CHICAGO -- Chicago White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams talked at length about the team’s disappointing season Tuesday, while also remaining optimistic about the near future.
Williams stepped upstairs this past offseason, handing the general manager job to Rick Hahn. While sitting in that GM chair for 12 seasons, the White Sox were at or above .500 nine times, winning the World Series in 2005.
This season has been unlike any other, though, as the White Sox headed into play Tuesday with a 45-72 record, having already shed talent over the past month to add prospects and get salary relief.
“Obviously we had greater expectations,” said Williams, who ultimately put together most of the 2013 roster when he was the GM. “We thought that first and foremost we’d catch the ball better. We thought we would execute offensively better and be a little bit more diverse with the offense and it just hasn’t manifested itself in that way.
“But where there is bad news along those lines, there’s good news in terms of being able to bounce back, because what you look for, and I think it’s similar to 2007 with us.”
In 2007, the White Sox were a disappointing 72-90, finishing 24 games out of first place due to a number of injuries and a shaky bullpen. The following year, though, the White Sox won the division, with a turnaround that is serving as the blueprint for the 2014 season.
“What you look for is: Does a club have the necessary pitching to compete?” Williams said. “I think we absolutely have that moving forward. And if anything, I think we’re going to be better over the next couple of years because some more guys will have some maturity and we’ve got some guys coming. So, that’s something that you can hang your hat on and look forward to a positive future.”
Known for his aggressiveness when he was the general manager, Williams said the White Sox will continue to operate the same way with Hahn at the helm.
In recent weeks, the White Sox shed in the neighborhood of $40 million, mostly due to deals involving Jake Peavy and Alex Rios. But there is no certainty the front office will put all that money into the free agent market.
Williams acknowledged that with a high pick in next year’s first-year player draft, the White Sox will already be spending more in that department, and that the club will be aggressive toward signing players in Latin America.
But will the White Sox be willing to invest in expensive, long-term deals this offseason?
“We still have some very good pieces, as evident by the amount of interest in all of our guys at the trading deadline,” Williams said. “For whatever reason, it didn’t come together or hasn’t come together up to this point. But we’re not starting from scratch. We’ve got pitchers that you can send out there on a day-to-day basis and can keep you in ballgames.
“Then, you need to figure out a way to supplement that with your offense. While it’s going to be fun to have a high draft pick for the first time since I’ve been around here, I don’t want too many of them. That means you’re not going too well. That’s not who we are. We’re going to go into the offseason and we’re going to try to be winning, albeit with a younger core. If there’s somebody out there that fits that bill, that fits in with a younger core for an extended period of time, why not?”
One player who could clearly fit that bill is recent Cuban defector Jose Dariel Abreu, who has dominated in Cuba as well as on the international level, going 9-for-25 with three home runs and nine RBIs in this spring’s World Baseball Classic.
Yet Williams seemed to either not be sold on Abreu, or he was concerned about revealing the team’s interest in the power hitter.
“I saw three tapes (on Abreu) and I need to see another one,” Williams said.
Asked if he needed another tape to confirm Abreu’s talent, or to be convinced he’s worth investing in, Williams simply said, “I need more video.”
With or without Abreu, the White Sox are working on a plan to get better and perhaps it will be easier for Williams to be in the company of chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
“I try not to be around Jerry a whole lot this year,” Williams said. “How has Jerry dealt with it? He’s not a happy man. He’s as competitive as they come. We all are, and there are times where neither one of us can stand to be around each other and there are times where we’ll go sit where near we live and smoke a couple of cigars like we did two weeks ago until 1:30 in the morning. They closed down the park on us we were out there so long, lamenting what has transpired.
“All in all if you had to go through something like this, I would rather go through it with this type of optimism that it could turn around quickly.”