As the White Sox prepare for the second season of a dramatic rebuilding of the franchise, the biggest questions facing general manager Rick Hahn and his front-office team will be the futures of Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia. As I noted last week when taking a look at some of the upcoming offseason needs for the Sox, both are controlled only through 2019, making it questionable as to whether they’ll be part of the next contending team or whether either is more of a trade piece than a building block. Abreu will earn a raise on this year’s $10.825MM in arbitration this offseason, while Garcia will get a bump on his own $3MM salary.
Hahn address both players’ futures at an end-of-season press conference yesterday, expanding a bit on the difficult nature of the decision at hand. Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago and Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune were among the reporters on hand for Hahn’s media address and has numerous quotes from the Chicago exec as well as from Abreu himself. Abreu hasn’t been shy about his desire to stick with the Sox through their rebuild in the past, and he was as blunt as ever yesterday in telling Hayes that he hopes to spend his entire career in a White Sox uniform. Whether that happens is largely up to Hahn and his staff, and the decision unsurprisingly isn’t an easy one for that group.
“Both Avi and Abreu are under control for the next two years, through 2019,” said Hahn (via Hayes). “I think even under the most optimistic projections of our ability to contend, certainly ’18 and ’19 don’t include the bulk of the time when we anticipate having a window open to us, so obviously with any player who isn’t controllable through the bulk of that window, we have to make an assessment.”
Hahn spoke about the possibility of extending one or both players but also the chance of marketing each in trades this offseason as a means of further amassing young talent with timelines that fall more into the 2020 and beyond target to which he alluded above.
“They’re both special cases, and there are very strong arguments for them playing roles in 2020 and beyond,” he continued, going on to stress the value they place on Abreu’s on-field contributions as well as his role as the team’s clubhouse leader. Garcia “is still very young in this game” said Hahn, adding that there’s some reason to believe that his 2017 breakout could very well become “the norm” for the 26-year-old moving forward.
Certainly, the Sox don’t have to make a definitive call on either player this winter. Hahn points to the team’s handling of Jose Quintana last offseason as an example of a player’s market not coming together in the winter but more strongly forming at the July non-waiver deadline.
“It’s not me just dancing around or being cute,” said Hahn. “There isn’t a firm answer right now. We don’t know what the options are. One of them conceivably is extending, and we have to wait and see what that cost entails.”
One thing that does seem clear, especially in the wake of a shoulder operation that could sideline Carlos Rodon for as much as the first two months of the 2018 season, is that the Sox will need some veteran rotation reinforcements. Chicago also decimated its Major League bullpen on the trade market, and while they’ve received solid contributions from unexpected sources such as Gregory Infante and Juan Minaya, they’ll still have some work to do on that front.
“It’s going to be about being opportunistic,” Hahn said of his offseason search for bullpen arms (via Kane), “and perhaps there’s another arm to fill into the rotation that makes some sense for us.” Hahn spoke specifically about veteran additions being able to provide some “cushion” to allow younger arms to further develop. While Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and possibly Carson Fulmer could all be in the rotation early next year, the Sox seemingly could benefit from another veteran to pair with James Shields as they wait for Michael Kopech, Spencer Adams, Alec Hansen and/or Tyler Danish to prove ready for an extended look at the big league level.
There are quite a few more quotes from Hahn within each column from Hayes and Kane, so readers are encouraged to check out each in full.