I make no secret of my hatred for the White Sox, but you have to respect the hell out of GM Ken Williams. On top of trading for an injured Jake Peavy in the 11th hour of this year’s trade deadline he has now added the hefty salary of the extremely talented, yet underachieving, Alex Rios for absolutely nothing other than having to pay the remainder of his 7 year $69.835 million contract.
Over on Big League Stew the headline of the Rios related post was Oops?! White Sox make $60-million waiver claim on Alex Rios. There was no “oops” involved in this waiver claim. Kenny W. knew exactly what he was getting into and may have just put the White Sox over the top in the AL Central with this move. One thing is certain, Williams is not afraid to take chances, and big chances at that, to improve his team. There is no doubt in my mind that this move was calculated, thought out, and intentional.
There is also no doubt in my mind who Rios will be replacing. Scott Podsednik has had a moderately successful season but has a limited set of skills and limited value to a MLB organization. Scotty Po has turned in an OPS+ north of 100 only one time in his career and that was back in 2003 with a mark of 116. This season despite the perceived success, Pods has an OPS+ of just 92. He’s not league average and in 9 ML seasons has a career mark of just 86.
Alex Rios, on the other hand, has a career OPS+ of 104 and in his 3 seasons prior to 2009 turned in marks of 120, 122, and 111 respectively. This year has been viewed as a disappointment by a lot of people as big things were expected of Rios. Fairness in conversation, I did spend my 1st round draft pick on Alex Rios in my 14 team keeper league to add him to my protected core of Morneau, Longoria, Hanley Ramirez, Greinke, and Lester. His BA, OBP, and SLG are all down, but he does have 14 HR and 19 SB on the season so he hasn’t been a complete bust.
It is impossible to predict how Rios will deal with the managerial stylings of Ozzie Guillen, but in addition to risk-taking moves, Ken Williams is clearly able to identify players that will fit into the experience of Oz. My prediction is that Rios will rachet up his production for the Sox thanks to a hitter-friendly ballpark, fiery manager, and his own sense of pride. Since the Blue Jays just let him go, the latter of those reasons may be the most important. If Rios ever needed a chip on his shoulder, he has one now.
Despite the thoughts of others online, I don’t see Rios battling for playing time. Ozzie may be crazy, but he knows baseball. He knows that Rios is a more valuable player than Podsednik, he knows Thome is old and slow, and he knows that Quentin is prone to injury. Alex Rios will play everyday mostly at the expense of Podsednik, but Scotty Po as a 4th OF will get plenty of ABs with his ability to play all 3 OF positions effectively.
You might be asking yourself what this has to do with the Royals, or why I am piling up the word count discussing a move that my second least favorite team just pulled off. If you are pondering this thought, a pat on the back for you. Aside from the obvious fact that the Royals season has been in the tank for some time, I thought it would be nice to write about a GM taking a high profile, potentially high reward risk.
I sure hope Dayton Moore is paying attention to what Ken Williams has done this season and in past seasons. Maybe as Royals fans we could take up a collection to send Dayton to a “How to Be a GM” seminar with Ken Williams as the keynote speaker. The White Sox took a huge risk on an unknown managerial candidate and ended up with Ozzie Guillen. The Royals took a risk on an unknown managerial candidate and ended up with Trey Hillman. One of them is a walking sound byte who speaks from the heart and doesn’t give a damn about political correctness. The other one is a monotone bore afraid to stray from the company line or show any of his personality. There is no evidence that Trey has a personality, but I am betting there is one in there somewhere.
It is an interesting contrast when you think about it. Ken Williams is a shrewd risk taker who comes up on the winning side of the deal more often than not. He is coupled with a borderline insane manager who leads a team willing to run through a wall for him. Williams and Guillen don’t always see eye to eye, a fact that has gone public a number of times, but they use all the resources at their disposal to improve the White Sox organization.
Dayton Moore by contrast is clearly delusional. He expects fans and players to trust the process even though there is no real definition of that process. Sure he has discussed it from time to time, but he also frequently sends mixed messages. On one hand he discusses the importance of guys who get on base and then goes out and adds guys like Olivo and Jacobs to a roster largely devoid of OBP guys. On one hand he talks about pitching being the currency of baseball, then trades off Howell, Nunez, Ram-Ram, Cortes, Saito, etc. to acquire marginal players. He has attached himself to a manager who is unable to command respect in his own clubhouse and is afraid to rock the organizational boat. Together Moore and Hillman both share the same aversion to sabermetrics and basic statistical analysis.
Ken Williams has a manager willing to speak his mind, voice his opinion, and stand up for what he believes in. Moore has a manager that is little more than a “vanilla” yes man. Setting aside the descrepancy in payrolls, is there any doubt why the White Sox have been successful and the Royals have not? Money surely helps, but there is little doubt in my mind that a Williams/Guillen combo could run rings around Moore/Hillman if the payrolls were reversed.
The final tally: Royals acquire Yuniesky Betancourt and Josh Anderson, White Sox acquire Jake Peavy and Alex Rios.
Damn, now I am depressed.