Ken Williams has always been a ''go-for-it" general manager. Maybe that's why it was so difficult for him to utter the "R" word the day Robin Ventura was formally introduced as manager of the White Sox on Tuesday.
"If you're talking about rebuilding, the answer to the question is no,'' Williams said when asked about the direction the team is headed after it flopped with an all-time high $127 million payroll. "If we have to retool a little bit, well the answer to the question is 'maybe.' Let's see what's available out there through the winter discussions and we'll make that determination as we go along. We very well, with all the names you mentioned could be out there come spring training. But until we have these conversations, I have no idea.''
We mentioned to Williams the names John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Carlos Quentin, who are movable pieces with value who could bring quality, younger players in return as rebuilding blocks. Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski were brought up, too. They would have to agree to a trade. Konerko, while pledging his allegiance to the Sox, didn't rule out the possibility when I asked him the other day.
"Well, over the course of the 10 or 11 years, the one thing I have learned first and foremost is to never say never,'' Williams said. "But in many cases I can say very, very unlikely that we would head down that extreme of a direction.''
Under Williams, the Sox have consistently fielded teams going into the season which had a chance to contend. One of them won a World Series in 2005. But Ventura, with no experience at the helm, does not fit the mold of the manager of a team that is "going for it."
"You know if I keep talking to Robin Ventura, yeah I'm going to feel a little more confident in the roster that we have and the young players and the veteran players and what we can reasonably expect,'' Williams said. "But again, I'm fresh off the most disappointing season in the last 11 years for me personally and for us as an organization. So right now I have to take a little bit of time to see the bigger picture and the bigger picture is we're pretty happy with the leadership we have in place and a coaching staff that I think will be.''
The Sox gave $2.7 million to players drafted this season, the smallest amount in baseball. They are last in baseball over the last three years in investing in the draft. Rebuilding or re-tooling will require more money invested in the draft, and Williams said he doesn't know if it will happen.
"Don't know yet,'' he said. "Depends on what the player payroll is going to be. We've stretched ourselves over the last number of years.''
Whether Mark Buehrle is brought back remains to be seen. It would appear to be a long shot, but the left-hander -- one of three Sox remaining with Pierzynski and Konerko from the 2005 team -- hasn't been ruled out completely, Williams said.
"We'll get to the player matters when we can," Williams said. "But it's not dissimilar to the Konerko situation last year. The market has to tell us what he's going to command, and we'll look into it then to see if it fits into our planning and budget.
"Listen, whenever it is when Mark Buehrle leaves, you're going to have a void. I'm not just talking about the player standpoint, but who he is, what he is -- all the peripheral things. You can't ask for a better guy, performance-wise and non-performance wise."