White Sox

Rick Hahn stresses patience for White Sox rebuild: 'We're not going to force this thing'

Rick Hahn stresses patience for White Sox rebuild: 'We're not going to force this thing'

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.

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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.”

High praise for Andrew Vaughn, including a Paul Konerko comp

High praise for Andrew Vaughn, including a Paul Konerko comp

Andrew Vaughn is getting a lot of love.

The White Sox first-round pick in last year's draft, Vaughn is a slugging first baseman who was downright sensational in his collegiate career at Cal. Now, he's one of the White Sox highest rated prospects and a guy who could soon be swinging his powerful bat on the South Side.

Just how highly do the White Sox think of him? Here's director of player development Chris Getz talking about Vaughn at SoxFest over the weekend:

"He's a very talented kid, and he's talented for a lot of different reasons," Getz said during a Saturday-afternoon seminar. "When you look at the physical ability, especially in the frame that he has, and what he's able to do to a baseball, it's pretty fun to watch.

"But when you sit down and talk to Andrew Vaughn about hitting, that is the most impressive thing. I sat down, and I just wanted to listen and learn from him. It's like talking to a 10-year vet. I say that because he knows exactly what he needs to do to have success. He has a very advanced approach, and I don't think he'll ever waver from it. He knows exactly what he needs to do on a daily basis to have success against a particular pitcher.

"So Andrew Vaughn's a good one. We're happy to have him."

The White Sox are obviously biased, but the love for Vaughn doesn't stop once you get outside the organization. MLB Pipeline unveiled its list of the top 100 prospects in baseball Saturday, and Vaughn ranked No. 16 in the game, ahead of fellow White Sox youngsters Michael Kopech and Nick Madrigal.

And this ought to get White Sox fans salivating even more. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo was asked on Twitter to compare Vaughn to a major leaguer. Mayo came up with one of the best hitters in White Sox history.

So the obvious question is now when we'll see Vaughn swinging in the big leagues. He's obviously a year behind his fellow first-rounder, Madrigal, who is expected to reach the majors in the early portions of the 2020 season. But Vaughn might not be very far behind. He only played 29 games at Class A Winston-Salem last season, and in his first full season as a pro, it wouldn't be surprising to see him start at Winston-Salem again. That's speculation, but it would make sense considering it's where Madrigal and Luis Robert started in 2019 and both ended up playing at three levels. Because of the way those two flew through the system, it would not be surprising to see Vaughn reach Triple-A in 2020, as Mayo said. All would have to go as well as things went for Madrigal and Robert, of course, but given the rave reviews of Vaughn's talent, that shouldn't be out of the question.

While the White Sox have exhibited plenty of patience with their prospects in recent years, they could also be looking at a new situation: being in a pennant race in September. If that's the case, and the lineup could use a little oomph, would they consider bringing Vaughn up in order to help them reach the postseason for the first time in more than a decade? That was a much easier question to answer when no playoff spots were on the line. Now, maybe things could be different.

An interesting element to all this is what kind of room there will be for Vaughn. Jose Abreu isn't going anywhere for the next three seasons, at least. However, the team gave itself some flexibility at the DH spot, with Edwin Encarnacion only on a one-year deal. That contract has an option for the 2021 season, but if Vaughn proves himself ready, the White Sox could move on from Encarnacion after just one year and open up an everyday spot for the young slugger.

Until then, we'll just have to rely on more rave reviews like the ones from Getz and Mayo. And if the guy turns into the second coming of Konerko, well, that will fly go over rather nicely on the South Side.

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Even with Nicholas Castellanos, can the Reds — or anyone — challenge the White Sox for baseball's best offseason?

Even with Nicholas Castellanos, can the Reds — or anyone — challenge the White Sox for baseball's best offseason?

Winning the offseason is meaningless if you don't win in the regular season and the postseason.

Everyone knows this, particularly the big league clubs who are making all these offseason moves. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn talked just last week about this very thing.

“Quite candidly, we haven't accomplished anything yet, we haven't won yet,” he said during his pre-SoxFest press conference last Thursday. “This whole process was about winning championships, was about finishing with a parade at the end of October down Michigan Avenue. Until that happens, I don't think any of us are really in a position to feel satisfied or feel like we've accomplished anything.

“We've had a nice winter. ... We think very bright days are ahead of us, and we look forward to enjoying them. But in terms of feeling like we've accomplished something or feeling satisfied, ask me after the parade.”

That being said, the White Sox seemingly have won the offseason. By adding a slew of accomplished veterans to a young core that broke out in a big way in 2019 there are justified playoff expectations on the South Side. Look no further than an extremely excited fan base buzzing during SoxFest over the weekend.

But, you know, other teams have had good offseasons, too. Here's a look at some baseball's best winters. Let's make sure the White Sox really have earned the fictional and totally meaningless title of "offseason champions."

White Sox

Before we reach across the league, let's run through what Hahn & Co. have done since the book closed on 2019's 89-loss campaign:

— The White Sox signed Yasmani Grandal to the richest contract in team history, adding an All Star behind the plate for the next four years. Obviously, he's one of the better offensive catchers in the game. And as we've seen, Grandal's skills as a totally committed guiding force for the pitching staff are already having an effect,

— They gave a three-year contract to Jose Abreu, the face of the franchise. While Abreu rightfully earns a ton of credit for his off-the-field work with the White Sox younger players, which will remain important over the next three seasons, especially with fellow Cuban Luis Robert hitting the majors this season, let's not pretend like he's washed up or anything like it. Abreu just had one of the most productive seasons of his career as a 32-year-old in 2019, leading the American League in RBIs and coming three homers away from a career high.

— They traded for a new everyday right fielder in Nomar Mazara, who has hit 79 homers in four big league seasons. He might just be a "bridge" (a descriptor Hahn unleashed last week) to the organization's still-developing outfield prospects, but White Sox brass keeps touting the untapped potential they think they can coax out of the one-time top prospect, who's still just 24 years old.

— They added Gio Gonzalez to the starting rotation, a reliable back-of-the-rotation piece who will finally get his chance to pitch for the organization that drafted him a decade and a half ago — then traded him, twice.

— They signed Dallas Keuchel to a three-year contract (with an option for a fourth), bringing in the accomplished front-of-the-rotation starter they needed to team with Lucas Giolito this winter. Keuchel has a Cy Young Award, a World Series ring and a closet full of Gold Gloves on his resume and brings the winning experience this roster was lacking. With question marks in the middle and back of the rotation, Keuchel's steady hand figures to be of great benefit.

— They signed Edwin Encarnacion, the veteran slugger, to a one-year deal (with an option for a second) that not only added the thump they needed to the lineup but signaled that these White Sox are indeed trying to win and win big in 2020. The other, longer term deals could have pointed to a solid though perhaps more cautious belief that the contention window might still be a little ways off from opening. Not the one-year pact with Encarnacion, though, which showed the White Sox are serious about contending this year with a 37-year-old bopper hitting a bunch of dingers.

— They gave a six-year contract extension (with a pair of options that could push it all the way to eight) to Luis Robert, the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball. For the second straight offseason, the White Sox locked up a young player who's yet to play a game in the majors. But Robert and Eloy Jimenez figure to be powering this team for the better part of the next decade. The extension cleared the way for the five-tool Robert to be the White Sox starting center fielder come Opening Day, and 162 games' worth of a guy expected to be a superstar is better than any lesser alternative.

— They added Steve Cishek to the bullpen, complementing back-end pitchers Alex Colome and Aaron Bummer with a veteran who proved both effective and dependable in his two seasons on the North Side, posting a 2.55 ERA in a whopping 150 appearances.

So that's all pretty good. Can anyone else can compete with that? Let's see.

Cincinnati Reds

If anyone's coming close to challenging the White Sox for that ridiculous title of "offseason champs," it's the Reds. Much like the White Sox, the Reds are a team with some great young talent looking to capitalize on a weaker division and make some noise. The Reds have positioned themselves to do just that, adding the biggest piece of their offseason haul Monday morning with the signing of outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. He was on a lot of White Sox fans' wish lists, particularly the ones not sold on Mazara as a confidence-inspiring option in right field. But Castellanos is finally off the market, getting a four-year deal from the Reds (that includes opt-out clauses after each of the next two seasons).

Castellanos now anchors a lineup that already included a pair of newcomers: slugging infielder Mike Moustakas, who White Sox fans know well from his days with the Kansas City Royals, and center fielder Shogo Akiyama, who came over from Japan this winter. Add those guys to an already potent group of hitters that included Eugenio Suarez, Joey Votto, Aristides Aquino and highly rated prospect Nick Senzel (coming off shoulder surgery), and you've got yourself a contender — if not the favorite — to win the NL Central crown. And, oh yeah, their pitching staff ain't half bad, either, with Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer as perhaps the best 1-2-3 punch in the NL. They added Wade Miley this offseason, too, bolstering (if not in a huge way) that rotation further.

That's a great offseason, no doubt, and if you don't count Robert as a true offseason addition on the South Side — he was already part of the organization — then it's not a stretch to say that Castellanos and Moustakas are a better pair of lineup improvements than Grandal and Encarnacion, though it's close. On the new-pitching front, Keuchel, Gonzalez and Cishek make for a more appealing group than Miley by himself. It seems like the White Sox addressed more areas — and more glaring needs — than the Reds, but both teams are well positioned to challenge for a Central Division title.

Atlanta Braves

The Braves, like the White Sox, got to work early and often. They're the two-time defending NL East champs, yet they've been ousted in the NLDS in each of the last two postseasons, then had to watch the division-rival Washington Nationals win the World Series. So they understandably loaded up this winter. They added perhaps the biggest name on the relief-pitching market, Will Smith, to an already significantly remade bullpen that included midseason acquisitions Mark Melancon and Shane Greene. They added Cole Hamels to their starting staff, bringing in the kind of winning experience and veteran know how the White Sox found in Keuchel.

While White Sox fans spent months debating whether they wanted Marcell Ozuna on the South Side, the Braves found a seeming bargain in getting Ozuna on just a one-year deal. While there were justifiable red flags in Ozuna's numbers during his two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, he has the potential to be an impact bat in the middle of a championship lineup. And with Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freemand already in the Braves' lineup, it's not like Ozuna has to shoulder the load.

The Braves also added a new catcher in Travis d'Arnaud and brought back Nick Markakis. In the same division as the team that just won it all, the Braves might still be the favorites to repeat in the NL East.

Washington Nationals

The reigning champs had their biggest offseason success in retaining Stephen Strasburg, the World Series MVP who proved during the postseason that he's among baseball's best hurlers. Of course, they couldn't retain Anthony Rendon, one of the most consistently excellent hitters in the game. But had they lost both to greener bank accounts the winter after winning the whole thing, that would have been brutal. Keeping Strasburg counts as a huge win, even if the Nationals have lost their biggest bopper in each of the last two offseasons: first Bryce Harper, now Rendon. But they won the World Series without Harper, so ... 

The Nationals also retained former White Sox pitching prospect Daniel Hudson, who played such a huge role out of the bullpen en route to their championship, and Howie Kendrick, who hit that unforgettable game-winning grand slam to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers and send the Nationals to the Fall Classic. New guys include Will Harris, who along with bringing Hudson back goes a long way toward solidifying a bullpen that was the team's weakest link throughout the regular season in 2019. Eric Thames and Starlin Castro join the position-player side of things, though they won't be expected to make up for Rendon's departure like the guys who were already there: Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Victor Robles and the like.

It's hard to say the Nationals are anything but worse, on paper, than they were when they won the World Series three months ago, but hey, that's what happens when you lose a perennial MVP candidate. Still, even with the Braves' big offseason (and status as defending NL East champs), the Nationals remain right in the thick of things in their division thanks to an elite 1-2-3 in the rotation of Max Scherzer, Strasburg and Patrick Corbin.

Philadelphia Phillies

Attempting to keep pace in the NL East, the Phillies phollowed up their spending spree from an offseason ago by handing out another huge contract, this one going to Zack Wheeler, who turned down a richer offer from the White Sox to pitch on the East Coast. Wheeler provides a nice safety net for a Phillies rotation that needed an infusion after big ERA increases for both Jake Arrieta and Aaron Nola last season (though Wheeler's 2019 ERA was still higher than Nola's). The Phillies also brought in Didi Gregorius, who was very good in his tenure with the New York Yankees, to be their new starting shortstop.

The Phillies, especially offensively, appear to be loaded, with Gregorius joining Harper, Rhys Hoskins, Andrew McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto and Scott Kingery. The pitching staff has its issues but also has some arms that have been/could be very potent. So what's the problem? Well, they play in baseball's most competitive division. They looked loaded last year, too, and finished fourth. They've got to prove they can hang with the Braves and Nationals and horribly underwhelm with a .500 finish like they did in 2019.

New York Yankees

I'm going to fly through these next three teams, not because they didn't have good offseasons but because their good offseasons are based on the addition of one superstar player. The Yankees reeled in the biggest fish in the free-agency pond, adding Gerrit Cole, who showed during the postseason that he might just be the best pitcher in baseball. It looked like he was going to land on the West Coast. Instead, he landed on the East Coast, giving the Yankees a much-needed dominant force at the top of their rotation. The AL pennant — thanks in part to Cole's defection and in part to the Astros losing their general manager and manager in the wake of their cheating scandal — looks like the Yankees' to lose.

Minnesota Twins

The Twins did more than just signing Josh Donaldson. They brought back Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda and added Homer Bailey and Rich Hill. That's four starting pitchers, and yet their starting rotation is still a question mark. What's not a question mark is their lineup, which last season set the record for the most home runs hit in a single campaign. They might hit even more of them now that they've got Donaldson, a perennial MVP candidate who the White Sox now have to worry about trying to get out 19 times a year for the next half decade. The White Sox had a better offseason than the Twins, yes. But the Twins are still looking like one heck of a challenge in the AL Central, not because they won 100 games last season and still employ Nelson Cruz, but because they now also employ Donaldson.

Los Angeles Angels

The aforementioned Rendon is now in the same lineup as Mike Trout. Dear god. Of course, this is the Angels we're talking about, a team that has made the postseason all of one time in Trout's eight full major league seasons. The guy who's arguably the best baseball player ever has played in just three playoff games and won zero of them. So is Rendon going to single-handedly change that? No, probably not. Joe Maddon might, though, and the new skipper in Anaheim could prove a bigger addition than his new middle-of-the-order bat. But if there's ever been a time to jump up and dethrone the Astros, it's now, considering they could be in for a season of disarray in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal that cost them their GM and their manager. The Angels have a big-time outfield prospect coming up in Jo Adell. But how have they fortified their worrisome starting rotation? With Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy. Ok, maybe the Astros will be fine.

Toronto Blue Jays

Certainly the Blue Jays have been active, most of their efforts directed at remaking their rotation. They landed one of the bigger fish on the starting-pitching market in Hyun-Jin Ryu, as well as bringing in Chase Anderson, Tanner Roark and Matt Shoemaker. How good those moves are remain to be seen, as those three have plenty to prove. Ryu is obviously a nice acquisition after he won the NL's ERA crown last season. Travis Shaw was the big addition to the lineup.

The thing with the Blue Jays is not only are most of these moves not terribly exciting, they do little to make a dent in the AL East race. The Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays still seem much better after their playoff appearances last season, and though the Boston Red Sox suffered a crippling World Series hangover last year — and face a ton of questions about their future, given their financial commitments — they still have the kind of talented roster to win more games than the Blue Jays. So, in the end, how effective was this offseason for Toronto?

———

The verdict: The White Sox won the offseason.

As established, of course, that means nothing until it turns into on-the-field success. But it allows for some changing expectations in certain places, the South Side included, which gets to reap realistic playoff hopes from the work of the front office.

But as for whether the team has actually accomplished anything, do what Hahn says and ask him after the parade.

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