe even irresponsibly spending money this off-season (the Cubs, Red Sox, and even Kansas City -- Gil Meche for chrissake?), quietly KW first strengthened his bullpen and now his minor league system in a fiscally responsible manner. Although many look at his recent moves as mostly lateral, a closer look reveals KW has his eyes on not only the here and now but on the future as well. In three years when the Cubs are crying about the albatross of Alfonso Soriano's contract, KW will still have room to maneuver, be it in free agency or through the farm system and trades. Just like a chess grandmaster, KW's attack is not limited to one approach; he sees the whole board and can go in a different direction if need be. A lot of praise was heaped upon John Paxson and the Bulls' brain trust for their stellar personnel moves inciting some people to hail, "In Pax we trust!" Maybe it's time KW receives a little of the same recognition.

When he finally picks up that outfielder maybe then he can even say, "Checkmate!"

Initial reactions to the B-Mac trade from other baseball sites-------------------
This being Christmas weekend and the timing at which the B-Mac trade went down, there's not much in depth commentary yet posted. Fornelli's Foul Balls along with Black Sox Blog are all somewhat pissed and have reserved judgment, not unlike The Bard's Room, until they can take a closer look at deal. I expect Criminal Appeal over at Ron Karkovice Fan Club to chime in soon too and a Cheat rant can't be too far behind. But mostly the White Sox nation has expressed shock at the trade of the untradeable one; and, as I said, maybe KW should assume the old Jerry Krause moniker of "The Sleuth."


Anonymous Jim H said...

Good reasoned analysis of the move by KW. My first reaction to the move was that I was ticked off because i thought 'trade with Texas' headline meant "michael Young on the Sox'. I think you're on to something in Kenny's reasoning.

1:05 PM, December 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's a better bet that they trade Beuhrle than sign him to a long term deal. Reinsdorf isn't going to give 5yrs/$75mil that Barry Zito is likely to get.

11:20 AM, December 26, 2006  
Blogger jamesmnordbergjr said...

If the White Sox are out of the race by the trade deadline then you better believe Beuhrle is one of the first guys offered in a trade.

But as it stands, unless KW offers him to St. Louis, I can't see many teams trading for MB for one season.

11:42 AM, December 26, 2006  
Blogger Criminal Appeal said...

I'm a day late to the discussion because I was in Florida trying to explain to my grandmother what a DVD player is (seriously -- and this is a pretty with it 80-year-old; she even as e-mail). Anyway, I like the deal. I think Danks for McCarthy is a wash today, and Danks is younger. I think the team is better built for sustained success today than ever. I still think a package of young pitchers for an outfielder is a possibility, though.

1:42 PM, December 26, 2006  
Blogger Soxually Repressed said...

Who is the Sox fifth starter? A week ago it was McCarthy, no doubt. Trading away a guy everybody says can start for a guy everybody says can maybe start plus a guy nobody even mentions after the first paragraph? Sure he's younger, but it isn't like McCarthy was going on fifty (which can't neccessarily be said about certain other rotation folk). Yes, he is lefty. Can he get out major league batters enough to be in the rotation? Yes, than fine. No, than why trade without that answer? Tell me it's the knuckleballer, I don't care. Just don't sign back-ups act like all the teams questions are answered, and still be short at least one major league outfielder, and have clue whho the back end of the rotation might be. If I wanted to worry about those things, I would be a Cubs fan.

11:49 PM, December 27, 2006  

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