Earlier this summer, the White Sox extended the contracts of executive vice president Kenny Williams and general manager Rick Hahn, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports in the course of a lengthy interview with long-time club owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Precise terms are not known, but both have received new long-term deals, per the report. Reinsdorf also discussed the organization’s current rebuilding efforts in a piece that’s well worth a full read.
Both executives are longstanding members of the organization. Williams played with the White Sox, joined the club as a scout in 1992, and has steadily climbed the ranks ever since. He took the GM seat in 2000, helping to engineer the club’s 2005 World Series-winning roster, and left it with a move further upstairs twelve years later.
Hahn took the baton from Williams as GM in 2012 and has held that role since. He originally joined the South Siders when Williams took over the baseball operations, moving to the organization after a stint as a sports agent. He quickly rose to become the assistant GM and was long seen as an eventual successor.
In recent years, that pair of top baseball decisionmakers oversaw the construction and then dismantling of a strong core of young talent. High-end, controllable players such as Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Adam Eaton seemingly gave the club a chance at a nice window of contention, and it spent big on complementary veterans (through trade and free agency) to put a winner on the field. Those efforts failed to come to fruition, though, and the Sox haven’t posted a .500 record since 2012.
With evident needs all over the roster after a disappointing 2016 campaign, Reinsdorf authorized a dedicated sell-off. Sale and Eaton were moved in successive Winter Meetings blockbusters. Quintana went this summer to the cross-town Cubs. And ensuing deals saw David Robertson, Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera, and Tommy Kahnle swapped out for young talent.
While Reinsdorf says it was “very tough” to go through that process, particularly given that he’s 81 years old, he tells Nightengale that he determined he has “an obligation to do what’s right for the fans.” It was particularly difficult to boost the Cubs by sending them Quintana, he noted, though again he cited the need to focus on his own organization’s needs. “I know the White Sox fans will be upset if Quintana pitches them to the World Series,” says Reinsdorf, “but I also know we got their two best prospects.’’
Since embarking upon this new path, the White Sox have compiled one of the game’s top farm systems. In addition to the numerous youngsters added via trade, Chicago inked highly rated Cuban prospect Luis Robert and is on course to score a top draft choice next year. The club’s most intriguing new assets litter top-100 prospect ranking lists, and several — including Yoan Moncada and Reynaldo Lopez — have already earned promotions to the majors.
Turning that aggregation of young talent into a successful MLB roster, of course, will still require a concerted effort. The Sox currently own an ugly 45-71 record and will face many challenges in player development and, eventually, further roster maneuvering designed to supplement the hoped-for new core. More immediately, the team’s top decisionmakers will need to consider trades involving players such as Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia, each of whom has played well this year and can be controlled for two more seasons via arbitration.
There’s mostly a blank slate on future salary commitments, though, which will surely aid the undertaking. After pushing payroll to north of $130MM by the end of 2016, the front office has pared things back to the point that the recent extension of shortstop Tim Anderson stands as the only significant remaining long-term commitment.