Dye coveted but White Sox can wait
Club holds upper hand in any talks about right fielder
LAS VEGAS -- The rumor had been hovering around the Bellagio since Sunday night, taking shape long before Ken Williams and most of the White Sox contingency arrived in Las Vegas early Monday afternoon.
This particular piece of news centered on the Reds acquiring Jermaine Dye from the White Sox in exchange for Homer Bailey, a 22-year-old, ultra-talented right-handed hurler, who could benefit from a change of scenery following an 0-6 showing over eight big league starts in 2008. The Dayton Daily News went as far as to quote an unnamed source in its story confirming that it was a done deal and would be announced later in the week.
So, before the rumor in its present form took on any more weight, Williams did some personal diffusing when he met with the Chicago media Monday night.
"No, we have not traded Jermaine Dye to the Cincinnati Reds or anywhere else," said Williams, shortly after he sat down, before the first question was asked. "There's obvious interest on [Cincinnati's] part, I'm not going to deny that. That would be a lie. But as we sit here, he will be a part of the Chicago White Sox until further notice."
Williams claimed he would be surprised if much happened on the overall trade front in Las Vegas, pointing out how "the agents and free agents, these are their Meetings." With free-agent pitchers and position players flooding the open market currently, trade talks are more team specific per Williams' explanation.
Cincinnati would be a specific team in need of a player such as Dye, giving the Reds a powerful right-handed hitting outfielder to put between left-handed sluggers Jay Bruce and Joey Votto in their lineup. Reds manager Dusty Baker acknowledged such an interest on Monday, but supported general manager Walt Jocketty's denial from Sunday.
"That was a couple weeks ago there was talk," Baker said. "I thought that those talks were kind of off because of the economics and because everybody wants young players, which we are trying to groom to keep."
Dye's productivity since the White Sox championship season of 2005 stands unmatched by American League outfielders in certain areas. His 137 home runs and 378 RBIs over that time frame top the likes of Manny Ramirez, Magglio Ordonez and Grady Sizemore.
But respect from the White Sox shown toward Dye comes just as much from his quiet and steady leadership in the clubhouse. This affinity for Dye has Williams admittedly feeling somewhat bad about the one-time All-Star watching his name churn throughout Hot Stove talks.
"It's difficult for me to sit back and know that he's listening to his name in the rumor mill after all he's done for us," Williams said. "He's been one of the most productive right fielders in baseball in the last four years. So yes, from the White Sox standpoint, absolutely. From a personal standpoint, I make no bones about it. He's a good man. And I consider him a friend.
"There's going to come a day, soon here, whether it's the next year or the year after that ... There's going to come a day, and there comes a day when all of your players, no matter how close you are with them, all of your players are going to have to be transitioned into a different aspect of life."
For Dye, that transition doesn't seem to be any time this week. Of course, lack of action at the Winter Meetings doesn't mean Dye couldn't be moved sometime in early January or before the start of Spring Training after the free-agent market plays itself out. Simply put, Dye stands as the most marketable and moveable piece that remains available from the South Siders.
Turning 35 on Jan. 28, Dye and his $11.5 million salary for 2009 and $12 million option for 2010 are not part of the young core assembled by Williams through trades of Javier Vazquez and Nick Swisher. He also does not have full no-trade protection, such as Paul Konerko and Jim Thome, with the Yankees, Mets, Phillies and Red Sox part of the six teams to where he can block moves. His .292 average, 34 home runs and 96 RBIs in 2008 also exhibit abilities that don't seem to be fading.
With Williams' youth infusion well under way, most of the media had a tough time believing the Dye deal in any form was presently dead -- at least judging by Monday's questions. They ranged from possible outfield replacements for Dye to asking for Williams' best guess as to whether Dye would be a member of the White Sox when the team started its first Spring Training in Glendale, Ariz.
"Let's play how many different ways we can ask the Jermaine Dye question. Why don't we play that?" said Williams with a resigned smile. "Why don't we just look at the present White Sox roster? Jermaine Dye is still ... I still have a board at home with Jermaine Dye's name on it and he's in the lineup.
"We're under no pressure, whether it be economically, in terms of dire position need, to make a deal that we don't want to make. For our purposes, we'll sit back, survey the landscape and if someone brings something to our attention that makes sense to where we can balance it out for the present and also get ourselves better for the future, we'll travel down that road."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.