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Notes: Williams ready to work

Notes: Williams ready to work

CHICAGO -- General manager Ken Williams is going to be a busy man this offseason. The task of turning the South Siders from a fourth-place club back into championship contenders is one that will take some time.

And though Williams has been active in re-signing the current core group of players, he is one of the few GMs who is not afraid to make a big move at any time.

"Typically, what we do -- and this gets us in trouble with the rumor mills quite often in the offseason -- is we listen to everyone, to every overture," said Williams during his lengthy session with the media on Saturday. "You never know when something may be so appealing to you that it makes your entire team better."

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Williams went against his wheeling-and-dealing nature for the most part throughout the 2007 season. Rather than acquire new talent, he re-signed the players he already has, extending the contracts of Mark Buehrle, Jermaine Dye and A.J. Pierzynski midseason.

But that passive strategy is subject to change in the offseason, as Williams made clear that the only players guaranteed to be back next season are the ones with no-trade clauses in their contracts.

He referenced the Carlos Lee trade following the 2004 season, when the Sox moved their star left fielder for a group of players that included Scott Podsednik and Luis Vizcaino.

"That wasn't just about the deal as it related to the particular player and that team," Williams said. "That was something where we looked at it as one player moving to bring in five as a result of that. You guys kind of have seen how we have done things in the past, and you know that there isn't any avenue in October that we will close off or won't listen to."

One major disadvantage of Williams' propensity to move big names is that those big names have to constantly deal with hearing their names in trade rumors. Buehrle and Dye were each subject to countless trade speculation before they were re-signed, and Jon Garland has been prominently featured in trade rumors for the last two seasons.

"It gets us in trouble," Williams said. "I feel bad for our players. That means that they have to spend a couple of months getting their names dragged across the newspapers, and that is tough for them."

Paying the bills: The White Sox spent nearly $109 million on the 2007 roster, and that number is likely to increase in 2008. So one of the major questions entering one of the most important offseasons in recent memory is, how much more can the Sox spend?

This offseason's free-agent class is not particularly deep, although both Aaron Rowand and Torii Hunter have been discussed as potential signings, and likely carry a hefty price tag.

Williams has been very direct in asserting that the White Sox will explore every avenue in free agency. But the team's ability to land marquee talent will depend on how the fans respond to the struggles of 2007.

"We have gotten great support from our fans for a number of years, and we've set franchise records," Williams said. "If that continues, obviously we'll have more resources to work with, because the standard policy remains that whatever we take in goes back out the door in terms of improving our club. That is not going to change.

"What will change, what we don't know is how will our fan base react? Will they continue to have faith in us? I hope they do, because we are going to go out and do what we always have done and try to make this thing happen.

"To a large degree, we are going to have to see how that plays itself out," he added. "If it turns out there is a dropoff, there is not going to be any 'woe is me, woe is us' around here. We're just going to go out and be creative, as we have done in the past, to try to make it happen."

Not placing blame: There are plenty of reasons why the White Sox finished fourth in the American League Central this season, making it hard to heap too much blame on any one person's shoulders.

Manager Ozzie Guillen took a different tack on Sunday, spreading the blame throughout the organization.

"We failed all the way from the top to the bottom," Guillen said. "We failed from Jerry Reinsdorf all the way to the bat boy. Everyone failed this year. Hopefully, next year, we turn around and do a better job."

Quick hits: The Sox haven't finished outside the top three in their division since 1989, when they finished seventh in the AL West. ... Jim Thome singled in his first and only at-bat on Sunday. He was removed from the game for pinch-runner Luis Terrero and exited to a standing ovation from the U.S. Cellular Field crowd. ... Chicago's offense combined to hit just .246 going into the final contest. It is the lowest team batting average for the South Siders since they hit .244 in 1988.

Alex Gyr is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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