On a cloudy Chicago afternoon, isn't it fun to think of sunny Orlando?
If you asked me on Day One of the Sox off-season (probably some point in June) what available shortstop I want suiting up in silver and black on Opening Day 2008, I would have told you Orlando Cabrera. There were others that intrigued me-Bill Hall, Jack Wilson, Rafael Furcal among them-but none brought the all-around game of Cabrera.
Cabrera is just a winner, plain and simple, as can be seen by Angels fans' disappointment in losing their field captain.
So although it is sad to see Jon Garland go, and Ken Williams is in for a big surprise if he thinks Contreras-Danks-Floyd is the back end of a World Series starting rotation, I am thrilled to have Cabrera manning shortstop at the Jake on March 31. The more I think about it, the more I like it; this was a focused trade, unlike the fuzzy Freddy Garcia deal from last December.
Let's be honest, Williams was going to trade Garland one way or another. So it was nice to see him get a premium position player for him, as opposed to a relief pitcher or a few minor leaguers.
I was also pleased to hear Williams talk about an extension for Cabrera-this is not a "one year rental" but rather an addition to the Sox family. Yes, he's 33 years old, but he has the kind of skills that will allow him to age well like Omar Vizquel. Cabrera will combine his unique skill set and his high baseball IQ to be a leader in the field and the clubhouse, something Juan Uribe could never achieve at shortstop.
Speaking of Uribe, what will be done with the $4.5 million utility man? It's not out of the realm of possibilities that the Sox could just hang on to Uribe and plug him in as a super sub all around the infield, but at $4.5 million that's a pretty expensive sub. Plus, there are cheaper and/or better alternatives available for that role in free agents Tony Graffanino and Mark Loretta.
No, Uribe is more than likely to be dealt. So, what exactly is the market for an expensive, pudgy, lackadaisical .230-hitting infielder? Well, the Tampa Tribune and the Score are both reporting that the Devil Rays, err, scratch that, the Rays, have some degree of interest in Uribe, whose defense could shore up a sloppy infield.
Considering the Rays' wild excess of outfielders and utter lack of pitching, would they consider something like Uribe and one of Nick Masset/Andy Sisco/David Aardsma for Rocco Baldelli?
Baldelli has seen his status fall big time over the last few years and has no room in Tampa's already crowded outfield anyway. If the Sox throw in a few million dollars to help cover Uribe's contract-money they just picked up from the Angels-this trade wouldn't be too far fetched.
Baldelli could at the least platoon in left field with Jerry Owens, an at best capture the position for himself and grow into the leadoff hitter scouts pictured for him years ago. Plus, let's face it, trading for Baldelli and signing Graffanino would really improve this team's IQ-Italian quotient.
Then there's the ongoing Torii Hunter rumor. Some insiders would have you believe Hunter is already signed, sealed and delivered to the Sox. For his part, Hunter refutes those claims, and says he is still shopping himself around.
I'm not convinced that Hunter is not just out for the richest contract he can find, which could end up being far more than he is worth. It could be especially bad a few years down the line as he continues to age. If he comes to the White Sox, it won't be because Ken Williams and company offered him the most money or the most years; it will be because he feels they have the best chance of winning right away.
At least one or two of the Royals, Rangers, Dodgers and Yankees are likely to exceed the Sox offer in both money and years.
The two Rays that interest me most are the allegedly-not-untouchable Carl Crawford and BJ Upton. If the Rays are serious about trading one of them to strengthen their pitching, I'd seriously look into it. Now, it would take monster packages to land either of those studs-one idea would be to trade Paul Konerko for a collection of prospects, move Josh Fields to first base and send some of the prospects to Tampa for Upton/Crawford.
Trading Paulie to the Angels or Dodgers, both of whom have expressed a need for a power bat, would allow the Sox to tap into two of the better farm systems and bullpens in all of baseball. The Dodgers might include Jonathan Broxton and the Angels have Scot Shields, both of whom would help shore up the Sox train wreck of a bullpen.
The Sox have several bargaining chips left in Uribe, Konerko, Crede, Fields, Contreras and the young pitchers; let's see what shakes down at the Winter Meetings next week.