As the 500 or so kids gawked in amazement at the two major leaguers distributing hot dogs and snacks Wednesday morning at U.S. Cellular Field, Kenny Williams must’ve been sitting in his office hoping that somehow he’d be the one getting all the goodies. Nary a day had gone by after Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome declared his intentions to play for a Major League Baseball club when he learned his money wasn’t any good.
Now, despite bidding more for Kosuke Fukudome than other any team in the running, the Japanese free agent outfielder chose the four-year deal of the cross-town rival Cubs.
According to a source with the Sox, they were told by Fukudome’s agent, Joe Urbon, that despite the higher bid by the Sox, the reasoning behind the decision was that Fukudome wanted to be an organization’s first Japanese player, as well as his desire to play his natural position of right field.
What gives? Not too long ago, the White Sox had been a frugal team. Their $75 million budget in 2005 was enough for a World Series run, but when they raised the stakes, pushing the $100 million mark the following two seasons, you’d figured they contend. Well 2007 came and went and the Sox struggled to finish second-to-last above the Royals, while the division crown was tossed back and forth among the other three teams.
Sure enough, the writing was on the wall, and Williams promised he wouldn’t let this offseason turn into sand between his hands as he tries to improve his team; it’s sad to say White Sox faithful, but that taste we all have in our mouths after watching the flurries of signings and trades in the wake of the winter meetings is a bit dry and grainy.
For starters, its no secret Williams wanted to add a big fish for the White Sox outfield in 2008 and at one point or another, these names were tossed around as potential candidates: Torii Hunter, Andruw Jones, Aaron Rowand, Kosuke Fukudome, among others.
* Jones signed a whopping 2-year, $36 million deal with the Dodgers (I doubt, however, that Williams seriously pursued Jones).
* Despite throwing plenty signals Williams’ way to let him know he wanted to return to the South Side, Aaron Rowand, (aka “The Legend” as he’s known in the ChiSox blogosphere) signed a whopping 5-year, $60 million deal with the Giants.
* And of course, Fuku signed a (wait for it…) whopping 4-year, $48 million deal with the cross-town rival Cubs.
The common thread that sews these deals together is money. But what’s interesting is that after being outbid by the Angels in the Hunter deal, Williams was underbid by the Cubbies. And yet, once Fuku was out of reach, Rowand had had enough waiting and signed with the Giants for far more money he would’ve gotten from the Sox (sure, some will say the Giants overpaid, but hey, lets stay in context).
So what gives? For one, I have to say that Williams knack for refusing to include an extra fourth or fifth year in his deals finally exposed him to the ugly nature of the market, something he won’t be able to fight any more. It’s obviously a little too late now, but that may not necessarily a bad thing.
Bugs and Cranks puts it nicely:
The thing is, the Sox could field a pretty decent lineup today with their current roster. Here is just one possibility.
I’m counting four guys (Thome, Konerko, Fields and Dye) who are a virtual lock to hit 30 or more homers with a fifth (Crede) that hit 30 in 2006.
If Crede is dealt, which is highly probable, I’d just as soon take my chances with a three-way spring training battle between Carlos Quentin, Brian Anderson and Ryan Sweeney for the final outfield spot. I think there’s a good chance one of them will have a breakout season next year.
Exactly! Lets keep things in context, the kids can play!