They have done the legwork and discussed a variety of potential scenarios that could play out in the next six weeks. For now, however, the White Sox seem to be in wait-and-see mode with their offseason potentially headed in any number of directions.
Less than a week after the general manager’s meetings came to a close, Kenny Williams said Tuesday night that general manager Rick Hahn hasn’t yet finalized the team’s offseason plan — which doesn’t surprise the White Sox executive vice president given the early date on the Hot Stove calendar. With so many variables at play and the team sounding more focused on the trade market than free agency, Williams isn’t sure what form the offseason will take.
“A lot of it depends on what’s available to you,” Williams said. “For instance, if you put a wish list together and you head down a certain path and you see what the alternatives are, well, if you like them maybe you continue down that path and now it gives you clarity on direction. If you don’t, then perhaps that path is an unrealistic path to take so you shift gears and you go another (way).
“We have had a number of conversations, even as late as (Tuesday) morning and Rick hasn’t presented to us a definitive direction based on his talks that he wants to travel down.”
[NBC SHOP: Gear up during the offseason, White Sox fans!]
The canvas for last offseason wasn’t totally blank, but this current one isn’t nearly as wide open.
Headed into last winter, the White Sox roster had far more needs than check marks. They also had a ton of cash to spend and attractive free agents available in several desired positions.
This year, the White Sox have far more specific needs at positions that aren’t as easy to fill as left field, designated hitter, closer, left-handed reliever and starting pitcher were in 2014-15.
There are few third baseman available in free agency and those on the trade market come with hefty price tags. Shortstop is always a challenge to fill and catcher may even be more difficult, especially after Matt Wieters accepted a qualifying offer from the Baltimore Orioles on Friday.
Though Williams said no assumptions should be made about more or less payroll — the team spent $118 million in 2015, according to BaseballProspectus.com — flexibility could be hard to come by with $85.5 million already owed to nine players.
And unless they trade Chris Sale or Jose Quintana, which they don’t sound eager, some of the team’s best chips are younger pitchers who aren’t established major leaguers.
“We certainly have a number of guys in our system who are appealing to other clubs,” Hahn said last week. “You’re still going to have to line up with their time horizons — some of them arguably aren’t quite ready to contribute at the big league level. So are they going to move you a big league piece for a guy like that? That might take a little more time and a little more thought on their end.”
Though he stated a preference for finding young, controllable players, Hahn in the same breath noted every team hopes for the same. He’s made it clear he’s not married to that idea and is prepared to alter his plans, including a willingness to acquire stopgap players if necessary.
“You’re going to have to be adaptable to respond to what the market is via trade and free agents,” Hahn said. “It is very much conceivable we acquire a shorter-term fit via trade or free agency in the end. It’s important that you go into these things with a plan.”
The plan is still being formed, which Hahn suggested would happen even after a robust week in Florida. Potential trade partners still have to figure out their own plans and whether or not those could be addressed in free agency or other trades.
“We have to see what the potential possibilities are and how they fit and if you add money on your right, can you subtract money on your left to make it work?” Williams said. “Or can you simply just add money? And money doesn’t cure all your ills so is it best to not go that route and to go the trade route, or to rely on your own players form your system? There are just so many things tofactor in. What is it Nov. 17 right now? There aren’t a whole lot of answers. Rick is having conversation on a daily basis. I have a number of conversations with him on a daily basis with regard to how things are evolving. But as far as a plan of attack right now, if I went to him and said ‘OK, I want your definitive plan heading into the winter meetings,’ he couldn’t give it to me.”
With 12 years of experience in Hahn’s chair, Williams knows what his successor is going through. Any number of variables of events could take place and jumpstart the offseason — in several directions.
“I’ve been there so I certainly understand,” Williams said. “A lot of things are in play right now. I know it can be confusing, but it’s completely understandable from my perspective that this is what you do before you decide on the definitive plan.”