The White Sox started their rebuild at a breakneck pace and have made significant progress with the trades of Adam Eaton and Chris Sale. But as general manager Rick Hahn indicated on Friday afternoon, the team's foray into tearing down the roster has only just begun.
Tired of mediocrity, the White Sox intend to reload their farm system and capitalize on the value of each and every asset. But because the plan requires patience in order to maximize those returns, many key players are in limbo with the team stuck between where it is and where it wants to be. Still, both Hahn and many of those players, including Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier and Jose Abreu, say they won't let the air of uncertainty surrounding the team's future become a distraction.
"I don't think I'd call it awkward because, again, they get it," Hahn said prior to the opening ceremonies at SoxFest on Friday. "They understand what we're about, they understand where we've been and why we're at the point we're at now.
"When seven o'clock rolls around, the job is very clear. They're going to do everything they can to try to win that ballgame, regardless of what 24 guys happen to be next to them in that locker room and these guys seem to be able to have that focus. And over the course of the season you may have to address it a few more times, or closer to the deadline before rumors circulate. But, again, they get what's going on here. These are professionals, they've been here before. So I don't think it's going to be a real difficulty."
If it were easy, the White Sox would have continued on the rapid pace they established in December with the trades of Sale and Eaton. In one motion, Hahn revamped a thin farm system ranked in the lower third of baseball by adding seven talented pieces, many of whom are on display this weekend at SoxFest. With Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez and Yoan Moncada in the mix, the White Sox now boast a top-10 farm system that should only get better when Hahn completes his next trade.
But the White Sox haven't been able to maintain that pace. Whether it's because of market saturation in the case of Abreu and Frazier, or the unwillingness of other teams to meet their price in the case of Quintana, the White Sox have stayed relatively quiet since December despite constant interest.
"Our desire is to get through this process and build a sustainable core of talented players as quickly as possible," Hahn said. "Unfortunately our desire, our impatience, our eagerness isn't what's going to dictate this market or the schedule of these moves. The timing of many of these moves is going to be based upon the market and our ability to get similar value and what we feel is appropriate value."
Hahn reiterated on Friday the White Sox aren't going to budge on their price, especially for Quintana, who is expected to bring in another significant haul whenever the team is able to trade him. Despite hearing his name in rumors all offseason – the Houston Astros, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees to name a few – Quintana, whose contract includes team options through 2020, wants to remain with the White Sox.
"I heard a lot about trades this year, but I don't have control of that," Quintana said. "I'm happy to be here, and I have new teammates this year. We have some good talent this year, and I'm here. I have all of my focus on the White Sox.
"When I go to spring training, I don't pay attention to any social media. I just try to remain with good preparation and do all of my workouts for Day 1 of the season. That's it."
Despite their good intentions, the White Sox know they're destined for some ugliness in the future. When he first suggested the team's new direction in November, Hahn said he expected painful times ahead. Abreu said he's ready for whatever is to come.
"I think we are ready for all the challenges we are going to face during the season and in the future," Abreu said through an interpreter. "There is something, in this sport, it's a long season. You're gonna hits some bumps. You have to move on and do your best every single day. That's the way we need to approach the season."
Setup man Nate Jones admits he realized anyone could be traded after Sale was dealt to Boston in December. Despite signing an extension of his own the previous offseason, Jones very well knows he too could end up on a new team. But after he and the White Sox received their refresher course on "the business of baseball," Jones has moved on in order to not interfere with his preparation."It crosses your mind," Jones said. "But I guess I've been blessed enough not to have one of those worrier minds. You're like, ‘All right, it couldn't happen.' But that's it. I go on about my offseason and preparation for spring training the same way, just kind of block all the distractions and the rumors."