After a flurry of moves was made in December, the White Sox offseason has hit a lengthy lull that has caused some frustration among fans.
Whether it’s missing on Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Gordon or no significant position player acquisitions since mid-December, White Sox fans have grumbled about the team’s inactivity, with some of that irritation surfacing in the club’s town hall event Friday at SoxFest.
General manager Rick Hahn made it seem as if those fans aren’t alone. Disappointed by empty pursuits of several free agents he said decided to stay home, a clear reference to Cespedes and Gordon, Hahn said the White Sox roster isn’t complete.
He wouldn’t make any promises. But ideally, Hahn said, he’d like to continue adding to a roster that already upgraded at three positions with the acquisitions of Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie and catchers Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro -- moves that were completed by Dec. 16.
“It’s frustrating from the standpoint in that we haven’t been able to convert on any targets,” Hahn said. “But it’s been atypically busy for January, I suspect probably into February even. We talk about at the winter meetings, there’s no urgency that says we have to do the deal at the winter meetings and we were able to get Todd Frazier a week later. When we acquire them makes zero impact on how many games we are going to win with Todd Frazier.
“Traditionally we do have everything we want to do done by SoxFest. For whatever reason … it has been a little slower evolving in segments. So there still is the possibility we are going to have changes before camp or Opening Day.”
For now, Hahn is happy with how the team is constructed. Frazier and Lawrie are projected to produce 5.5 Wins Above Replacement at spots where the White Sox combined for minus-2.5 WAR, the worst in baseball. The team’s catchers also are expected to out-produce last year’s grouping.
Still, Hahn wouldn’t say a club that is projected to win 84-85 games is without its flaws. Depth is an issue and questions surround whether or not outfielder Avisail Garcia -- who may have heard a few boos during the event’s opening ceremony on Friday -- can contribute enough.
In order for the White Sox to take advantage of an outstanding starting rotation, Hahn needs Garcia to live up to his potential -- “there are specific things he needs to work on and he knows that,” Hahn said -- and for a rebound from Adam LaRoche, whom one fan asked why he hadn’t been cut. While Hahn responded that he told manager Robin Ventura there are no scholarships, he also said he wouldn’t simply cut a player in the offseason before they had a chance to show what ability they might still possess.
Even so, Hahn wants to add more pieces to give Ventura better options -- if they can make it work.
“I’m not sure which of the 30 clubs is going to tell you they have enough depth,” Hahn said. “We want to get to the point where it’s self-sustained, where your young players on the upper levels can jump in where there is an injury or underperformance. And we are getting to the spot with some of these guys that in a pinch they can come up and help us. But like everyone else we need to target depth at the upper levels as insurance policies. Sometimes those happen in March when players don’t make clubs. There’s some shuffling. That process never ends.”
“The more options, the easier it is for Robin to go with the best lineup. So if there is -- whether it’s the group that we have today or another addition -- it will create a situation where the best guys are going to play.”
As for some of those better players the White Sox pursued, Hahn -- who makes a practice of not commenting on rumors -- seemed bothered by reports the White Sox wouldn’t offer deals longer than three years to free agents. Though he never specifically said Gordon’s name, Hahn said the team pursued free agents who returned to their old clubs until they signed. Gordon returned to Kansas City earlier this month and Cespedes rejoined the New York Mets last week.
“Let me make something real clear: there is absolutely no hard line, dogma limit on contract terms with free agents,” Hahn said. “The reason we didn’t sign any of the players that thus far have signed elsewhere, at the end of the day was not about any contract term limitations. We had numerous conversations with various parameters, various structures, right up until the day or day before these players wound up choosing their ultimate destination.
“Every free agent negotiation is different, every player evaluation is different in how they fit for us, what they could bring going forward and what the market for their services is. And that’s what dictates what limits we put on where we’re willing to go.”