CHICAGO -- It was about three years ago when Ken Williams uttered the famous words to MLB.com about how he didn't want to acquire a player like Carlos Quentin during that 2007 offseason, but instead wanted "the Carlos Quentin." That's right, Williams was staking his claim behind a young outfielder with a .230 average, 14 home runs and 63 RBIs in 395 career at-bats for Arizona who was picked up in exchange for Chris Carter at the previous Winter Meetings. White Sox fans snickered and made this comment the target of message-board derision. By the time the 2008 All-Star break rolled around, Quentin stood as a prime American League Most Valuable Player candidate and fans were buying up T-shirts featuring that "The Carlos Quentin" slogan.
Williams' faith hasn't lessened in his intense right fielder, even with Quentin's last two years dotted by injuries and a lower level of production compared to his 2008 revelation. So, when the Sun-Times reported via Twitter Friday how the White Sox were "actively looking to trade Quentin" for a package including bullpen help, the White Sox general manager showed that confidence by stating how Quentin was not on the block and remained an important part of the franchise's future. "I did not have one single conversation about Quentin at the Winter Meetings," Williams told MLB.com on Saturday afternoon. "I have not had any discussions with anyone about Carlos since the General Managers Meetings, and it could never have been described as we were shopping him. "That's incorrect. I fielded some phone calls, but that was it. I've not had a single conversation about Carlos, and I don't plan to. I'll listen, but I'm not terribly interested." Quentin's name has almost naturally come up in trade talks because of the White Sox recent spending splurge. Adding Adam Dunn and bringing back Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski raised the White Sox 2011 payroll to $105 million, and with John Danks, Tony Pena and Carlos Quentin set for raises as arbitration-eligible players, that total could reach near a White Sox-high $120 million. But here's the major problem. The White Sox still are lacking in proven bullpen arms behind Matt Thornton, Chris Sale, Pena and Sergio Santos, and if 2007's relief debacle proved anything, it would be how they need another two reliable relievers to help make '11 an elite campaign. With Williams having stated how the payroll is tapped out as of the end of the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., a trade becomes the only option available. On Saturday, though, Williams presented a small hint how that spending increase might possibly extend into the free agent bullpen pool including plus-arms such as Kerry Wood, Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier, to name a few examples. "I'm encouraged by the excitement from our fans," said Williams, who reiterated how he is not looking for a pure closer as much as a versatile late-inning type like the role J.J. Putz held in 2010. "Perhaps if that excitement manifests itself into turning out to more ticket sales, perhaps that might free up some more cash to do something. "I'll listen to anyone," added Williams of trade possibilities. "But I said it right there up on the podium [for the Konerko signing], how I'm not really motivated to take anything away from what the Major League roster looks like, from what the everyday roster looks like." Everyday would be the key word in Williams' above analysis. Quentin and even starting-rotation staple Gavin Floyd would qualify in the everyday category. Dayan Viciedo and Mark Teahen would not, at least at this point. Teahen, who is owed $10.25 million over the next two years, would be infinitely valuable to the White Sox as a super utility player. He could also free up the money needed to bring back a quality reliever, subtracting $4.75 million in 2011. Viciedo, who will earn $1.25 million in 2011, is blocked by Konerko and Dunn at first and designated hitter, respectively, for the next three years. Brent Morel also has moved past him at third base, but Williams doesn't seem inclined to move the 21-year-old with the powerful presence at the plate. "Again, I don't really like to talk about these types of things because it can change in the matter of a phone call," Williams said. "I'm not really interested in moving Viciedo either for a reliever. It doesn't work for me." One other problem in exploring a trade for Quentin is finding a natural right-field replacement. Jordan Danks seems to be the next internal option, with his defense more than Major League-ready but his offense not quite there. When asked if there was anyone in the organization who could take over for Quentin if he was hypothetically traded, Williams simply responded, "No." Despite finishing with 110 hits and a .243 average in 2010, Quentin produced 87 RBIs and scored 73 runs. He also featured a .342 on-base percentage, down from his .394 finish in 2008, but up from .323 in an injury-plagued 2009. "Carlos Quentin is going to have a big year," Williams said. "He has big talent, and even in a down year average-wise, he is very valuable. "No matter what his average is, he picks it up with on-base percentage. Then, if he has a good year, it becomes a great year. "He plays hard and has the ability to set the tone for a game with a hard slide into second base or taking first to third aggressively. There's much more to Carlos' overall game than just hitting for average."