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White Sox traded on homegrown talent to win title

by Jim Callis
November 7, 2005

CHICAGOThe job of any farm system is plain and simple: produce talent for its parent club.

The most obvious way to do that is by signing players out of the draft or on the international market, polishing them in the minors and promoting them to the majors.

By that measure, the World Series champion White Sox don't qualify as much of a homegrown team. Just three members of the 25-man postseason roster were signed and developed by Chicago.

The most significant homegrown player was third baseman Joe Crede, who made a strong case for deserving the World Series MVP award by carrying the offense in Game One, sparking a five-run comeback against Roy Oswalt with a homer in Game Three and playing terrific hot-corner defense throughout. He was a fifth-round pick out of a Missouri high school in 1996. Aaron Rowand, who ran down everything in center field and hit a key single in Game Two, was a supplemental first-round pick from Cal State Fullerton in 1998. Mark Buerhle, who won Game Two and saved Game Three, was a 38th-round draft-and-follow out of Jefferson (Mo.) CC in 1998 and signed the following year.

But there's also a less direct way a farm system can contribute, by providing ammunition for trades. General manager Kenny Williams, who ran the system as the club's farm director for six years before his promotion, astutely packaged White Sox prospects to acquire a dozen more members of the his championship club.

Fifteen players on the postseason roster were products of Chicago's farm system. By contrast, the 2004 champion Red Sox had just nine self-developed players (two direct, seven via trades) on their World Series roster.

Schueler Stole Garland, Konerko

Williams' predecessor, Ron Schueler, engineered two important deals in 1998 before Williams took over. When the Cubs were panicking looking for a closer, Schueler sent them Matt Karchner (who had been salvaged in the 1993 Triple-A Rule 5 draft for $12,000) for Jon Garland, who pitched seven strong innings in Game Three. After the season, Schueler grabbed Paul Konerko, whose Game Two grand slam turned the Series around, from the Reds for Mike Cameron.

After replacing Schueler in October 2000, one of Williams' first moves was to swap Chad Bradford to the Athletics for Miguel Olivo. More on Olivo in a moment.

In what appeared to be two minor transactions before the 2002 season, Chicago got Willie Harris from the Orioles for Chris Singleton (who previously had come from the Yankees in exchange for 1993 ninth-rounder Rich Pratt) and Damaso Marte from the Pirates for Matt Guerrier. Harris pinch-singled and scored the Series-winning run in Game Four, and Marte won Game Three in relief.

After the 2002 season, Williams made the mistake of sending Keith Foulke (acquired in Schueler's infamous 1997 White Flag trade) to Oakland for Billy Koch, but made out better in the throw-in part of the deal. He gave up Mark Johnson and Joe Valentine and received Neal Cotts, who stranded the tying run on third base in Games One and Four and preserved a tie before picking up the victory Game Two.

During the 2003-04 offseason, the White Sox sent Aaron Miles (another Triple-A Rule 5 draft pick) to the Rockies for Juan Uribe. Uribe closed out the Series with three spectacular defensive plays from shortstop in the final two innings of Game Four. Timo Perez, who provided no World Series highlights, also arrived from the Mets for Matt Ginter.

2004 Deals Paid Off

In a failed run at the 2004 playoffs, Chicago acquired Freddy Garcia from the Mariners for Jeremy Reed, Mike Morse and Olivo, and Carl Everett from the Expos for Jon Rauch and Gary Majewski. (Williams also had surrendered three prospects to get Everett from the Rangers a year earlier.) Garcia pitched seven shutout innings to win Game Four, while Everett sparked a two-run rally against Roger Clemens with a leadoff single in Game One.

Looking to remake his club with more speed and defense, Williams dealt Carlos Lee to the Brewers at the 2004 Winter Meetings. In return, he got Scott Podsednik, who stunned Brad Lidge with a 10th-inning walkoff homer in Game Two, and Luis Vizcaino, who pitched a scoreless 10th in the 14-inning Game Three marathon.

Though Chicago was running away with the American League Central this year, Williams still explored making a major upgrade at midseason. Potential deals for A.J. Burnett and Ken Griffey eventually collapsed, so he made just one minor move.

He added Geoff Blum from the Padres for Double-A lefty Ryan Meaux, who spent three years developing in the White Sox system after coming over in a 2002 trade with the Giants for Kenny Lofton. Blum smacked a shocking 14th-inning homer to win Game Three.

Many trades these days have more to do with finances than with talent, but that wasn't the case in any of the deals that helped build the White Sox. They ended an 88-year championship drought with a mid-level $75 million payroll that bought them a club with few superstars but fewer holes. Without their farm system, it wouldn't have been possible.

You can contact Jim Callis by sending e-mail to jimcallis@baseballamerica.com.

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