LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The White Sox silence at these Winter Meetings speaks volumes.
Last year, no team made more noise. Rick Hahn pulled off franchise-altering deals that shipped Chris Sale and Adam Eaton away from the South Side, kickstarting the declared rebuild with a couple of bangs.
Fast forward to December 2017 and the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort, and you’ll see the fruits of those efforts: a complete lack of activity. But there’s a reason for that, a good one, as Hahn has explained in a couple different ways this week in Florida.
“I think all of us enjoyed last Winter Meetings more than this one because there was more activity,” Hahn said Wednesday during his daily media session. “We are in a far, far better place as an organization as we sit here today. We are much closer to winning our next championship today than we were a year ago.
“Last year sort of marked a very clear declaration about our direction and obviously had two very strong steps toward accomplishing what we wanted to accomplish. This year we started our conversations up there in the suite with, ‘Let’s take a second and understand where we’re at right now and what we have coming and how we want to get there and realize that at least for this week, there’s probably not going to be a ton that we’re going to do that’s going to continue that process.’
“There’s a reason for that. We’ve accomplished a lot in the past year, and once those next opportunities present themselves, we’ll continue.”
Now obviously fans and the media alike get swept up in the flood of trade rumors during what has historically been baseball’s busiest week. Reports that the Baltimore Orioles are shopping Manny Machado had White Sox fans dreaming of seeing him on the South Side. Watching the Miami Marlins trade away much of their roster had some White Sox fans clamoring for their favorite team to trade for Christian Yelich. There’s been trade speculation for months, really, involving Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia.
And those fans and media members aren’t alone. Hahn said earlier this week that his preaching of patience applied just as much to members of the White Sox front office as it did to fans.
But as he showed with the trades involving Sale and Eaton — and the one in July that sent Jose Quintana across town — picking the right spots and acquiring the right packages is far more important when it comes to maintaining the carefully laid plans of this rebuilding effort.
“We have to be responsive to the market,” he said Wednesday. “We’ve shown that repeatedly at one end of the extreme in terms of our timing of making a big trade like the Quintana trade. You heard me say a year ago that it would be great if were able to do it while at the Winter Meetings last year. In reality it didn't come together until the All-Star break.
“At the other end of the extreme, I don’t think many people expected us to act quickly and sign Welington Castillo and add to this team in a way that we felt helps us for the short term and the long term.
“Again, just because the eyes of the baseball world are focused on it this week, there’s nothing magical about doing anything right now. We’re going to respond more when the opportunities better present themselves as opposed to the fact that everyone is gathered in one place.”
It doesn’t make for front-page headlines or airtime-filling fodder, but the White Sox plan is unfolding as planned right before everyone’s eyes. This is the waiting period, as Hahn keeps reminding everyone. After acquiring enough talent in such a short period of time to make the farm system baseball’s best, there is a part of this rebuild that simply involves playing the waiting game.
But at the same time, this plan is ahead of schedule. Hahn thinks so. After establishing a direction a year ago, Hahn’s made some gigantic moves and built a farm system so exciting that fans know every nook and cranny of the thing. Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are already on the big league roster. Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez might not be far behind. And there’s plenty of depth, too, with names like Luis Robert, Micker Adolfo, Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning.
Give the White Sox time, and they hope to produce a perennial championship contender. That time to give is right now. This is the plan. And it’s not just right on schedule. It’s a little ahead of schedule.
“We probably are from the standpoint that I anticipated there probably would need to be more deals at these Meetings like the ones there were at the last Meetings,” Hahn said. “We didn’t know how quickly all these things would line up. We had multiyear control on many of our players, so there was no urgency other than the impending deadline to move anybody. But we were able to accomplish a great deal in the last year prior to getting here, going to basically from a year ago at this time through September we were able to get a lot done and move the process along very quickly.
“That said we have a lot more to do, we’ve got an important draft coming June, there is going to be other important trades, there will be free-agent signings that take place to facilitate this and obviously at this point in particular huge amount of player development that has to go right.
“We’re pleased with how the first part went, but we’re pretty well focused on how to maximize the returns to this next part as well.”