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Williams: Sabathia deal no big surprise
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 12/11/2008 12:31 AM

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LAS VEGAS - While Cubs general manager Jim Hendry was happy to have pitcher CC Sabathia out of the National League Central, White Sox GM Kenny Williams took in stride that Sabathia is back in the American League.

Sabathia, who went from Cleveland to Milwaukee last summer, signed a seven-year, $161 million deal with the New York Yankees early Wednesday.

"New York economics have always been a little different than the rest of ours," said Williams, who said he spent an uneventful Wednesday at the winter meetings. "I don't think any of us was really surprised when that number came up on the board. I was really pulling for the National League, and I was thinking about kicking in a player or two. What are you going to do? The Yankees are the Yan- kees, and they've been operating that way for a long time."

Williams then added one cau-tion.

"However, it's not a recipe for success. There are no recipes for success in this game, no manual to get you to a championship. So they did what they had to do, and we do what we have to do."

The White Sox haven't been expected to make a big free-agent splash here, but Williams seems happy with what his organization has accomplished this off-season.

"Obviously, the plan was to fortify our minor-league system," he said. "We're well on our way in the last two years with the drafts that Doug Laumann and his crew have put together. We just added nine guys to our system, whether it be trades or (Dayan) Viciedo. We just added nine guys, nine plus-type, high-ceiling type guys. Part of the plan with that is the extra two picks we're getting next year for (Orlando) Cabrera's free agency. That was a necessity that had to be done."

Bako redux? Jim Hendry confirmed he has spoken to Barry Meister, the agent for veteran catcher Paul Bako, who played for the Cubs in 2003-04. The idea is to bring Bako to camp, likely on a minor-league deal, to compete with Koyie Hill to back up Geovany Soto.

Meister also helps to represent veteran lefty Randy Johnson, who is a fallback target if the Cubs can't trade for Jake Peavy.

Economic reality: Kenny Williams said nothing has come down from Major League Baseball about teams watching their dollars. It's just that the economy, according to Williams, has cause a slow free-agent market.

"I wouldn't say that we got any sort of edict that was sent down from the commissioner's office or anyone else," Williams said. "I think there are certain realities that are just slapping most clubs in the faces based on... you have to understand that a large part of your revenue is driven from advertising and sponsorship and, obviously, ticket sales. People are hurting so why shouldn't that have a trickle-down effect to sports? It was just a matter of time."