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.”

Eloy Jimenez is swinging some kind of a hot bat in Triple-A, giving White Sox fans visions of the (near?) future


Eloy Jimenez is swinging some kind of a hot bat in Triple-A, giving White Sox fans visions of the (near?) future

The White Sox once more dropped to 30 games below .500 on Sunday, providing another reminder that this isn't the season where the team will be competing for a playoff spot or any kind of championship.

But all fans have to do is check the box scores rolling in from Triple-A Charlotte to get another kind of reminder: that a season where the White Sox will be competing for a playoff spot and a championship could be right around the corner.

Eloy Jimenez, the team's top-rated prospect and the No. 2 prospect in baseball, is killing it lately. Since returning from the disabled list in the middle of the month, Jimenez has a .424 batting average and is slugging a jaw-dropping .818 — thanks to three homers and four doubles — in eight games.

These are just the latest superb numbers from Jimenez, who has torn it up all season long, first at Double-A Birmingham and then in Charlotte since his promotion on July 1. Heading into Sunday's game, he was slashing .324/.375/.572 between the two levels. Then he upped those numbers with a base hit in his lone plate appearance as a pinch hitter in Sunday's game.

The only thing that can be seen as a negative for Jimenez this season — and this really isn't too much of one — has been health. While he's avoided the significant injuries that have stolen months of development time away from the likes of Luis Robert, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning, Jake Burger and Micker Adolfo, Jimenez did start the season late with a pec injury and then missed a couple weeks earlier this month with a strained adductor muscle. Judging by the results, neither injury has done much (if anything) to negatively impact his offensive capabilities.

And so with the statistics remaining ridiculously good and getting better, the question that's dogged the White Sox dating back to the end of last season remains: When will Jimenez join the big league roster?

Only the White Sox have the answer to that question at the moment, but it would figure to be some time relatively soon and almost certainly before this season is over. That might not be specific enough for the fans clamoring to watch Jimenez play on the South Side. But take some cues from what general manager Rick Hahn has been saying all season:

First off, the White Sox performance and place in the standings will have no bearing on when Jimenez is promoted. The team will not bring Jimenez up just to inject some life into the final 60 games of the 2018 campaign. Jimenez's development has nothing to do with this team's win-loss record and is completely tied to the team's future, not its present.

Second, Hahn has talked about the benefits of Jimenez receiving at-bats at the Triple-A level and gaining experience facing the kinds of pitchers he didn't face in the lower levels of the minor leagues. He obviously didn't put a number on it, so the argument that Jimenez's 80 plate appearances in 20 games are enough to determine he's big league ready is potentially valid or potentially invalid, depending on what the White Sox have determined they want to see behind the scenes.

Third, Hahn has often said that not everything shows up in box scores. While Jimenez is putting up big numbers, the team is looking for other things that aren't as easy to recognize for those of us who aren't in the player-development business, not to mention those of us who don't even have an MiLB.TV subscription. Hahn said the same thing when Michael Kopech started the season in dominating fashion, and Kopech remains at Triple-A as the White Sox continue to wait for him to reach certain developmental benchmarks.

Fourth, Hahn has pointed to last year's treatment of Yoan Moncada as somewhat of a template for how the White Sox will treat their highest-rated prospects who are close to reaching the majors. Moncada, unlike Jimenez, had a small amount of big league experience before joining the organization in the Chris Sale trade, making his case slightly different. But he, too, was putting up good numbers at Triple-A, with a .282/.377/.447 slash line before his promotion on July 19. Moncada debuted about this time last season after doing well at the Triple-A level, but remember that he played 80 games there after starting the season with Charlotte. Jimenez joined that club in the middle of the season and has played in a quarter of the games that Moncada did before getting the call to make his White Sox debut. Though it's true that Jimenez is putting up significantly more impressive offensive numbers.

So "relatively soon" is perhaps the best we can do right now when trying to predict when Jimenez will reach the South Side. The White Sox have their own checklist when it comes to Jimenez's development, just like they do with every player, and only they will know when he's completed that list.

What is no mystery is how Jimenez is faring at Triple-A. He's swinging a red-hot bat, and few would argue that the numbers don't look major league ready. There's more to it than just the numbers, of course, but it would figure to be a safe bet that White Sox fans will be able to start purchasing Jimenez shirseys before the clock runs out on the 2018 season.

Avi Garcia's played in fewer than 20 games since April, but could he still attract trade-deadline suitors?

Avi Garcia's played in fewer than 20 games since April, but could he still attract trade-deadline suitors?

Avisail Garcia returned from his latest disabled-list stint with a bang, smacking a three-run home run in the fourth inning Saturday in Seattle.

The White Sox right fielder hasn't even played in 20 games since late April, when he went on his first DL trip, which lasted two months. A second, also featuring an injury to his hamstring, made it two weeks between games.

But when he has been able to step to the plate this summer, Garcia has been tremendously productive. He came into Saturday night with a .333/.347/.783 slash line and a whopping eight home runs in the 17 games he played in between his two DL stays. Then he added that homer Saturday night off longtime Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, giving him nine homers in his last 14 games.

Keeping this up could do an awful lot of things for Garcia: It could make his ice-cold start a distant memory, it could prove that last year's All-Star season might not have been a fluke, and it could keep him entrenched in the conversation about the White Sox outfield of the future, giving the team one of those good problems to have when deciding how he would fit into the puzzle alongside top prospects like Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert.

But here's another possibility: Has Garcia swung a hot enough bat in his limited action that he could be a trade candidate before this month runs out?

The White Sox don't figure to have too many players who are going to get contending teams worked up into a lather. James Shields, Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, Xavier Cedeno. Those guys could classify as additions that would bolster teams' depth, but they might not be the attractive upgrades the White Sox were able to trade away last summer.

Garcia, though, could be. He might not slide into the middle of the order for too many contenders, but someone looking for a starting corner outfielder might be enticed by the kind of numbers Garcia has put up in June and July, albeit in a small sample size. Teams would also have to consider his health. He's already been to the disabled list twice this season. Teams would certainly have to be confident he wouldn't return in order to make a deal.

On the White Sox end, Garcia would figure to fetch a far more intriguing return package than the aforementioned pitchers, given that he's still pretty young (27) with one more season of team control after this one.

The White Sox have plenty of options when it comes to Garcia. They could deal him now, deal him later or keep as a part of the rebuild, extending him and making him a featured player on the next contending team on the South Side. But with a lot of significant injuries this year perhaps having an effect on when all those highly rated prospects will finally arrive in the majors — not to mention the disappointing win-loss numbers the big league team has put up this season — perhaps it would make more sense to acquire some rebuild-bolstering pieces.

Of course, it all depends on if there are any deals to be made. Do other teams' front offices like what they've seen from Garcia in this short stretch as much as White Sox fans have? We'll know by the time August rolls around.