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From GM meetings: Williams on 2012, Buehrle

MILWAUKEE — White Sox general manager Ken Williams walked into the GM meetings at the Pfister Hotel with a little less swagger than usual. A 79-83 record will take the bounce out of a guy’s step.

Echoing what many White Sox fans said all season long — that the underachieving 2011 team was extremely difficult to watch at times — Williams begins preparing for 2012 not knowing exactly where it’s headed. A lot will depend on whether trading his movable pieces (Carlos Quentin, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Matt Thornton) would bring enough in return to satisfy him. It all depends on the plan, whatever that is.

“Word has gotten out that we were disappointed in last season and not exactly sure, as we sit here today, what direction we’re going to go,” Williams told a handful of reporters Monday night. “If there is sincere, genuine interest I will hear about it at these meetings and we will go from there.

“Generally I have Plan A, B and C. And sometimes D, E and F. And you chart a course and have conversations that lead you down one of those courses. I’m not so sure that there are that many options on the table at this point for all the reasons I’ve spoken to you about before.”

This November certainly feels different for Williams, who has a new manager (Robin Ventura) and many new faces on his coaching staff.

“It’s different because it’s been, what did we have, two sub-.500 seasons in the last 12? It takes more to bounce back. This is a different situation because you still have the talent that you believed in just one year ago in place. The difficult part as I have tried to explain, is OK, what will that manifest itself into being? Is that going to be the guys who had tough years (Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham) reverting back to their career norms? Will that be a step forward for some of the younger guys. If I have to move players here and there will the players that come in havel enough impact to help us win in 2012? Or are they more projected to be more helpful in 2013? I don’t know because we haven’t had those conversations. Now I can sit here today and tell you and pinpoint exactly who I would like to acquire, whether it be through trade or any other way? Absolutely. But that happens very rarely.”

Williams said it is not out of the question that the payroll stays near the $127 million mark. He’ll know more by the time the winter meetings take place in Dallas during the first week of December.

“Who’s to say we’re going to lose money and who’s to say we’re not going to win? We still have the talent in place to win. Now, when I say that, that means we have to have some bounce-back years from some guys. Can I give you some logical, sensible reasons why I would expect that? No more so that I would have thought that some of the guys that had tough years would bounce back in the second half of last year. So that would just be blowing smoke up your [butt] and I won’t do that. I don’t know.”

While not ruling it out, Williams did not sound optimistic about re-signing free agent Mark Buehrle, who has played his entire career in a Sox uniform.

“Listen, it’s professional sports,” Williams said. “There’s a time for everyone to come. There’s a time for everyone to go. I don’t know if this is his time to go, and unless… He’s one of the … and I don’t want this to come out the wrong way because he has been as consistent of a performer as you’d ever want over the time he’s been here. What I will miss more than that is the person he is.

“We have not chartered our course yet. There is a course of direction that it doesn’t make sense. There is one, that if you…I don’t want to get too far into it. Because there’s no reason to. In a few short weeks, we’ll have all the information.”