Forfeiting a draft pick wouldn’t prevent a free agent signing, but the White Sox are excited to possibly possess three top-50 selections in the 2016 amateur draft.
The franchise receives an extra pick (in between the first and second rounds) as compensation for the loss of free-agent pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who signed with the San Francisco Giants on Saturday.
Not only do they draft 10th overall next June, but the White Sox now have an additional pick (perhaps as high as 25th) in a draft that’s expected to be full of college and prep hitters, White Sox amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said in October.
And while they wouldn’t shy away from signing a free agent with a qualifying offer if it’s the right fit, the White Sox plan to weigh any decision against the potential loss of adding another talented amateur player to a farm system in need of more.
“I love the idea of loading up picks like that,” general manager Rick Hahn said last month. “I think that’d be great. I might not love it quite as much as Doug (Laumann) and Nick love it. We’ll have to balance their passion for having extra picks versus what we can do via free agency and if it makes sense in the end. But it certainly would be a nice shot in the arm in continuing to add quality prospects to the organization, which is a priority.”
Similar to last offseason, the White Sox are already in an advantageous position to sign free agents courtesy of a poor 2015 season. Because they finished with the 10th-worst record in the majors last season, the White Sox have a protected first-round selection, meaning they could sign any free agent without forfeiting their top pick.
Instead, they would forfeit their second-highest pick if they chose to splurge on a Jason Heyward. Last offseason, the White Sox surrendered their second- and third-round draft picks in order to sign free agents Melky Cabrera and David Robertson.
But after Samardzija signed a five-year, $90-million contract with the Giants, the White Sox have an additional pick to part with, if need be. So were they to decide that Daniel Murphy or Yovani Gallardo is the answer to all their woes, the White Sox would still pick 10th and then again in the second round.
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Either way, the White Sox should be able to add talent to an improved farm system that could still use a boost.
“We haven’t ruled out a free-agent move strictly because the loss of a pick,” Hahn said. “It’s a consideration, but it’s a different analysis when you have the 10th pick locked in.
“But our goal has been for the last several years is to get to the point where we’re self-sustainable -- where we’re only dipping into the free-agent market to add those complementary pieces to a solid developing core. Obviously last year we saw the opportunity to be aggressive in certain areas of need and to build around that smaller core. But ideally that core is a little bigger.”