Monday, September 29, 2008

Why Kenny Williams is a Genius

Buy low. Sell high. It's the most basic of economic principles, but there are many GMs who fail to identify potential buy low opportunities (cough...Ed Wade...cough). And to me, no GM has done a better job buying low than White Sox GM Kenny Williams. In this age of splashy acquisitions and big names, Williams has built the White Sox through shrewd trades and impressive free agent signings. With game 163 right around the corner for the White Sox, there is no better time to highlight the brilliance that is Kenny Williams.

Exhibit A: Gavin Floyd
Anyone remember that Floyd drafted #4 overall by the Phillies in 2001? Neither did I. But obviously Kenny Williams did when he traded for Floyd after the 2006 season. Floyd looked to be a shell of his former self by posting a 7.29 ERA in 11 starts for the Phillies. Despite the ugly numbers, Williams took a flier on Floyd when he acquired him in the deal that sent Freddy Garcia to the Phillies. While he stunk up the joint in 2007, Floyd has been brilliant in 2008 by posting a 17-8 record along with a 3.84 ERA. Williams was able to acquire Floyd at his lowest value and now he has a stalwart in his rotation for the next few seasons.

Exhibit B: John Danks
Lemme be clear, John Danks' value has never been low. After the 2006 season, many insiders regarded Danks as the Rangers best prospect and a potential ace for the pitching starved Rangers in the near future. But in 2007, Williams traded his prized pitching prospect, Brandon McCarthy, to the Rangers for Danks. McCarthy was the jewel of the White Sox system entering the 2007 season, he was expected to be in the starting rotation right away. The Rangers needed immediate results and jumped at the chance to pick him up. Danks on the other hand, was supposed to spend more time in the minors honing his stuff. As it turned out, Danks made the White Sox out of spring training in 2007 and has only improved since then while McCarthy has struggled to stay healthy in Texas. Danks has been dominant this season by sporting a 3.47 ERA in 32 starts. He has the looks of a future ace and will remain a fixture in the White Sox rotation for many years to come. Kenny Williams was able to sell high on McCarthy and pick up an even better pitcher in John Danks.

Exhibit C: Alexei Ramirez
Where would the White Sox be this season without Ramirez? "The Cuban Missile" has been a fixture at second base for the White Sox since June and is one of the main reasons why the White Sox have been so successful this season. Kenny Williams signed Ramirez, a former star of the Cuban National Team, to a 4 year/$4.25 million dollar contract at the end of the 2007 season. Ramirez was expected to play all over the place and use his versatility, athleticism, and quick wrists to play wherever or whenever he was needed. After watching two months of Juan Uribe stink up the joint, Manager Ozzie Guillen finally made the switch to Ramirez. Since then, Ramirez has shined by hitting .290 with 21 HRs (including a huge grand slam today) in only 479 ABs. That's extraordinary for a second baseman, especially a rookie. Yes Ramirez needs to work on his defense and drawing more walks (.315 OBP!), but his improvement will come. Score it as another big move for Kenny Williams, who now has a quality second baseman at a bargain basement price. Great move.

Exhibit D: Bobby Jenks
Anyone know how Kenny Williams acquired one of the most dominant closers in the game? Waivers. Yup, for $20,000 in 2005, the White Sox acquired Bobby Jenks,who has racked up 116 saves and a World Series ring since becoming the closer. Enough said. Score it another huge win for Kenny Williams.

Exhibit E: Carlos Quentin
this is perhaps the most impressive move of the Kenny Williams era. Even though his outfield was already stacked, Williams took a flier on a former first round pick named Carlos Quentin. Quentin, who was once regarded as one of the Diamondbacks top prospects, had fallen on hard times in 2006 and 2007 because of injuries and limited playing time. So the Diamondbacks traded Quentin to the White Sox for 1B prospect Chris Carter because they had no room for him in their outfield. Again, Williams took a flier on a guy who had fallen off the map because the benefit was worth the cost. And boy have the White Sox been thrilled with Quentin. Despite suffering a season ending hand injury, Quentin has hit .288 with 36 HRs and 100 RBI through September 5. Quentin basically carried the Sox through April and May and remained a viable MVP candidate until his injury. Think the Diamondbacks would make room for him now? I think so. Another big score for Kenny Williams.

So hows that for an impressive resume? Williams is the main reason why the Sox are tied for first and deserves to be rewarded for his shred deals. Note to Jerry Reinsdorf: Give him an extension now!

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