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).
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."