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Sox reflect, give thanks for missed opps in '07

Chicago takes AL Central in 2008 after Cabrera, Hunter disappointments during Winter 2007
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- The White Sox already had an active offseason in place by the time they arrived in Nashville for the 2007 Winter Meetings.

On Nov. 19, they traded right-handed pitcher Jon Garland to the Angels in exchange for shortstop Orlando Cabrera. On Nov. 23, they agreed to a four-year, $19 million deal with right-handed reliever Scott Linebrink.

CHICAGO -- The White Sox already had an active offseason in place by the time they arrived in Nashville for the 2007 Winter Meetings.

On Nov. 19, they traded right-handed pitcher Jon Garland to the Angels in exchange for shortstop Orlando Cabrera. On Nov. 23, they agreed to a four-year, $19 million deal with right-handed reliever Scott Linebrink.

And on Dec. 3, while the front office was stationed at Opryland Hotel, the White Sox picked up slugging outfielder Carlos Quentin from Arizona in exchange for Chris Carter. Quentin became an American League Most Valuable Player Award candidate in 2008.

Yes, they missed out with their pursuit of free-agent center fielder Torii Hunter. But with the Marlins' Miguel Cabrera as a trade target, these particular Winter Meetings had a chance to reshape a franchise only a few years removed from the dominant run to a 2005 World Series title.

Then a not-so-funny thing happened in Music City. Cabrera not only didn't go to the White Sox but ended up moving within the AL Central to Detroit, coming over with left-handed hurler Dontrelle Willis on Dec. 4 in exchange for six players, including Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller and Mike Rabelo.

The White Sox serious interest in Cabrera did not turn into an important acquisition.

"Well, I would imagine a lot of teams had serious interest, but you know, we were having some serious dialogue," White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams said, looking back 10 years when he was the team's general manager. "I know that."

Reports indicated the White Sox had offered a package with third baseman Josh Fields and pitchers such as John Danks and Gio Gonzalez. Williams acknowledged at the time the White Sox offering "didn't measure up" to what the Marlins' "particular needs were."

Willis also became a deciding point for the South Siders. The affable left-hander, who had two All-Star campaigns during his first four years, was coming off a 35-start 2007 performance that he finished with a 5.17 ERA and allowed 342 baserunners in 205 1/3 innings. After earning $6.45 million for the Marlins in '07, Willis agreed to a three-year, $29-million extension with the Tigers a little more than two weeks after the deal.

Losing out on Hunter, who the White Sox thought was in their grasp, served as a greater disappointment than the failed pursuit of Cabrera. That solace didn't prevent Williams' competitive fire from appearing in Nashville after being criticized in the media following a franchise player moving to Detroit.

During his daily Winter Meetings media session, a session a little more tense and direct then the laid-back meeting the day before the trade was announced, Williams stated Cabrera and Willis simply gave the Tigers a better chance to catch the White Sox in 2008. Remember, the White Sox were coming off of a 72-90 campaign, the first sub-.500 showing in Williams' tenure, and the Tigers had finished '07 with 88 victories.

"Yeah, I guess we got lucky in that respect," Williams said, of his memorable comment from Nashville. "You lose out on a player like that as impactful as he is, you are not kidding anyone. You would have been better with him than without him.

"You have to remember that was at a time where we, even though it was after the 2005 World Series, we were still fighting for our identity, coming off of a bad year. So we were fighting to make sure people knew that we were still very serious about winning and cementing our place in our market. That was a little bit more of a louder type of leadership at that point then I certainly employ now."

Little did Williams know his comments would ring prophetic. The White Sox won the 2008 AL Central, beating the Twins in a Game 163 at U.S. Cellular Field considered by many the most exciting game in franchise history.

Danks turned in one of the best seasons of his career in 2008 and then threw two-hit baseball over eight scoreless innings in the 1-0 Blackout Game victory. The Tigers finished last with 74 wins, although they have reached the AL Championship Series three times and the World Series once with Cabrera, one of the game's all-time great hitters.

Results weren't as strong for Willis, who posted a 6.86 ERA over 24 games and 22 starts covering parts of three years in Detroit and didn't pitch in the Majors after 2011. Williams looks at the '16 Winter Meetings as one the organization will view fondly in the not-too-distant future, highly memorable for the plan general manager Rick Hahn and the front office had to reshape the organization firmly taking root.

As for 2007, it became about the good things actually transpiring for the team after what might have been in Nashville.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox