Notes: Sox look to build around core

Notes: Sox look to build around core

CHICAGO -- Entering the upcoming week when teams officially can negotiate with free agents other than their own, general manager Ken Williams and the White Sox move forward with their cup half-empty or half-full -- depending on how their returning talent is judged.

Wednesday's announcement of a one-year deal being agreed upon with shortstop Juan Uribe means that the White Sox have no remaining free agents of their own.

Big-ticket prospects such as left-handed starter Mark Buehrle (four years, $56 million) and right fielder Jermaine Dye (two years, $22 million with a mutual option for 2010) agreed to new deals during this past season -- July and August, respectively. Second baseman Tadahito Iguchi, a current free agent, was shipped to Philadelphia two days prior to the non-waiver deadline.

Williams doesn't have to worry about getting into a bidding war for his own standouts, while also trying to upgrade his talent pool from the outside. But some pundits would argue that returning the core players from a team posting a dismal 72-90 record in 2007 exhibits a rather large leap of faith. The White Sox general manager seems ready to take that particular chance.

"Obviously, we are at the mercy of counting on some bounce-back years," Williams said. "But they are guys with a long history, and there's no reason we shouldn't be able to count on that taking place. I would like to get them some help."

Dye stands as one of those examples to which Williams speaks. The 33-year-old finished the first half of the 2007 season with a woeful .214 average, 12 home runs and 39 RBIs. The affable, but somewhat quiet, leader called it one of the toughest halves of baseball in his highly successful career.

But Williams believes Dye's second half, in which he bounced back to hit .298 in 67 games, with 16 home runs and 39 RBIs, is more indicative of what the White Sox can expect. After all, Dye finds himself one year removed from the greatest single-season effort of his career, when he hit .315 with 44 home runs and 120 RBIs in 2006.

These core players such as Dye, Buehrle, Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski and even Uribe, to name a few, also are the same group which led the White Sox to the 2005 World Series title and 90 wins during the 2006 campaign.

"I just think we got off to a slow start and lost confidence in ourselves," said Dye, speaking before his recent induction into the Arizona Fall League Hall of Fame. "Being in the division we were in, it was tough to get back in it.

"We'll be all right. Guys still play hard, and [2007] was just one of those years. It's hard to have good years as a team year in and year out. For whatever reason, we struggled as a team and at the wrong time. Usually, you have one or two guys that struggle, but at one time. We had the whole team."

Back in the fold: Uribe had more to focus on this past week than simply his future with the White Sox. Uribe's mother, who was described as the true matriarch of the family and was very close with the White Sox shortstop, passed away somewhat suddenly last Friday after a battle with cancer.

Martin Arburua, Uribe's agent and advisor, lauded the White Sox for their concern and giving Uribe time to grieve up until agreeing upon the $4.5 million deal prior to Wednesday's deadline concerning Uribe's club option. Arburua had enough faith in the organization to have Uribe talk directly with Williams before the deal was finalized.

"There are not a lot of shortstop jobs out there, with basically the top 26 teams having solid shortstops," Arburua said. "Juan and I looked at the openings and there were places like Tampa, Toronto and possibly Houston. But Juan said he was happier in Chicago, so let's do something."

Although Uribe's 2008 club option originally was for $5 million, Williams didn't feel $5 million was the right price to pay for Uribe at this point, as the conversation was recounted by Arburua. There also wasn't any talk concerning Uribe moving to second base.

"They were making a point that they wanted a hungry ballplayer, sort of show us what you can do," Arburua said. "Kenny always admitted Juan played very good defense, and basically he was second [among AL shortstops] in fielding and home runs. But they were disappointed with his approach at the plate.

"It's the best place for him, he's comfortable there and they have a good chance to win. I told Juan he would make up the money through playoff or World Series shares."

Sign of relief: Count Dye as one veteran happy to have a contract in hand, being able to focus on his family, getting ready for 2008 and his golf game, as opposed to trying to find an interested taker for his services.

"I'm just glad that things got done, got it out of the way and off my shoulders," Dye said. "I don't have to be standing here and wondering where I'm going to be. I wanted to be in Chicago and it's a great place to play. We won a World Series there."

Dye was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame with Torii Hunter, a close friend of Dye's and one of the most sought after position player free agents. Hunter said during a Thursday radio interview on ESPN AM 1000 in Chicago how he planned to meet with Williams on Sunday.

A White Sox sales pitch already was thrown in by Dye, who understands the importance of an addition such as Hunter.

"Definitely. When you are strong up the middle, you give yourself a chance and just let your pitcher know that anything hit in center field is going to be caught," said Dye of Hunter. "Torii is going to go where he feels is best for him and his family. Hopefully, that's Chicago."

AFL update: Ryan Sweeney has raised his average from .214 to .262, with seven RBIs and four stolen bases through 18 games in Arizona. But the young outfielder has just a .262 slugging percentage, with 17 singles to show for his offensive output over 65 at-bats.

Chris Getz, the middle infield prospect from the University of Michigan, currently holds a .273 average over 15 games. If not for an injury setback with Double-A Birmingham last year, when he fouled a ball off of his shin, Getz could be closing in on a Major League utility role.

"He's that grinder, hard-nosed, [all-] out type of guy," said Williams of Getz.

Jack Egbert picked up his first win for the Phoenix Desert Dogs and has a 3.77 ERA over five starts. Fernando Hernandez Jr., who led the Southern League with 60 appearances last season, has not allowed an earned run over 10 2/3 innings.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for reporter Kelly Thesier contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.