White Sox

Rick Hahn sees importance in transparency as White Sox rebuild

Rick Hahn sees importance in transparency as White Sox rebuild

The White Sox know exactly where they want to head and Rick Hahn spent much of SoxFest weekend laying it out for the team's fans.

With a focus on transparency, the White Sox general manager tried to map out the team's direction as it enters the first phase of what he admits could be a painful rebuild. While the plan doesn't have 100 percent backing from the fanbase after the trades of star players Chris Sale and Adam Eaton in December, the mood at this weekend's event was mostly upbeat as fans fawned over many of the team's new top prospects. 

Still, Hahn knows it won't be easy to sell the idea that the White Sox, who haven't reached the postseason since 2008, expect to get worse before they will improve. But as the team embarks on its first rebuild since 1997, he also thinks the current path is overdue and the most direct to sustained success. 

"We want to compete," Hahn said. "Look, we feel that. We feel that very deeply. And not just from out interactions this weekend or this past week from talking to Sox fans or conversations we haven't had. I feel it in my own home. I had an 11-year old when the Cubs were up [5-1] in Game 2 couldn't go to sleep he was so excited and all he wanted to talk to me about was, ‘When are the White Sox going to be back in the playoffs and how?'"

"There's still going to be entertaining elements of the 2017 season, even if it doesn't wind up that we're competing. But I do feel it's important for us to be as transparent as we can be about what we're trying to accomplish and the timeline it may well take."

Hahn touched on several elements of that timeline over the weekend. Through their two December trades and a strong 2016 draft, the White Sox have vastly improved their farm system. Over the weekend, MLB Pipeline issued its Top 100 rankings with the White Sox boasting six players, including three in the Top 16 in Yoan Moncada (No. 2), Lucas Giolito (No. 12) and Michael Kopech (No. 16). 

[RELATED - White Sox put top prospects on display at SoxFest]

The White Sox hope to add plenty more talent whether through the upcoming draft or more trades. But the latter, Hahn promised, will only come when the White Sox think they're receiving appropriate value. Only Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera, Miguel Gonzalez and Derek Holland aren't under team control past this season. 

"There's really no urgency, there's no deadline, there's no financial pressure to make a move," Hahn said. "The only reason to be motivated to make a move is based upon receiving what we feel is appropriate value and helps advance what we're trying to accomplish over the long term."

Hahn also touched on when the long-term plan could begin to take shape when he was asked about the possibility of dipping into free agency by as early as 2018. The 2019 class is expected to include Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

"The 2018 and 2019 free-agent classes are stacked," Hahn said. "A number of players will command nine-figure contracts. …

"We know spending is the final piece of all this. When we get there, we expect the resources to be there."

First-year manager Rick Renteria thought Hahn's message went over well. The two shared the stage for town hall sessions on Friday and Saturday. Beyond that, Renteria's interactions over the weekend — including Sunday's ceviche cook off — went well, he said. 

"The new direction, the things that were done over the winter, (fans have) embraced," Renteria said. "I think Rick did a really nice job kind of articulating the direction of the organization the whole fest. That makes it easier for a manager, everybody involved in the process. I know everybody wants us to try and compete on a daily basis, which is what we're going to try and do. All in all, I think everybody had a great time."

White Sox free-agent focus: Dallas Keuchel

White Sox free-agent focus: Dallas Keuchel

This week, we’re profiling some of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.

The White Sox need starting pitching, so why not bring in a guy with a Cy Young Award sitting on his mantle?

Dallas Keuchel is one of the two biggest names on the starting-pitching market this winter, along with Patrick Corbin, who will get more attention — and likely more dollars — because he's two years younger. But Keuchel's the guy with the track record, the AL Cy Young winner in 2015 (when he was also a top-five MVP finisher), a two-time All Star, a four-time Gold Glove winner and the owner of a 3.28 ERA over the past five seasons, during which he helped the Houston Astros transition from rebuilding to one of baseball's perennial contenders. You might have heard something about them winning the World Series in 2017.

It's true that things have been somewhat up and down for Keuchel since his Cy Young win. After posting a 2.48 ERA with a career-high 216 strikeouts in 33 starts during that 2015 season, he had a 4.55 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 26 starts in 2016, then a 2.90 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 23 starts in 2017 and a 3.74 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 34 starts last season. But three times in the last five years he's finished with an ERA under 3.00. In other words, he's pretty darn good.

How might he fit with the White Sox? Well, in terms of whether or not he lines up with their long-term plans. Keuchel's older than Corbin, but it's not like he's old. He'll be 31 on Opening Day 2019, and a long-term deal, which he's expected to fetch, would keep him around for another planned transition from rebuilding to contention. Keuchel — a veteran who's accomplished a lot already, including putting a World Series ring on his finger — could be viewed as a Jon Lester type for these rebuilding White Sox, a big name who buys into the front office's long-term plan and helps make those plans become reality.

And there's no doubt the White Sox are in the market for starting pitching this winter. Michael Kopech is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and the White Sox decided not to pick up James Shields' option for 2019. That leaves two holes in the starting rotation. An addition like Keuchel would be a long-term one, which means the White Sox would opt to make him a safety net for their still-developing fleet of young pitchers and choose not to roll the dice on a homegrown starting staff for 2020. However, if they're confident in a quintet of Kopech, Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease, then maybe they opt for a couple one-year fill-ins in 2019. Keuchel would not be a one-year fill-in.

Keuchel could also fill the role vacated by Shields, a veteran who could help bring along the young guys in an off-the-field mentor role. His experience going through the dark days of a rebuild — he was a member of Astros teams that lost a combined 310 games from 2012 to 2014 — and coming out the other end a world champ would also figure to be of value.

Of course, the White Sox wouldn't be alone in a pursuit of Keuchel, if they were interested. Thanks to Clayton Kershaw signing a new contract extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he's one of the two biggest names on the market when it comes to starting pitchers. The White Sox would likely have to go through the same bidding war and pitch of planned future success they would with other big names like Corbin, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

But there's no doubt Keuchel would be an upgrade to this rotation in 2019 and could provide plenty of value for years beyond.

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

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USA TODAY

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again.

The Worldwide Leader in Sports has made a habit of failing to remember the South Siders in recent years, most notably forgetting (on multiple occasions) that the White Sox did in fact win the 2005 World Series.

It happened enough times that A.J. Pierzynski had some opinions about it.

This time, the omission came in an effort to illustrate how good Mike Trout is, with ESPN researcher Paul Hembekides listing baseball players who appeared in the top four in MVP voting three or more times. Trout, the Los Angeles Angels superstar, has already done it seven times, and boy that is terrific.

But Hembekides left someone out. And that someone let him hear about it.

You tell 'em, Frank.

Yes, the Big Hurt finished in the top four of the AL MVP vote on six separate occasions: 1991 (third), 1993 (first), 1994 (first), 1997 (third), 2000 (second) and 2006 (fourth, while playing for the Oakland Athletics).

ESPN's blind spot for the White Sox doesn't end up meaning much of anything, though it's amusing that they've now managed to leave out a relatively recent World Series champion and a relatively recent first-ballot Hall of Famer.

We all make mistakes. But it's a little funny that ESPN's are, repeatedly, White Sox related.