They’re two deals into what Rick Hahn expects to be a painful, lengthy process and more are on the way. But the White Sox general manager won’t take the next step in the team’s rebuilding project unless it’s the appropriate time.
While fans have already begun to clamor for more after Chris Sale and Adam Eaton were traded last week, Hahn thinks it would be unwise for he and the front office to act with haste. They must instead remain patient as they handle the club’s rebuild, a process that could reboot the organization and offer sustained success if performed properly.
Even though some moves could happen as soon as this week, the White Sox are unlikely to trade away all their chips before they head to Arizona in February.
“We’re not going to force this thing,” Hahn said last week at the Winter Meetings. “Until the right players are accessible and we feel the market condition is right based on the value of our players and what’s accessible to us, we’re going to have to wait for the right time. But we know what we want to do and we realize we’re going to have to exercise a little bit of patience, which isn’t the easiest thing for all of us. But again our focus is on the long term benefit of all this.”
Though Sale and Eaton are gone, it doesn’t mean the White Sox no longer have any desirable talent to deal. On the contrary, the White Sox still have many resources for other teams to acquire.
The list of potential trade targets includes the top starting pitcher available, Jose Quintana, slugger Jose Abreu, free agents-to-be Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera, and relievers David Robertson and Nate Jones, who have become very popular with baseball in the midst of a bullpen craze.
Pleased to see the team aggressively head in the direction of a rebuild for the first time since 1997, White Sox fans understandably want more. And they want it now.
Given the returns for Sale and Eaton, the belief is Quintana should bring back a similar amount to a pair of packages that netted two top-50 prospects apiece.
But already a report surfaced that the Houston Astros balked at the White Sox, who asked for Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove. Even though they’d like to capitalize on a market extremely thin on pitchers, Hahn won’t budge on his price and he shouldn’t.
Not only is Quintana consistently good and on a four-year deal, there are few pitchers available. In short, Hahn’s holding all the cards and he knows it, which allows him to stay patient.
Patience in moving Sale in December instead of July allowed other teams to bid for the five-time All-Star and gave the White Sox a chance to reel in a talented prospect package from the Boston Red Sox.
The White Sox intended to take the same patient approach with Eaton until the Washington Nationals overwhelmed them with a package that included two top-30 overall pitching prospects and a 2016 first-round pick (Dane Dunning) that amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler had very high on the team’s board last June.
“Our desire to move this thing along is not going to be what dictates the pace,” Hahn said. “What’s going to dictate the pace is the value of our players, the potential return we get and how that fits with our long-term plan.
“There may not be anything else until after the holidays or through the trade deadline or into next offseason. We’re taking a longer-term view, and we’re going to do this deliberately and with reason and logic and react accordingly with the market.”
A patient approach would affect some players differently than others. The White Sox are likely better off trading Robertson now that he’s one of a few closers left on the market and baseball is hungry for relievers. Same could go for Jones, who has five years left on his deal at an affordable rate if his options are exercised.
Frazier and Cabrera are also likelier to be traded in the next few months as both become free agents next November.
But this offseason may not be the best time to move Abreu, whose homer total has decreased from 36 in 2014 to 25 this season. Not only did Abreu struggle for the first four months of 2016, the market is still flooded with right-handed power as free agents Mark Trumbo, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista remain available.
The White Sox could be better off hanging on to Abreu, who is under team control for three more years. The same goes for Quintana, who has team options for 2019 and 2020.
As Hahn notes, patience is key.
“We don't view this as a quick fix,” Hahn said. “This is something that we're going to do with diligence and with the proper patience in order to maximize our returns.
“It's much more important to do it right than to do it quickly. Do it too quickly, do it hastily without the proper vetting of targets could put yourself in a worse predicament, if you aren't careful.”