Sports Nest: Williams confirms himself as one of brightest GMs

August 5, 2009

Kenny Williams

Kenny Williams

The Chicago White Sox were getting ready to begin taking three out of four games from one of baseball’s best, the New York Yankees. But Thursday, July 30, was just the beginning of an entire weekend celebrating baseball genius.

The Sox were displaying the tremendous baseball knowledge and savvy of General Manager Kenny Williams.

It started with a trade, something Williams has done many times over and almost always done successfully. Williams traded pitchers Clayton Richard, Aaron Poreda and two minor leaguers for currently injured pitcher Jake Peavy of the San Diego Padres, a trade Peavy rejected in May.

On the one hand, it seems like a risky move, trading for an injured pitcher. Peavy is supposed to be back in three weeks, but is a relative unknown for the rest of the season. But if you dig deeper, you can see it was a wonderful move for the White Sox.

First, while Richard and Poreda were two of the top young arms the White Sox had, Williams did not do anything to tear apart the fabric of the team for this year. If and when Peavy comes back, the Sox need him to be no better than a fifth starter, and if he returns to form, it is just a bonus.

This was clearly a move for the future that may help this year as well. Going into next year, a rotation of Peavy, Mark Buerhle, Gavin Floyd and John Danks has a good shot at being the best rotation in baseball. And Peavy is under contract for three more years.

Second, the White Sox have a ton of money coming off the books over the next two years. Some bad contracts from the past will be expiring. The Sox will easily cover Peavy’s money next year with money coming off the books, and will have more than double that coming off the books the following year.

So, what Williams has done is eliminated the need to make a bad free-agent signing. It is true Peavy may be permanently damaged goods, but with Williams’ success rate, that is unlikely.

Saturday, Aug. 1, Richard, who was traded to the Padres for Peavy, made his first start for his new team. Richard went five-plus innings, struck out five, and only gave up one run, only to see the bullpen blow his chance for the win. What he also did was put on display the fact that Williams does have an eye for talent.

And that fact was hammered down over the weekend series as last year’s first-round pick, Gordan Beckham, torched the Yankees’ pitching, and was a key cog in the series victory.

The Beckham pick was unanimously praised, and many people envisioned him being able to be up within a year. Not only was he up in less than a year, Manager Ozzie Guillen recently moved him up into the two-hole, a move that has seemed to enliven the Sox offense.

Time will tell whether the Peavy trade was a good one or not. Richard may turn into Cy Young and Peavy could never pitch again, though either of those scenarios is unlikely.

But while Guillen has the Sox playing well with his own awkward sense of genius, the Sox have mostly “Trader Kenny,” as he is known in baseball circles, to thank for turning them into annual contenders.

Share your thoughts with Matt Nestor via e-mail at sportsnest@gmail.com.

from the August 5 – 11, 2009 issue

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