White Sox, Uribe agree to one-year deal

White Sox, Uribe agree to one-year deal

CHICAGO -- Ken Williams' master plan for revamping the White Sox during the offseason includes specific names of outsiders such as Torii Hunter and possibly even Miguel Cabrera, as rumors and reports emanate from the General Managers meetings in Orlando.

But ultimately, Williams' outlook for improvement goes back to one basic precept -- surveying each position on the current roster and seeing where the White Sox could take a step up. That's the process Williams and his staff employed with Juan Uribe, before announcing a new one-year, $4.5 million deal with the shortstop on Wednesday.

"Uribe has been one of the most consistent shortstops in the game," said Williams, in between talks at the meetings in Orlando. "We just felt that given the responsibility to try to upgrade ourselves at every position to make the team better, we wanted to explore every avenue before having to make this decision.

"That's why it's taken this long, because we wanted to give every club a chance to weigh in. Now that we've got a lay of the free agent possibilities, combined with the trade possibilities, we felt he was the best option."

The White Sox needed to decide by Wednesday whether to pick up the $5 million team option held on Uribe for 2008. But the team took the full amount of time to decide, with Williams listening to all overtures for a possible change up the middle.

Ultimately, the White Sox didn't exercise the option, but they didn't use a $300,000 buyout. Instead, they signed Uribe to deal for slightly less money.

"We didn't feel the free agent market or the current trade possibilities were better than what we currently have in-house with him," said Williams of Uribe.

Uribe, 29, watched his average dip for the fourth consecutive season as part of the White Sox, hitting .234 in 2007, while needing a .309 average during a September stretch of games basically playing out the string to reach that point. Uribe also posted a .284 on-base percentage, marking the second straight year in which he finished under .300 in this particular category.

Manager Ozzie Guillen talked as recently as mid-October about his desire to have Uribe maintain better physical conditioning from start to finish, leaving Uribe's future status with the organization as tenuous at best.

But those are a few of the negatives surrounding the supremely talented Uribe. He also knocked out 20 home runs and 18 doubles last season, while driving home 68 in 150 games for the White Sox.

His home run total placed Uribe second among American League shortstops, as Uribe has averaged 20 home runs per season in his four years with the White Sox. Uribe's .976 fielding percentage also ranked him second among AL shortstops. Uribe's power potential from the eighth or ninth slot of a potent lineup eventually made him the team's top choice above free agent alternatives such as Omar Vizquel or David Eckstein.

Wednesday's announcement does not necessarily mean Uribe will be a lock as the team's Opening Day shortstop. The team could use Uribe at second if it continues to seek an upgrade at shortstop, although Danny Richar appears to have the inside track on that particular position. Judging by Williams' comments, though, the White Sox shortstop incumbent appears to have survived for another one-year term.

"The free agent market doesn't provide us with any better answers, in our estimation, than Juan," Williams said. "So, if there is an opportunity to improve again in any area via trade, we'll go down that road and try to do so.

"Short of that, we'll look at Uribe at short with Danny Richar, and [Pablo] Ozuna is coming back from injury. So, he'll get some time over there as well."

Settling the Uribe scenario means the White Sox have no remaining free agents on their roster, and they only have arbitration questions to answer with Scott Podsednik, Joe Crede and Alex Cintron. This trio will be evaluated like everyone else on the team, with Williams looking to put the best possible lineup with the best fit for victory out on the field.

"We'll take it step by step from this point on, through the Winter Meetings, to see if trade possibilities exist to where you can go ahead and improve," Williams said. "Again, it's not limited to shortstop. It's an effort to try and improve the team as a whole."

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