Kenny Williams: White Sox GM Facing Difficult Decisions for 2013

By Bryan Lutz

It’s Wednesday after the All-Star game, ergo there isn’t a whole lot to talk about. So let’s take a look at the future of our beloved Chicago White Sox. With a three game lead over the Cleveland Indians and three and a half game over the pre-season favorite Detroit Tigers, it’s easy to not look into the future because the present is so great. Having said that, I can’t ignore the elephant in the room, that elephant being the question marks surrounding the 2013 roster.

I think it’s pretty obvious that Kenny Williams saved his job this season based on how well the team is performing. It goes to show how good the White Sox are when the veterans perform to their career averages, something Williams hasn’t been a benefactor of until this year. The Adam Dunn signing, the Alex Rios waiver claim, and the Jake Peavy trade are finally paying dividends for the Southsiders this season. And now you can add the Kevin Youkilis trade to Kenny Williams’ list of achievements. Although Williams made some good aggressive moves, the best ones made this season were the passive ones. Letting Mark Buehrle go and allowing Chris Sale to start is obviously working, as is using Alejandro De Aza as the team’s everyday leadoff hitter.

But once that final pitch is thrown this season – whenever that may be – Kenny Williams is looking at his toughest job to date.

The White Sox payroll this season is a little less than $100 million, so one could expect the payroll to jump to the tune of $105 million in 2013. Good news for Williams and the Sox, the guaranteed payroll heading into next season is $80 million dollars. The bad news is Jake Peavy, Kevin Youkilis, and AJ Pierzynski will all become free agents. Five million of that $80 million is buy-outs of Peavy and Youkilis, so the team could maybe re-work a deal before the buy-out, although that’s very unlikely.

AJ Pierzynski’s career season couldn’t come at a worse time for Kenny Williams. The White Sox have zero options at catcher besides Pierzynski in the not-so-distant future, assuming that Tyler Flowers continues to strike out once every two at-bats. Pierzynski will have all the leverage in the negotiations, backing Williams into a wall. One could expect Pierzynski will be a hotter commodity this off-season. So no matter what happens, it’s a lose-lose situation for Kenny Williams because he will either overpay for Pierzynski, or let a quality, fan favorite go with no viable option to replace him.

In regards to Jake Peavy, he recently said he wants to come back to Chicago if they want him. Obviously, the team won’t pick up his gigantic option, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Peavy is back. I think this #TakeJake campaign was a blessing in disguise. It gave Peavy an idea how much he means to the organization and to the fans. Plus, he’s a guy Kenny Williams always wanted, so I have little doubt Kenny Williams will do whatever is reasonably neccesary to re-sign Peavy. Something along the lines of a three-year, $36 million deal makes a lot of sense for both parties.

Lastly, the Youkah. Youkilis’ situation is a lot like Pierzynski’s. I guess it depends how much you believe in Brent Morel, but I don’t think the White Sox have a good option at third base next season, giving the new fan favorite all the leverage. A two-year deal for Youkilis seems fair, somewhere between $14-$18 million dollars.

So there are the free-agent conundrums Williams has to look forward to, but that isn’t the last of it. Gavin Floyd is entering the final season of his contract – a team option that might even be declined, although unlikely – and Alex Rios’ albatross of a contract are still on the payroll. If I were Williams, I would trade Rios while his value is sky high, especially since Rios is one of those every other year guys. That would save the Sox $13 million in 2013 and 2014, allowing some wiggle room in the next two seasons. If the Sox trade Rios this off-season, there will be more than enough money to re-sign the three guys mentioned above. I’m a big Alex Rios fan, but there won’t be a better time to move him then now.

In regards to Floyd, some team will give the White Sox a decent package for a 200 innings hurler like him. Of course, Floyd isn’t having one of his better seasons, so his value might be a little lower than Williams would want, but the White Sox have too much starting pitching depth to keep Floyd on the roster.

As you can see, the White Sox have a lot of question marks heading into next season. So let’s just enjoy this magical 2012 season as much as we can, because this winter is going to be a stressful one.

Bryan is a featured writer for Rant Sports. Although he concentrates mostly on the game of baseball, you can find him covering things all over the Rant Sports Network.

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