Four non-tendered by White Sox

Four non-tendered by White Sox

CHICAGO -- Willie Harris has been busy moving into his new house in Georgia, busy enough that he didn't seem overly concerned when asked Tuesday night about the 11 p.m. CT deadline for arbitration-eligible players to be tendered contracts.

It's not that Harris doesn't care about returning to the White Sox. After going through his fair share of highs and lows with the organization, Harris experienced one of the greatest moments during his short career in late October when he scored the lone run during Game 4 of the White Sox World Series sweep of Houston.

But Harris has pretty much known since shortly after the championship celebration that his future as an everyday player would not be on the South Side of Chicago. General manager Ken Williams even talked at the Winter Meetings in regard to trying to accommodate Harris' desire to find steadier playing time via a possible trade.

"If this is the end of my time with the White Sox, then, oh, well, it's the end of it," Harris said by phone from his home in Georgia. "It's not the end of me.

"I just want to go somewhere where I can be a force and go out and be me. I don't have to try to be someone I'm not to please someone else. I know my abilities, and it's my time to shine."

The White Sox announced Wednesday morning that Harris, outfielder Timo Perez and Minor League hurlers Felix Diaz and Jon Adkins would not be tendered a contract for 2006 and, in turn, became four of 50 new free agents resulting from this process. Contracts would be tendered, as expected, to third baseman Joe Crede, pitcher Jon Garland and utility man Rob Mackowiak.

Those three players could go before an arbitrator or agree to terms with the team beforehand. Filings can begin on Jan. 5, with the hearings starting Feb. 1. Williams declined comment on the arbitration decisions made by the team during a conference call Tuesday to introduce Javier Vazquez to the Chicago media, stating it was not an appropriate time to talk about the situation.

Williams clearly prefers the three individual negotiations to be settled, though, before an arbitrator decides what a contract should or shouldn't be.

"I don't anticipate having to do that dance, although we might end up in a hearing of some sort," Williams said. "We will have to play it out and see where it takes us.

"You are at the mercy of the system. We have to find out each individual market value on each player."

Both Harris and Perez, a consummate pinch-hitter, spot starter and strong clubhouse influence on the young Latin players, could re-sign with the White Sox at an adjusted salary. Diaz and Adkins could be signed to Minor League deals. Diaz's agent mentioned Tuesday a number of organizations have expressed interest in the right-hander, who did not have a fit with the White Sox in 2006 and was out of options.

As Harris mentioned, his focus is intensely personal after playing a bit part during the White Sox championship effort. Seven teams already have apparently expressed interest in Harris, who is now represented by Darrell Buford, with the Colorado Rockies apparently at the top of that list.

Harris, 27, played portions of four seasons for the White Sox. His lone chance to perform on a somewhat regular basis came in 2004, when the fleet-footed left-handed hitter batted .262 over 409 at-bats and swiped 19 bases. The White Sox felt they needed more consistency from the second base slot, along with a more adept second hitter in the lineup, and added veteran Tadahito Iguchi from Japan during the last offseason. In turn, Harris felt he was never given an unrestricted opportunity to prove himself.

When he returned to the White Sox active roster from Triple-A Charlotte before Sept. 1 of last season, Harris was determined to simply be a fit off the bench. His contributions give Harris a good feeling about his final days in Chicago, even if his time has come to a close.

"I think I went out the best way possible," said Harris, who primarily played at second but also started for the White Sox in center field and even a few games at shortstop for the first time in his career. "I'm not bitter or upset or anything like that. I understand the business side of it. I went out as part of the champions, but I just wish I could have shown the fans a little more of the real Willie Harris. I was never given the opportunity to do that.

"All you can really do is what they ask you to do. I'm a competitor who wants to be on the field, but it doesn't always work that way. You have to deal with the way the system is set up.

"The bottom line is they non-tendered me, so they are saying, 'We don't need you,'" Harris added. "They have other plans, and I can deal with that. They showed me what they showed me so it's time to move on. It's good for a change. It's good to go somewhere else if you are not wanted. It's the way I feel right now."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.