No, White Sox fans, you’re not being greedy if you’re looking for Rick Hahn’s front office to keep adding to the roster. But maybe pause just a bit to congratulate the general manager on an offseason well done.
Hahn has added an incredible amount — and in an incredible amount of time, considering the way some baseball offseasons of recent vintage have played out — to a White Sox team that lost 89 games last year and 100 games the year before that. Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion, Steve Cishek and Gio Gonzalez have come to the South Side, bringing playoff experience and veteran know how to a young group that, despite that lopsided record, broke out in a big way in 2019.
It’s all added up to realistic playoff expectations for the first time in a long time.
But continuing to add is what playoff teams do. So no, it’s not outlandish to suggest that more pieces might make sense, especially with certain markets still boasting plenty of options for teams searching for more depth and more oomph to make a seven-month run at a championship.
But Nicholas Castellanos? That’s probably not going to happen.
“We're probably done with any major acquisitions,” Hahn said during his pre-SoxFest press conference Thursday. “The reality of our day-to-day is that we're still, down the hall, debating various potential smaller additions, and there's still the occasional trade idea or free-agent signing that picks up a little steam. So never say never.
“The nature of the job is you always feel like there's one more addition you can make, so I'm probably never going to stand up here and say we're finished. But in reality, I think the safe assumption is the bulk of our heavy lifting for this winter, at least, is over.”
Castellanos — who feasted on White Sox pitching as a member of the division-rival Detroit Tigers — is still out there, and right field is still a much discussed position for the South Siders.
Nomar Mazara has the everyday job out there right now after he was acquired in a trade with the Texas Rangers during the Winter Meetings. But he hasn’t fared well against left-handed pitching in his big league career, and even Hahn has described him as a possible platoon candidate, something the general manager might be attempting to downplay these days, consistently talking up Mazara up as someone with untapped potential, which certainly could end up being the case.
“You need to look at the roster holistically. You need to look at everything and how it all fits together,” Hahn said when asked why Mazara is the superior option to some of the bigger names that were or remain on the free-agent market. “Mazara's 24 years old, he already has five years of experience in the big leagues, he's a left-handed power bat who does significant positive offensive contribution against at least right-handed pitching and that our scouts and coaches think there's more upside to. Given the control of a couple of years and the price points that he comes with, we think it's a nice fit within the other things that we wanted to accomplish on that roster.”
Regardless of how good Mazara might end up being, fans have adjusted their energy to lobbying for Castellanos, the pendulum of public perception swinging wildly from “the White Sox will never spend on free agents” to “look at the White Sox spending on free agents, they should sign every available player.” Hahn threw cold water on that idea Thursday, though dashing dreams of Castellanos isn’t the same as saying the White Sox are closed for business until the season starts March 26. It’s also unlikely to stop fans from bombarding the GM with Castellanos-related inquiries this weekend at SoxFest.
On the more realistic fronts, though, the White Sox could probably still use some starting-pitching depth, especially now that Dylan Covey is no longer part of the organization, a minor league free agent after he rejected an outright assignment to Triple-A Charlotte on Wednesday. While the rotation is in much better shape than it was when the 2019 season ended, thanks to the additions of Keuchel and Gonzalez, if one of the five pitchers expected to make up that starting staff when camp breaks gets hurt in April, who is there left to turn to?
Hahn reiterated Thursday that the team will wait until reaching Glendale, Ariz., to determine what the plan will be for Michael Kopech, considering the desire to limit him in some fashion as he returns from Tommy John surgery and the accompanying yearlong layoff. Ross Detwiler might be better served starting in Charlotte than pitching as the long man out of the White Sox big league bullpen. But the starting-pitching depth, while the team waits for Carlos Rodon, Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert to recover from their own Tommy John surgeries, isn’t particularly populous past Detwiler.
That’s a long-winded way of saying that a minor league signing or two not unlike the Ervin Santana acquisition last spring would make an awful lot of sense. Just, you know, hopefully with better results than the ones Santana turned in last season.
It's also worth noting that the White Sox bullpen, while looking strong at the back end, doesn't have a long man in it. Someone who could eat up some innings and make the occasional spot start would figure to be of value.
How right field will shake out is still somewhat of a head-scratcher, though it seems with each answer about Mazara, Hahn is signaling an increased likelihood that Mazara will get everyday at-bats. That might douse the notion of a platoon partner unless proven necessary a few months into the campaign.
At second base, the general manager said that, at the moment, the answer is “some combination of Leury García, Danny Mendick and Nick Madrigal” before instructing the inquiring reporter to “ask me again on March 25.” Madrigal’s chances at an Opening Day job aren’t looking favorable at the moment, pending him blowing the doors off the Cactus League. Does that mean there’s a veteran addition coming at second base? More likely, it means Garcia is your Opening Day starter, even if there’s a bounty of options on the open market.
So no, Hahn is probably not completely finished working the White Sox into the transaction log. A signing or a trade is hardly out of the question with still more than two months before Opening Day.
But those dreaming of yet another huge splash to add to a long list of them this winter might have to wait until … well, July, maybe?
Yes, fans ought to be pleased, too, with Hahn’s comments on adding at the deadline, should the White Sox find themselves in the playoff chase. He said they can do it.
“I do feel like we put ourselves in a position to have that type of flexibility,” Hahn said, “as well as it's been my experience here over the last couple of decades that when we've been in a position to truly win and add impactful pieces around the deadline, we've been able to find the wherewithal to get that done.”
If the White Sox have truly made the transition from rebuilding to contending — something we won’t find out until they start winning games and, you know, contending for things — then Hahn and his front office might never be done adding.
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