''Listen, I'm the guy that traded Carlos Lee for Scott Podsednik,'' Williams said of a deal that set the stage for a wire-to-wire World Series run in 2005. ''I understand the value of speed and what that element can give you -- if that's the right element for your particular team in your particular year.
''I also learned something a long time ago: Don't be in-between. If you're going to be a power team, be a power team. If you are going to be a speed team, try to be the best speed team you can.''
But Williams operates in the American League, and his team's home is one of the best launching pads in baseball. There has to be a happy medium for the Sox.
''At the top, I want not so much speed, but the ability to get on base and manufacture runs,'' Williams said. ''At the top and the bottom, you need baseball grinders. In the middle, if you play in the American League, I'm sorry, you better have power -- in our ballpark especially.
''OK, I don't have the prototypical speed guy here. However, my choice then becomes, do I take a speed guy that's a .310, .320 on-base guy, or do I take a guy who can go first to third, can't steal bases, but he's getting on base at a .370 clip? Well, guess which one is going to end up scoring more runs for you -- regardless of that speed.''
If on-base percentage trumps speed in Williams' book, that would seem to rule out rumors of the Sox pursuing Colorado Rockies center fielder Willy Taveras, who had been on Williams' radar in recent years. Taveras had a .308 OBP last season while hitting .251. On the flip side, he stole a career-high 68 bases.
Other players make more sense for the Sox.
It's no secret Williams long has had his eye on Los Angeles Angels third baseman Chone Figgins, who had a .367 OBP and hit .276 last season. If the Angels can't re-sign first baseman Mark Teixeira -- and agent Scott Boras has indicated he will test the open market -- then there might be renewed interest in dealing for Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, who likely would waive his no-trade rights to play in Southern California.
But the Sox' biggest prize would be walking away with Roberts, who had a .378 OBP and hit .296 last season. Roberts has scored more than 100 runs each of the last two seasons for an Orioles offense that doesn't match the firepower of the Sox' lineup.