White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams is notorious for being active around the trade deadline. Yet with his team only three games out of first place the morning of the deadline — for the first time in years — all was quiet on the South Side. Williams’ silence was a big change from previous seasons, when he made big splashes for Alex Rios, Manny Ramirez and Jake Peavy (Rios and Ramirez were technically waiver claims). With the AL Central still up for grabs this season — and his division rivals making some big splashes of their own — Williams’ failure to act seems even more puzzling.
One of the main reasons for Williams’ inactivity at the deadline may stem from a directive from ownership. According to a report by Ken Rosenthal, White Sox Owner Jerry Reinsdorf may have told Williams that the team needed to shed payroll. Despite entering the season with a franchise-record $127 million payroll, the White Sox haven’t performed up to par and attendance has been down, forcing Reinsdorf to act. Although the decision to trade Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen was initially viewed as puzzling, shedding payroll is likely one of the biggest reasons Williams made the move. Since he couldn’t add payroll this season, there was no way for Williams to try and make another big splash at the deadline.
Due to age, bad contracts and awful performances, the only players that had significant value on the trade market were the players keeping the Sox in contention this season. Carlos Quentin was a popular trade candidate, but he’s been the second best hitter on the Sox this season, and is one of two regulars on the team slugging over .500 this season. John Danks and Gavin Floyd were also rumored to be on the block, but the White Sox starting pitching — which currently rates third in all of baseball according to WAR — is the one thing keeping them afloat this season.
Keeping that in mind, Williams had two choices: stand pat with his current team and hope for the best; or trade off whatever he could to fortify this team for the future. The first option left Williams with the same team of underachievers he’s had all season; while the second option would be tough to sell to the fans considering the team is still in contention.
While it may have made for a dull deadline, Williams’ failure to act at the trade deadline may have been the right decision. The White Sox have actually gone 42-36 since a terrible April, and — although it may be wishful thinking at this point — there’s no way Adam Dunn and Alex Rios can continue be this bad all season. With 37 games left against AL Central opponents, the White Sox still have the opportunity to live up to their pre-season potential. Despite the quiet deadline, the White Sox are still contenders in the AL Central. This time, the moves that Kenny Williams didn’t make may be exactly what the White Sox needed.
Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.