White Sox GM Rick Hahn addressed the media yesterday regarding the state of his organization’s rebuilding efforts and plans for the coming offseason. Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times and James Fegan of The Athletic (subscription link) were among those to participate in the chat.
Of particular note, Hahn gave some clues as to the South Siders’ market stance this winter. From an outside perspective, the organization’s wide-open payroll and anticipated timeline — along with a potentially intriguing opportunity in the game’s worst division — make the Sox potential pursuers of some top-flight talent over the coming winter.
Hahn made clear that the ballclub — which is presently sitting on a 62-96 record — is “not yet in a position realistically to be adding so-called finishing pieces.” That’s hard to argue.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that the team isn’t positioned to commit some cash under the right circumstances. The veteran exec emphasized that he’d like to avoid “short-term fixes that will complicate things in the long run.” Rather, he said, the focus will be on setting the organization up “for an extended run.”
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Hahn ultimately landed on an oft-heard buzzword to describe his expected approach: opportunism. Noting that it’s generally not possible to “control when certain players become available,” Hahn hinted at potential involvement with higher-end performers.
As he put it:
“If we see long-term pieces that make sense, in addition to augmenting the pitching or filling certain needs for 2019, I think we have the flexibility to pursue them and we are going to be opportunistic and respond to the market accordingly.”
It could be that the White Sox will pursue something like the recent approach of the Phillies, who brought in several high-priced veterans on relatively short-term deals at a point at which their young roster had not yet fully matured. Of course, while there’s room to spend, the Chicago org did not maintain a payroll as lofty as that of the Phils during those teams’ most recent competitive phases. At the same time, the Philadelphia club’s 2017-18 outlay came in a market that did not feature the sort of eye-popping young talent that’ll be on offer this winter. It’s not hard to imagine the Sox being somewhat more reluctant than the Phillies were last winter, while at the same time being aggressive in chasing particular players.
Ultimately, the White Sox will need to bear in mind the limitations on their near-term outlook. It’s a club that’s still waiting for some talented players to make hoped-for strides. Yoan Moncada, for instance, has been only a league-average hitter due to his difficulties reaching base. Hahn noted that Moncada could be moved around the diamond if the situation calls for it, so he’ll join Yolmer Sanchez as a flexible piece who can adapt to the team’s other moves. It sounds as if Tim Anderson remains entrenched at shortstop, with Hahn praising his defensive efforts, though of course his bat is also still in need of development. The organization has a variety of other interesting players already playing in the majors, but only Anderson has posted more than 2.0 fWAR this year, hinting at the remaining uncertainty.
Perhaps there’d be a stronger argument for the Sox to begin pushing the pedal to the floor had Michael Kopech not gone down with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. With Kopech out for the 2019 season, the team’s rotation outlook is significantly weakened. Hahn says he is committed only to Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez, and Lucas Giolito — a that trio had its share of concerns this year, particularly when peripherals are examined.
Losing Kopech not only shaves off a significant bit of upside, but leaves a roster in need of innings which “very likely will come from outside the organization,” per Hahn. It’s not clear as yet whether a significant acquisition or two might be possible, or if the team will instead mostly pursue gap-filling measures in building out its rotation.