Carlos Quentin Trade: What Is Kenny Williams Thinking?

Is the White Sox GM rebuilding the team? He's extended one veteran while trading another. What message does that send?

On New Year's Eve, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams sent outfielder Carlos Quentin to the San Diego Padres for a pair of minor league pitchers. Neither of those pitchers gets a very high prospect ranking, according to John Sickels of Minor League Ball.

Look, I'm a Cubs fan, but I bear the White Sox no ill will. Still, after I heard about this deal, my first thought was, "What is Kenny Williams thinking?"

At MLB's Winter Meetings earlier in December, Williams told reporters:

"It's the start of rebuilding now," said Williams, who told reporters in Dallas that he hasn't used the word in 12 years. "Is it the start of a falling domino-type rebuilding? No. Absolutely not."

This was after he had traded closer Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays. But then, a couple of days ago, after signing lefthander John Danks to a five-year, $65 million contract extension, he appeared to change his tune:

"I tried to articulate to everyone that the only way we would move an impact player is if we got impact players back, young impact players back for whomever it was we moved. We are still in win mode, but still in a little bit of a rebuilding phase," Williams told reporters during a conference call Thursday.

"That message got lost after I said we were rebuilding. I did say this would not be dominoes falling in terms of a true rebuilding. We have too many good veterans and veterans looking to bounce back. We have filtered in our fair share of younger players from throughout our system. So it's not a traditional rebuild."

Mmm-kay. If you consider Quentin an "impact player" -- and he can be when he's healthy -- the White Sox didn't get "young impact players" in return. Quentin made $5 million in 2011, and was likely in line for a raise to about $8 million or so in 2012, which is exactly what Danks will make in the first year of his backloaded contract.

Williams appears to be putting a lot of faith in the possibility that Adam Dunn will rebound from what was about the worst offensive season in baseball history, and that Jake Peavy will stay healthy and contribute, and that Alex Rios will remember how to hit and... well, that's a lot of faith. The White Sox have $63 million in 2012 salary tied up in just five players (Peavy, $17 million; Dunn, $14 million; Rios, $12 million, Paul Konerko, $12 million, and Danks' $8 million), and all of them are signed beyond 2012 -- how do you "rebuild" that way?

On the one hand, Williams signals rebuild by trading Quentin. On the other, he signs Danks to a long-term extension when he probably could have had a Gio Gonzalez-type haul by dealing him. The White Sox had an "all in" $128 million payroll in 2011 and wound up with 79 wins. Their 2012 payroll will likely be lower, but does it give them any more chance to win? Are they rebuilding? Just what kind of message is being sent?

If you know, you should tell Kenny Williams. If he's confusing me, imagine how White Sox fans feel.

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