SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- If the White Sox decide to do a total teardown, one rival evaluator said the quality of the pool players would be the best he could remember one team making available in 40 years.
Though he has dropped hints for months now, including several more at the General Managers meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, White Sox GM Rick Hahn still hasn’t publicly committed to either a rebuilding or adding on. Hahn loves the top portion of his club’s 25-man roster, which is devoid of bad contracts and packed with talented players. But if he does entertain the notion of trading players the likes of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Adam Eaton among many others, Hahn could expect to perhaps be the busiest GM of the offseason. Several major league executives also said they believe the White Sox could set themselves up very well for the future if the fully commit to a rebuild.
“It probably goes way back to the Charlie Finley days in Oakland,” one National League executive said. “Pretty much there’s no untouchables, the best players, they’ve been performers and they don’t have bad contracts and they’re basically available.”
Back in 1976, Finley, the colorful owner of the Oakland A’s, decided to beat the start of free agency, which was to go into effect before the 1977 season. To do so, Finley traded Reggie Jackson to Baltimore in a deal that included Don Baylor and Mike Torrez, sold Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers to Boston for $1 million each and Vida Blue to the Yankees for $1.5 million.
Finley told commissioner Bowie Kuhn all money received would be reinvested in the club, but Kuhn ultimately nixed the deals for Blue, Rudi and Fingers.
Were the White Sox to sell off parts to the highest bidder, they’d do so in search of competing clubs’ top prospects and major league ready talent. Given the limited options teams have in free agency, one NL exec thinks the White Sox are in a prime position.
“Tremendous,” he said. “I think it’s a bad pitching market and they can either do one or two guys and those guys are ready to pop. It’s a perfect market to do it in.”
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
One veteran executive said he wasn’t sure if the White Sox had totally made up their minds on a rebuild. He also suggested the team needed to do a tremendous amount of legwork to determine what is realistic to expect in return for players. Hahn said Tuesday that discussions with other teams have been ongoing for several weeks and he and his staff had begun to do follow-up conversations this week in Arizona.
The White Sox GM also has fielded calls for several years asking about Sale and has a good feel for the five-time All-Star’s market. One team that asked about Sale before the trade deadline in August said the White Sox asked a fair price for the left-hander compared to what other teams wanted for their top starters.
“These are high-end guys,” he said. “They’re not easy to replace, either. I’m sure they’re having some long, drawn out what to do -- they have to do their diligence and see, maximize what they could get and decide from there.
“You have to see what you could get volume-wise back. You can’t just make up your mind, ‘Oh, we’re going to sell.’”
Two executives suggested the White Sox might have difficulty with the commencement of a fire sale given the pitching they possess and how the fortunes of a franchise could quickly turn around. While Hahn loves the top portion of his roster, he didn’t hesitate on Wednesday to note how many holes the White Sox have and briefly talked about the cost of filling those. A day earlier, Hahn reiterated that he doesn’t think half measures, stop gaps and trying to catch lightning in a bottle have worked well for the White Sox, who haven’t reached the postseason since 2008.
One aspect everyone agreed upon is the level of the club’s commitment if they determine a rebuild is the right. Essentially, the White Sox have to be willing to go all the way in if they determine a teardown is the correct path.
After all, trading proven major leaguers for young potential talent can lead to several years of bad baseball.
“When you commit to doing this, you’ve got to commit fully and be prepared It’s not going to be pretty,” one executive said. “I think that’s still a big question -- are they willing to do it? “Because it is a minimum two years. It’s going to take a significant amount of time.”
Still, this could be the best time for the White Sox to make their move.
--- The market is seemingly set up for them to reap big benefits from trading players.
---- Fan frustration is high, as Hahn noted Tuesday.
“It’s two-fold,” an NL executive said. “The fanbase is probably looking for some change and you see what’s happened on the north side of town, that was pretty much built through young players acquired in trades or via the draft and signed a couple veteran pitchers to go with them and won a World Series. It’s one of those things where I guess as an executive, if you have the owner’s blessing there’s no sense going halfway. If you’re going to do it, get after it and do it.”