"I think we can objectively sit here today and feel like that we have three of the most exciting young players in the American League under control for at least the next six years.
"And that’s a good feeling."
Yeah, I think you're onto something there, Rick Hahn.
By locking Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and most recently, Yoan Moncada into long-term deals, the White Sox are in the perfect position to contend deep into the decade.
Now, all they need to do is, you know, win some ballgames.
No one is suggesting that the White Sox offseason that never ends is enough to start filing permits for late-October street closures or to start renting a fleet of double-decker buses. You don't get a trophy, a ring or a parade for winning the entirely fictional and completely meaningless offseason championship.
But with seven long-term deals handed out in the last four years — starting with Tim Anderson's extension before the 2017 campaign got underway — the White Sox have assembled their Avengers.
"These are young players that are still evolving. They very likely haven’t reached their ceilings and are going to put us in a strong position for a long time," Hahn told reporters, including Our Chuck Garfien, on Friday afternoon in Arizona. "Now, those are three players on a 26-man roster, so there’s other work to be done around them, but it’s nice to have that base.
"Every team, when you start a rebuild, when you go about this process, you want to find young, core, championship-caliber pieces that you can build around. We feel like we have a number of those, and a good chunk of those we’ve been able to extend, to extend this window through those contracts."
That window hasn't opened yet. That's the next item on the agenda. But it could happen as soon as later this month, when the 2020 campaign gets underway on the South Side.
But more than starting 2020 off on the right foot, Hahn hopes he and his front office have set the White Sox up for success for the better part of the next decade. It's hard to argue they haven't, with a stunning amount of control of the players who broke out in big ways in 2019 and the ones who were brought in this winter.
Not only are all these pieces in place for 2020, but look down the road. Jose Abreu isn't a free agent again until after the 2022 season. Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel and Lucas Giolito are under control until after the 2023 season. Anderson's deal finally runs out after the 2024 season, when Michael Kopech could also become a free agent for the first time. Moncada and Dylan Cease aren't going anywhere until after the 2025 campaign. Jimenez is under team control through 2026, Robert through 2027.
Of course, as exciting as that list of names looks to anyone who's been paying attention to this rebuilding process over the last few years, there's only a small amount of big league success to be found in that group. Abreu, of course, has been one of the best hitters in franchise history in his first six seasons in a White Sox uniform, and newcomers Grandal and Keuchel have their own glowing resumes. But the track records of Giolito, Anderson, Moncada and Jimenez are limited to one season. Cease saw some less than ideal results in his first taste of the bigs. Kopech has pitched in all of four major league games. Robert hasn't seen a major league pitch.
And so, obviously, these contracts are risky. Hahn knows that simply paying guys doesn't turn them into superstars and doesn't turn a team into a champion. Hence why he wants to be asked about his perceived successes "after the parade."
"Everyone around the organization, fans of the organization are excited for what lays ahead," he said. "Internally, I think we probably spend a little more time focused upon not just one season but how it comes together for an extended period of time.
"We’re also very cognizant of the fact that excitement is one thing, but delivering on that excitement over the course of the summer and numerous summers is what’s most important. It’s exciting to have guys that you want to commit to, but at the same time we know we still have a lot of work to do in terms of reaching our goals."
All that caution and realism is nice. It's necessary. But there's also a reason these guys got these contracts.
After striking out 217 times in 2018, Moncada went out and evolved into the team's best all-around hitter in 2019. That's when fans saw what one of the two biggest return pieces in the Chris Sale trade could be. The White Sox recognized it a little earlier.
"He was acquired to be this guy," Hahn said. "Now obviously an important lesson, in terms of his 2018 season, is that these things don’t always, unfortunately, come along linearly or as quickly as you hope at the big league level.
"But in terms of our belief in him potentially being this guy, that was from Day 1, and his character and work ethic along the way reinforced that feeling. And the 2019 season on the field reinforced that, as well.
"If he ends up, going forward, being the same guy he was last year, that’s a pretty darn good player and one that certainly deserves MVP consideration, as he got in 2019."
Hahn's referencing Moncada's one 10th-place tally in last year's MVP vote, in case you were wondering what that was all about. One 10th-place vote doesn't exactly make him Mike Trout. But the White Sox do envision these youngsters as having the potential to be those kinds of players.
Giolito emerged as an All Star and the sixth-place finisher in the AL Cy Young vote last season. Anderson was the big league batting champ. Moncada was talked about as an All-Star snub. And Jimenez hit 31 homers while dealing with growing pains of his own.
Robert is talked up as potentially being the best of the bunch, and he's still neck and neck with Kopech in the preseason discussion over who's going to win the 2020 AL Rookie of the Year.
Nick Madrigal and Andrew Vaughn haven't even been mentioned to this point. The team's last two first-round picks are coming soon to a right side of the infield near you, two core pieces that haven't even hit the majors yet.
It all adds up to exciting times at 35th and Shields. And if these extensions have contributed anything to that, it's that "times" is plural. This contention window, once it opens, seems to be in no danger of closing anytime soon.
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