White Sox

Rick Hahn understands White Sox fans' anger over Manny Machado outcome, promises 'the money will be spent'

Rick Hahn understands White Sox fans' anger over Manny Machado outcome, promises 'the money will be spent'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — During SoxFest, Rick Hahn was asked about the preconceived notion surrounding the White Sox that this team will not spend the money necessary to land one of the biggest free agents in the game.

Weeks later, with Manny Machado opting to sign with the San Diego Padres for 300 million guaranteed dollars, as opposed to the 250 million guaranteed dollars the White Sox reportedly offered the 26-year-old superstar, what Hahn called in January a "false narrative" has become, in the minds of many South Side baseball fans, impossible to disprove.

Allowing a day to pass has not calmed White Sox Twitter, and the social-media complaints from White Sox fans have continued more than 24 hours after their favorite team failed to win the derby that's captivated their attention for months. At times, their ire has been directed at Machado — Tim Anderson became that segment of the fan base's hero Wednesday, when he said Machado might have missed the boat — but much of the anger has been directed at the front office and ownership.

"Why not guarantee another $50 million?" they've begged, before jumping to their own conclusions that the White Sox will never be able to land a top-of-the-line free agent.

Hahn spoke for a second time Tuesday during Cactus League media day in downtown Glendale and recognized, even shared in, some of that frustration. But his most relevant message was a promise that the financial flexibility created by the ongoing rebuilding process will not go to waste.

"I get that sentiment. I understand that sentiment," he said when asked about fans' desire for the team to spend more aggressively. "What you try to do in these situations, I believe, is try to balance out the risk and the reward in all these things. These long-term contracts are obviously complicated. ... So it does come down, sometimes, to more than just throw more money on top of it in terms of a guarantee, which is probably the only area someone can argue, 'Hey you should have been more aggressive in this situation.'

"At the end of the day, we made what we felt was not only a very aggressive offer, a very compelling offer and one that helped balance and represent the risk and the upside for both sides. Didn’t work, which is obviously disappointing. But it does not change the fact that we are going to once again be in this market when the time is right and hopefully, at that time, convert.

"The money will be spent. It might not be spent this offseason, but it will be spent at some point. This isn’t money sitting around waiting to just accumulate interest. It’s money trying to be deployed to put us in best position to win some championships."

Attacks that the White Sox were being "cheap" in their pursuit of Machado are simply wrong. If reports are accurate, they committed to paying Machado $350 million over the course of 10 years. Now, there are obvious differences in the offers reportedly made by the Padres and White Sox, and if Machado shows up to Padres camp in Peoria, Arizona, in the coming days and breaks his leg, he'll be $50 million richer than he would've been had he signed with the White Sox. But is also important to note that the White Sox reported offer allowed Machado to bet on himself and potentially earn $50 million more than he is set to make in San Diego over the course of the next decade.

The biggest takeaway from this whole situation is that the White Sox rebuilding plans are not negatively affected one iota by Machado's decision. Machado heading to San Diego does nothing to decrease Eloy Jimenez' power or make Michael Kopech's recovery from Tommy John surgery more difficult or take a mile per hour or two off Dylan Cease's fastball. The core is still coming, still looks capable of forming a perennial championship contender, and Machado's decision was never going to change that.

Additionally, Machado's decision is only that: his decision. There's another loaded free-agent class coming next offseason, and those players will all have their own decision-making processes, their own desires in terms of contracts and bets on themselves and a desire to win and align themselves with a team like the White Sox, who will undoubtedly be involved and likely as aggressive, if not more so, than they were this offseason. Maybe Nolan Arenado feels differently. Maybe J.D. Martinez or Anthony Rendon feel differently. Maybe Justin Verlander or Madison Bumgarner want to be the South Side version of Jon Lester. It also figures to be an easier job to sell the White Sox another year down the line, when players from around the league can see what it would be like to play alongside Jimenez and Cease, when there's a clearer picture of what this team will look like in contention mode.

And barring a surprise splurge on Bryce Harper — they're reportedly out on the biggest name on the free-agent market — they'll have the same financial flexibility to add this caliber of player. Machado wasn't the only opportunity to make that kind of addition. There will be others, and soon.

"A year from now, we will be in a better position to know more about our own guys and know more about what’s available and where specific needs may lie and what specific needs we may have addressed. When we have that knowledge, that’s where this money is going to go," Hahn said. "It’s going to serve us well in the long term to have this economic flexibility and this economic might to make ourselves better.

"We saw an opportunity now to potentially fit in for the long term. Didn't work, but does not change the fact we are going to take advantage of those opportunities again when they arise in the coming years."

None of that, of course, is likely to soothe the tempers of fans still reacting to this free-agent defeat. And none of it has to. Fans are allowed to be mad, and they'll likely carry the idea that the White Sox won't spend until they're proven wrong.

And Hahn recognizes that. He said as much back at SoxFest.

"If for whatever reason we fail to convert this time around, perhaps that narrative will exist for another year," he said, "but we look forward to proving that one false like we have the others."

Unfortunately, that remains an item on the to-do list.

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MLB proposing colossal changes to minor leagues, including eliminating dozens of teams


MLB proposing colossal changes to minor leagues, including eliminating dozens of teams

If Major League Baseball gets its way, there could be seismic changes coming to the minor leagues.

According to a report from Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper, the league has proposed a host of sweeping changes to the minor leagues, including the elimination of 42 affiliated teams.

The proposal is merely the beginning of what are expected to be lengthy negotiations over a new version of what’s called the “Professional Baseball Agreement,” basically the contract that keeps the major and minor leagues connected and minor league teams stocked with players employed by major league clubs. The existing edition expires at the end of the 2020 season, and so a new one will need to be hashed out.

Major League Baseball is looking for control over how the minor leagues are organized, with an eye on improving facilities and clustering affiliates and leagues from a geographic standpoint to cut down on travel costs. There’s also expected to be an increase in salaries for minor league players, which has long been a talking point thanks to the increasing number of descriptions of how financially difficult life can be for those trying to reach the majors.

To accomplish those goals, Major League Baseball is proposing drastic solutions.

The one that will grab the most attention is the elimination of more than a quarter of the existing affiliated teams in the minor leagues, removing affiliated minor league teams from more than three dozen cities across the United States and getting rid of more than 1,000 jobs for minor league players. Simply, the entire short-season rookie ball (excluding squads that play at team-owned facilities in Arizona and Florida) would be eliminated, leaving only four levels of affiliated teams: Low Class A, High Class A, Double-A and Triple-A.

If you’re wondering what would happen to those 42 teams, the proposal is for them to form something called a “Dream League,” which would essentially serve the same purpose as an independent league, allowing players without jobs to keep playing and try to get a job with a major league team.

Additionally, Major League Baseball is proposing radical restructuring of existing leagues in order to cluster teams closer together. That could include changing the level of certain teams, such as making a Class A team a Triple-A team based on the quality of facilities and what makes the most geographic sense. Leagues could also gain or lose a large number of teams, with the Triple-A International League growing to 20 teams and the Triple-A Pacific Coast League shrinking to just 10 teams. One Class A league was described as being reduced to just six teams, while the rest of its current teams would be put into a brand-new league.

As for how the White Sox and their affiliates would be affected, team-specific information was not included in the report. One read of the details of this proposal could see something such as the White Sox affiliates being relocated to Midwestern cities. Another, however, could see the White Sox affiliates mostly staying how they currently are, given those teams are all geographically close to one another, with all but one located in North Carolina.

Buried in all of this is another big change, a proposed move of the draft from June to August, giving players a couple more months to show off for major league teams, and a reduction in the number of rounds from the current 40 to somewhere between 20 and 25. That, and the elimination of short-season rookie ball, would likely prevent draftees from playing minor league baseball in the same year they’re drafted.

It’s all something to keep an eye on, for sure, as many fans across the country who closely follow minor league teams in their hometowns could experience a dramatic shakeup.

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State of the White Sox: Manager and coaching staff

State of the White Sox: Manager and coaching staff

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The 2019 season is over, and the White Sox — who have been focusing on the future for quite some time now — are faced with an important offseason, one that could set up a 2020 campaign with hopes of playoff contention.

With the postseason in swing and a little bit still before the hot stove starts cooking, let’s take a position-by-position look at where the White Sox stand, what they’re looking to accomplish this winter and what we expect to see in 2020 and beyond.

We’re wrapping things up with the manager and the coaching staff.

What happened in 2019

While it’s easy to cruise through the statistical production of players and determine just how well they performed in 2019, that’s a little more difficult when it comes to manager Rick Renteria and his coaching staff.

In the end, managers and coaches are evaluated on win-loss record — or at least how close they came to meeting the expectations in that department. While the White Sox are a gruesome 83 games under .500 in Renteria’s three years at the helm, that’s not really falling outside the expectations he had when he took over a rebuilding club. So it’s pretty hard to argue that because the White Sox lost 89 games in 2019, Renteria did a poor job.

Truly, his performance as a manager can’t be determined until he’s managing a team with expectations of winning. Renteria more than anyone has been the one setting such expectations for 2020, spending much of the waning weeks of the 2019 campaign voicing his opinion that all this losing stops next season.

“I’m expecting that this is it,” Renteria said. “We’re trying to win. We talk about it, we’re going through it. I know there’s still some refining to do, but I’ll be honest with you, we’re coming in, we’re finishing this season, we’re talking about coming into next season ready to battle. Period. Exclamation point. That’s what we’re looking to do.”

Renteria and his staff did plenty in 2019 to continue developing the team’s young players into the core of the future. But the skipper's most memorable on-field moment came in September, when even after he stopped making mound visits because of shoulder surgery, he went out to the mound and had an animated conversation with Reynaldo Lopez. Lopez made a habit of following up stellar performances with ugly ones, lacking consistency in a fashion that made even the optimistic Renteria throw up his hands at times. Renteria utilized that frustration on the mound in Detroit in an attempt to get some points across to the pitcher.

When it comes to Renteria’s staff, certainly they deserve some credit for some of the breakout seasons on the roster. Hitting coach Todd Steverson did offseason work with both Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson ahead of 2019 campaigns that saw them transform into the best all-around hitter on the team and the big league batting champ, respectively. Pitching coach Don Cooper helped oversee Lucas Giolito’s transformation into an All Star. Infield coach Joe McEwing worked with Moncada, who made a smooth transition from second base to third base.

But if the coaches earn some of the credit for the things that went right, they must also be mentioned alongside the things that went wrong. Steverson coached an offense that ranked near the bottom of the game in most categories. Cooper coached a starting rotation that finished the season with a 5.30 ERA. McEwing coached Anderson, who committed a major league high 26 errors.

None of that is to say those guys are wholly responsible for those negative outcomes. Just as the players have to be the ones to turn in the good results, they’re the ones who have to turn in the poor ones, as well. Steverson, however, along with assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks, will not be back for the 2020 season.

What will happen this offseason

The White Sox have already made their coaching moves this offseason, parting ways with Steverson and Sparks and replacing Steverson with Frank Menechino, who after several seasons on the Miami Marlins staff took over as the hitting coach at Triple-A Charlotte in 2019.

Menechino impressed the White Sox with his work there, spent September with the big league club and was quickly promoted once the season was over. At Charlotte, he worked with top-ranked prospects Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal, who both had fantastic seasons playing at three different minor league levels and figure to be everyday players for most of the 2020 season.

The change, in the end, seemed to be more about how the White Sox felt about what Menechino could bring to the table than a reaction to the offensive production from a team that didn’t have expectations of doing much more than it did during another rebuilding season.

General manager Rick Hahn announced that the rest of the staff will be back in 2020.

What to expect for 2020 and beyond

There will be a change in the expectations game come 2020. That should be mostly because of the breakout 2019 seasons from so many young players, the pending arrival of Robert and Madrigal and the offseason additions anticipated to be made by Hahn’s front office. But if nothing else, the expectations, when it comes to Renteria, will be different because he’s already said they will be.

“I'm not going to make any bones about it, it's time to turn the page,” he said just last week, “it's time to get us to another level of performance. That goes across the board, it goes with all aspects of our game.”

And so judging him and his staff can reach another level, too, because it will no longer solely be about hard-to-define development but the cold, hard wins and losses. Plenty of fans have taken to Twitter and complained about Renteria during this losing stretch, suggesting he’s not the one to manage this team into a winning era, but those were conclusions that cannot be drawn considering the quality of the rosters he’s managed in his three years on the South Side. How can you judge a manager’s ability to contend when he doesn’t have the tools to do so?

That’s about to change, so there will finally be some actual evidence to back up either side of that argument.

It’s clear where the White Sox stand in that discussion. They’ve been praising the job Renteria has done for three years now, and they’ve expressed nothing but confidence that he’ll be the guy to get it done.

“When Ricky was put in that role, it wasn't with the idea that he was just going to be the right guy for the first stage, the stage that is coming toward an end here, or is at an end here,” Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference last month. “Obviously, the history and teaching and communicating and holding guys accountable is very important now. But even at the time we hired him, we felt he had the ability to not only set the right winning culture but to put guys in the best position to win.

“His ability to communicate with all 25 or 26 guys on a daily basis, to know where they're at, to know what they're capable of doing and putting them in the best position, makes us fairly confident that once that roster is deep enough and strong enough that he's going to be able to maximize the win potential with that roster when the time comes.”

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