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Arms Race

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Dec 5, 2006 4:31PM

2006_12_sports_ted_lilly.jpgWith baseball's Winter Meetings now underway in Orlando, baseball's hot stove is heating up. Both Chicago clubs are at the center of many rumors, as pitching has been the clear focus of this offseason for most teams.

The Cubs have been mentioned as suitors of nearly all big-name free agent pitchers, from Daisuke Matsuzaka to Jason Schmidt. With the Red Sox winning the rights to negotiate with Matsuzaka and Schmidt likely out of the Cubs' price range, the latest rumors have centered around Ted Lilly. While ESPN's Hot Stove blog jumped the gun in basically calling it a done deal, the Cubs are clearly in the fray. How much will they be willing to overpay for a pitcher who won a career-best 15 games in 2006?

While the Cubs are looking to buy some pitching, the White Sox are one of the few teams actually looking to sell. GM Kenny Williams is supposedly shopping three of his starters, Mark Buehrle, Javier Vasquez and Freddy Garcia — considered to be three of the top five pitchers available — by either trade or free agency. Williams looks to move at least one, as all three will become eligible for free agency next year. With the strong sellers' market, can Williams work a trade to upgrade the team in other areas?

2006_12_sports_kenny_williams.jpgOne rumor is that the Sox might be interested in Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells. A three-time Gold Glove winner for his fielding, he also hit .303 with 32 home runs and 106 RBIs last year. And at $5.6 million for next year, he'd come cheap — for now. He's also a free agent at the end of the year, so he'd likely be a 1-year rental.

To land Wells, the Sox would have to give up at least a starting pitcher and center field prospect. That's certainly feasible, but Williams would have to decide if it's worth giving that much up for one year's service.

Of course, Chicagoist has learned to expect something completely unexpected from Kenny Williams. Who saw Vasquez or Jim Thome as possibilities before the deals were done? So who knows what Williams will do — whether during the Winter Meetings or sometime this offseason?