Rate the GM: The Kenny Williams Report Card
Friday March 2nd, 2012
Rob Bland: How long does a GM have job security after winning a World Series? I get asked this fairly often, as teams tend to stick with a general manager for longer than they should, especially when they have won a championship in the past. Even though a team may struggle and writers, experts and all of the pundits question every move they make, owners often stick with a GM if he has won “the big one”. Assembling a Major League quality team is not an exact science, even if the sabermetricians will have you believe it is. Sure, calculating OPS and WAR and FIP can help put you in a position to win, but there is something to be said about the culture of an organization. It may be a myth, but you always hear about winning teams having winning attitudes. They exude confidence. For example, is often said that there is an aura about the New York Yankees and Yankee Stadium. That being said, there has to be a mixture of personalities in a clubhouse. A general manager’s job is to put the best ballplayers on a roster, and the manager’s job is to utilize those players in ways that will maximize their talents and win games. A winning record should not directly reflect a GM’s performance. But then after all, he chose the players and hired the manager.
Kenny Williams has been the GM of the Chicago White Sox since October, 2000. He has gone through two managers during his tenure, Jerry Manuel and Ozzie Guillen, with 2012 marking the first season for new rookie manager Robin Ventura. Over these 11 seasons, the White Sox have made the postseason only twice. In 2005 the Sox had the best record in the American League and went on to win the World Series. In 2006, the Sox came close, finishing with a 90-72 record but finished 2nd in the Wild Card race. 2008 saw the Sox win the AL Central division with an 89-74 record, losing to the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Division Series in 4 games.
Williams has made a number of questionable moves, but has also made some very smart, under the radar trades and signings. Listed below are some of my favorite transactions Williams has made since 2005:
Signed Mark Buehrle to a 4-year, $56M extension during the 2007 season.
Signed J.J. Putz to a one year, $3M contract before the 2010 season.
Signed 1B Paul Konerko to a 3-year, $37.5M contract extension before the 2011 season.
There have also been quite a few transactions that have not been as favourable to the White Sox:
Traded Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney and Fautino De Los Santos to the Oakland A’s for Nick Swisher before the 2008 season; then traded Nick Swisher and Kanekoa Texeira to the New York Yankees for Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez after the 2008 season.
Claimed Alex Rios off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays with more than $50M left on his contract.
Signed Adam Dunn to a 4-year, $56M contract before the 2011 season.
Traded closer Sergio Santos to the Toronto Blue Jays for B-prospect Nestor Molina. This came after signing Santos to an extremely team-friendly 3-year, $8.25M contract with 3 option years worth $6M, $8M, and $8.75M, respectively.
Some moves Williams has made haven’t had a definitive winner, yet:
Poreda hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2009, Clayton Richard has been serviceable but not great, and Russell has been a rarely used reliever that hasn’t developed command. Peavy has yet to turn in a healthy season for the Sox, throwing 238 innings in the 2 ½ years in a White Sox uniform.
Signed John Danks to a 5-year, $65M extension after the 2011 season.
Danks has been a pretty good pitcher over the past 4 years, but is he worth $13M per season? We will have to wait and see what Danks will bring to the table in 2012.
After the 2011 season, in which the Sox finished with a 79-83 record, good for third in the AL Central, and 6th in the Wild Card, Williams came out and said that the organization was in a rebuild state. It made sense, because teams like the Tigers and Indians were ahead of them, and the Royals incredible minor league system was knocking on the door to contend in the division. It actually made sense trading closer Sergio Santos, since there isn’t a need to pay for a closer when you aren’t worried about the number of wins you get. But then, what didn’t make sense was Williams turning around and signing Danks to a 5-year extension two weeks later. If they were in a rebuild, why would they sign a middle of the rotation starter for that long? Then 2 more weeks went by, and Jason Frasor was traded back to the Blue Jays for a pair of relief prospects who will probably never make it to the big leagues.
Keith Law ranked the Chicago White Sox as having the worst farm system in baseball. He goes on to say that they aren’t even close to #29, the Cleveland Indians. Their top prospect is a reliever, Addison Reed, and #2 is Nestor Molina, whom Law would have put between #10-20 on the Blue Jays rankings (As a note, Law ranks the Blue Jays as having the 3rd best system). The White Sox consistently have not spend in the draft. Because of this, the quality of their prospects is lacking.
After the Ozzie Guillen saga in Chicago came to an end, Williams had to find a manager willing to enduring losing seasons, seeing as the Sox were rebuilding, and teach and mold the squad as best as he could. Williams hired Robin Ventura, who played for the Sox from 1989 to 1998. However, Ventura has never managed a baseball team at any level, and was only brought to the organization in June as an advisor to the Player Development Director. While he has the support of the owner, many players and most fans, that support may wane when he makes managerial decisions that leave people scratching their heads. Ventura could spark this team and teach and groom the prospects to be a decent team. But without that experience, Ventura could struggle. It was a move that was talked about for weeks, and many are still skeptical going into Spring Training.
Should Williams be allowed to keep his job as the GM of the Chicago White Sox when there seems to be a number of smart, progressive thinkers available to take the helm? Or should he be given at least one more year of slack based on him having built a team that won a championship more than six years ago? That is the million dollar question in Chicago.
***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Blandy on Twitter***
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Posted on March 2, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged adam dunn, baseball, brandon mccarthy, carlos quentin, chicago white sox, gio gonzalez, j.j. putz, jake peavy, john danks, kenny williams, mlb, nick swisher, ozzie guillen, robin ventura. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.