After the White Sox traded Nick Swisher in mid-November, I wrote, "Ken Williams is up to something. ... I don't buy for a second that the 2009 White Sox will go young at three positions — second base, third base and center field."
More than a month later, right-hander Javier Vazquez also is gone and right fielder Jermaine Dye could follow. Williams will not rule out signing a veteran free agent if bargains develop. But he continues to emphasize his commitment to youth.
"I've got a lot of confidence in our younger guys," Williams told FOXSports.com Friday. "They've earned the opportunity. I'm first going to look that way. That said, if the opportunity presents itself, that obviously makes us better and we can afford, then we'll travel down that road. We're not there yet."
Will they get there? Maybe in January, when the market will still be cluttered with players looking for jobs. But for now, the White Sox are not even pursuing free-agent second baseman Orlando Hudson, a player who seemingly would be a perfect fit.
Instead, the Sox will use some combination of Chris Getz, Brent Lillibridge and Jayson Nix at second. Gordon Beckham, the eighth overall pick out of the University of Georgia in last year's draft, could be the long-term answer.
"I love Orlando," Williams said. "But we've got Chris Getz. We've got Brent Lillibridge. And we've got Gordon Beckham coming up behind both of them. It doesn't make any sense for us."
Perhaps the White Sox intended to be aggressive in the market, and their plans shifted because of the reeling economy. Williams, however, says the team is merely following its plan.
"What we've done this year seems to have caught people by surprise. But it's nothing more than a continuation," Williams said. "Is it different than two years ago when we got (Gavin) Floyd and (John) Danks? Is it different than last year when we got (Alexei) Ramirez and (Carlos) Quentin?
"It wasn't so long ago that, at least in Chicago, we were perceived as a team that was getting a little long in the tooth. We've taken some steps not only to infuse some youth and remain competitive, but also to set up ourselves in a nice way going forward."
A year ago at this time, the White Sox had no idea whether Ramirez and Quentin would contribute, much less become Rookie of the Year and MVP candidates, respectively. The player to watch next season is third baseman Dayan Viciedo, the 19-year-old Cuban defector who recently agreed to a four-year, $10 million contract.
"This young man is special," Williams said. "As I've said, I'm very high on Josh Fields at third base. But at 19 years old, this young man, Viciedo, the sky's the limit on him.
"I prefer our guys to come in with a little less hype. Chicago is weighty enough without coming in with increased expectations. All I will say is this: He's got a chance to help us in some capacity in ('09). And he definitely has a chance to be part of our core and in the middle of our lineup in (2010)."
Mets pursuing Redding
The Mets, trying to create additional options for their rotation, are attempting to sign free-agent right-hander Tim Redding, major-league sources say.
The Rockies and Orioles also are talking to Redding, sources say, and the Rangers represent an additional option.
Redding, 30, is seeking a two-year contract.
The Mets are trying to sign a more prominent free-agent starter such as righty Derek Lowe or lefty Oliver Perez, but Redding could fit in the back of their rotation.
The Rockies discussed a trade for Redding at the winter meetings, but would be reluctant to sign him for more than one year, according to a source with knowledge of the team's thinking.
Redding spent the past two seasons with the Nationals, going 10-11 with a 4.95 ERA in 2008 and tying for the team lead with 182 innings.
The Nationals declined to offer him a contract last week, unwilling to pay him what he projected to earn in salary arbitration — between $3 million and $3.5 million.
Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey and John Maine are the Mets' top three returning starters. Maine, however, did not pitch after Aug. 23 last season because of a bone spur in his right shoulder.
A pitcher such as Lowe or Perez could be the No. 2 starter behind Santana, with Redding and rookie left-hander Jon Niese conceivably competing for the fifth spot.
The Rockies like Redding, but they are exploring a wide range of options, including a trade for Cubs right-hander Jason Marquis and the signing of free-agent righty Braden Looper.
Around the Horn
The return of free-agent left-hander Andy Pettitte to the Yankees is "virtually inevitable," according to a source with knowledge of the pitcher's intentions. While a deal is not imminent, it is believed that the two sides will eventually come to an agreement. The signing of Pettitte would likely end the Yankees' pursuit of other free-agent pitchers, namely right-handers Derek Lowe and Ben Sheets.
The Dodgers are considering free-agent right-handers Trevor Hoffman and Juan Cruz for the back of their bullpen, and lefties Randy Johnson, Randy Wolf and righty Jon Garland as possible starters. The signing of Cruz, who was offered arbitration by the Diamondbacks, would force the Dodgers to surrender a first-round pick to a division rival. However, the Dodgers will gain multiple high picks if they lose Lowe and outfielder Manny Ramirez as free agents. ...
As the Cardinals await word from free-agent closer Brian Fuentes, they will continue to explore other possibilities. Left-handed setup types — from Joe Beimel to Dennys Reyes, Will Ohman to Brian Shouse — remain in ample supply. "It's an unpredictable market, hard to figure out," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak says. "Being patient is not a bad strategy." ...
Just in case you're wondering, the Brewers — and not the Blue Jays — will get the Yankees' first-round draft pick in next year's draft. Both teams lost Type A free agents to the Yankees, and the Blue Jays finished with a worse record than the Brewers. However, the compensation order is determined by Elias player rankings. CC Sabathia was ranked higher than A.J. Burnett; the Brewers, according to the system, suffered the greater loss. ...
The Braves kicked around a variety of possibilities to make the Rafael Furcal signing work, and not all involved trading Kelly Johnson or moving him to left field. Under one scenario, the Braves would have traded Casey Kotchman for an outfielder, keeping Furcal at short, moving Yunel Escobar to third base and shifting Chipper Jones to first.
This article originally published on FOXSports.com.
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