What has been more notable about the White Sox this winter — what they have done or what they have not done?
They have super-sized the payroll. Specifically, they have added free agent Adam Dunn and re-signed Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski in the wake of adding Jake Peavy, Alex Rios and Edwin Jackson in the previous year and a half, taking the Opening Day figure near $130 million from $103 million at the start of 2010.
They haven't extended manager Ozzie Guillen's contract.
Barring a late change of heart by Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and general manager Ken Williams, for the first time in his eight-season run, Guillen will enter the season with no contractual obligation beyond its end.
Guillen's current contract, signed in September 2007, expires after 2011 with an option for '12 that vests only if the Sox win the American League Central.
Guillen's situation appears exactly that clear — win or go home.
By improving the lineup and keeping the starting rotation intact while Peavy works to get back as quickly as possible from surgery to repair a muscle below his right shoulder, ownership is giving Guillen a legitimate shot to overtake the powerful Twins (who don't seem as powerful with Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan attempting comebacks, Carl Pavano lingering in free agency and its bullpen in a transition stage).
On the other hand, ownership and the front office is sending a strong message that will be in play if things don't work out: Blame the manager, not us.
When Guillen and Williams clashed throughout an up-and-down 2010, one of the subtexts to the soap opera was Guillen had become the so-called face of the franchise. There never has been an ownership group or a front office in professional sports that likes to be told its manager/coach is indispensable, and the White Sox are no different.
They are saying to Guillen: Remind us again why you are so valuable.
Twice previously ownership has extended his contract two years. It will speak loudly about a managerial change in the near future if Guillen does go into 2011 as a lame duck.
In the wings: Guillen should be in demand if he does leave the Sox after 2011, possibly with the Marlins who gave their interim manager, Edwin Rodriguez, only a one-year deal.
Rodriguez, who was Guillen's double-play partner for the 1984 Las Vegas Stars, understands many see him as a place-holder for his friend. Guillen developed a relationship with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria when the Marlins won the World Series as he served as Jack McKeon's third base coach in 2003 .
"… If I don't do my job, it could be Ozzie, it could be anybody," he said. "But if I do my job, I'm pretty sure a good thing might happen."
The Marlins have Hanley Ramirez, solid pitching and potential young stars in Mike Stanton, Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison. The lineup is in transition after the Marlins traded or discarded Dan Uggla, Cody Ross, Jorge Cantu and Ronny Paulino since late last season.
Rodriguez says "win/win'' describes his situation.
"Not only because I am managing at the big-league level, but because I'm going to have a chance to manage a very young group, and also a very talented group,'' he said. "…They are going to have a chance to play together for a long, long time.''
Hard to get: Joakim Soria, the last star standing in Kansas City, told a newspaper in Mexico he would be happy to be traded to the Yankees or any other contender. It makes sense to think the Royals would deal their 26-year-old closer given the trade that sent 2009 Cy Young winner Zack Greinke to the Brewers, but GM Dayton Moore sees Soria as a potentially invaluable piece in 2012 or '13.
The Royals have baseball's best farm system. If guys like Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Mike Montgomery pan out, the Royals soon could be baseball's most upwardly mobile team. And Soria signed an incredibly team-friendly deal in May 2008 that could keep him off the free-agent market until 2014.
Soria, who had saves in 43 of Kansas City's 67 victories last season, earns $4 million this year and can be kept through options paying him $6 million in '12, $8 million in '13 and $8.75 million in '14. The Royals' decision to keep him or deal him will depend on what it is offered and how hard he pushes to be traded.
A Soria trade would be huge for the Yankees, who have pitching questions. He and Mariano Rivera (recently re-signed through 2012) would allow Joe Girardi to own the late innings. But the Royals will deal Soria only if the Yankees give them the cream of their farm system — most notably catcher Jesus Montero, third baseman-outfielder Brandon Laird and pitchers Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances. Joba Chamberlain, an intriguing reclamation project, also could be a fit in a possible trade.