SAN DIEGO — The White Sox, you might have heard, are committed to their rebuilding plans.
Still unsure if 2020 will be the year when that long-awaited leap into contender status occurs, Rick Hahn is staying the course and looking for long-term moves that line up with what he projects to be a lengthy contention window.
But there are plenty of moves, plenty of players, that don’t fit into that perfect box. And that’s where temptation arises. Hahn hasn’t been shy about discussing the instances of impatience felt by the team’s decision-makers, times when they get antsy about all the losing that’s occurred over the past few seasons.
The Winter Meetings holds many such temptations, opportunities to make the roster better right away, even though they might not fit in exactly with carefully crafted rebuilding plans.
And indeed the White Sox have faced temptation this week in Southern California.
“We’ve had some really interesting trade conversations,” Hahn said Wednesday. “We’ve got some prospects that are extraordinarily popular, and (there have been) a few things that at least made you take a step back and pause and think, ‘Is this consistent with what we started three years ago, or is this an effort to force things a little more quickly?’
“Kenny (Williams) and I had dinner last night and talked through some things about where this really fits in terms of what we’re trying to accomplish for the long term and being true to the long-term plan versus maybe a short-term hit or a short-term fix that that jumps us forward for next year but might compromise us for an extended period. Then we had another conversation about that again this morning.
“So there's been some temptation around. But again, we’re trying to stay true to what we set out to do three years ago and what we do feel we’re getting awfully close to being able to enjoy the fruits of.”
What might this really interesting trade proposal be? Hahn didn’t reveal much. And we can only guess, based on what he said, that it probably involves the White Sox parting with one of their prized prospects.
It would be kind of crazy to think Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal or Michael Kopech would go anywhere. But maybe Andrew Vaughn or Dane Dunning could be drawing interest in a way that makes the White Sox consider an offer? Past those five, the potential impact level of White Sox prospects seemingly drops off, and the team dealt away its No. 6 prospect, Steele Walker, in a trade for Nomar Mazara on Tuesday night.
Hahn has said the White Sox are not likely to deal highly ranked prospects in exchange for a short-term gain, saying Monday: “If we are trading a premium-type prospect, it’s going to be for someone who will be here for a while.”
Might, though, the White Sox have gotten an offer that would make them bend the rules a bit? That’s where temptation comes into play. It doesn’t sound like “this thing that was sort of intriguing,” as Hahn described it, was a roll of the dice the size of trading for only one year of Mookie Betts. But it might not have fit the team’s ideal for a long-term solution, either.
One thing it does sound is kind of big.
“I think this is my 20th Winter Meetings with the Sox, and far more than half of them, there’s been like this huge, interesting proposal on Wednesday night of the Winter Meetings,” Hahn said. “And by the time you get to the Rule 5 draft (Thursday morning), all things have blown up. That has happened like 12 times.
“So we were joking last night when we got this thing that was sort of intriguing that it was a day early.”
None of this is to suggest that something earth-shattering is imminent. Hahn referenced the history of such proposals falling apart within 24 hours. He also lumped the description of this intriguing offer in with his comments about needing to stick to the plan, perhaps describing a move that, while tempting, is the kind the White Sox should be staying away from. Earlier in the same media session, Hahn had this to say, specifically in reference to his front office’s hunt for starting pitching:
“What’s going on here is not an all-out effort to force our window open quicker,” he said. “We’re continuing to build something where we’re able to win on an annual basis and, once that window is open, be aggressive to add and continue to keep that thing moving.
“So there are certain moves that fit for that long term and certain moves that could be characterized more as trying to force open the window sooner. It's the former moves that make more sense for us right now, the ones that fit in for the long term.”
Maybe Hahn and Williams talked “this thing that was sort of intriguing” out and decided it didn’t line up with what they’re trying to accomplish. Or maybe it’s too good a move to pass up and they’re still discussing it. We can only speculate, given all teams’ secretive tendencies when it comes to such things.
But speculating is also pretty fun, and so maybe it’s worth a few stabs in the dark as to what this might be.
The White Sox were reported to be in trade talks with the Los Angeles Dodgers surrounding Joc Pederson.
The Pittsburgh Pirates might deal away Starling Marte.
The New York Yankees, now in possession of Gerrit Cole, are supposedly looking to trade J.A. Happ.
If you want to dream really, really big, the Colorado Rockies are reportedly listening on Nolan Arenado.
And the Boston Red Sox, still looking to shave salary, might still be thinking about dealing any number of players, including Betts, David Price and Andrew Benintendi.
And maybe none of those names have anything to do with the interesting conversations Hahn was talking about. But there is something tempting out there for the White Sox. Maybe they’d prefer to resist and stick closer to their rebuilding plans. Maybe they won’t be able to resist and it will be a smashing success. Who knows.
But this is the Winter Meetings. And anything can happen at any time.