What's next for these White Sox?
Liam Hendriks was a splash, one worthy of celebration on the South Side as Rick Hahn's front office added one of the best closers in baseball to a roster that already stacked up as one of the most impressive in the American League, if not the finest in the Junior Circuit.
Before Hendriks, the White Sox brought in Lance Lynn to beef up their rotation and Adam Eaton to provide some more reliable consistency in right field. All in all, a very good offseason, easily one of the best to this point in the game and perhaps second only to that of the endlessly active San Diego Padres.
RELATED: How Yasmani Grandal — and James McCann — brought Liam Hendriks to Sox
But the slow-moving free-agent market — which the White Sox seemed to goose a little bit by signing Hendriks last week — means there are a lot of good players still available.
Trevor Bauer is still out there, while White Sox fans look at a back end of their team's starting rotation with some legitimate questions. George Springer is still out there, while White Sox fans remain lukewarm on Eaton due to memories of 2016 and his unfortunate injury history. Nelson Cruz and Michael Brantley are still out there, while White Sox fans wonder if Andrew Vaughn will be ready for primetime.
So will the White Sox, displaying the kind of aggression that so few teams have this winter — which has reached the one-month countdown to the start of spring training — cast their line into the free-agent waters once more?
Well, to hear the general manager talk about it, maybe not.
"At the end of the last call we did," Hahn said during Hendriks' introductory press conference Friday, "(I was asked) if we were satisfied or if we were done or if I expected more moves. And stupidly, I said something like ‘stay tuned’ or something like that, primarily because I was just trying to get off the call at that point. And in saying that flippant remark, I created these expectations that something more was coming. Obviously, we hoped something like Liam was coming, but at that point we didn’t know.
"So I’m going to err on the other end of the extreme of that comment and say if this Is our group, we’re very happy with it and we’ll go to camp with these guys and we’ll sort it out there. We feel we’ve got the makings of a championship team among this group."
Before anyone still clamoring for Bauer or Cruz to wind up on the South Side starts working on a Hahn voodoo doll, realize this is the same guy who said this last month:
"There's always something else we can do," Hahn said after trading for Lynn. "We haven't, by any stretch, accomplished what we intended to accomplish when we started this (rebuilding) process, but one of the stops along the way was getting to the point where it made sense for us to be aggressive and add to a championship-caliber core in an effort to get over that last important threshold of winning a championship.
"(We) feel like we not only still have work to do on the field, but we have work to do in the front office in order to improve that position."
Two days later, Hahn was talking about his team's new right fielder. A month later, he was talking about his team's new closer. More moves came.
Those quotes from December, though, more than foreshadowing what was to come, illustrated that a front office's work is never done.
When it comes to forecasting if there's more to come before the White Sox head to Glendale, Arizona, for the start of spring training — or, given the frozen nature of this free-agent market, perhaps a better timeline is before they head to Anaheim for the season-opener on April 1 —it's tricky, and Hahn's comments last week sure didn't help in that department, which of course is how the White Sox front office prefers it.
"The reality is that it’s always probably somewhere in between those two answers. It’s always another move we feel we can make to get us better," he said. "We’re going to continue to explore to see if something lines up, but there’s no guarantee it will. So if this in fact is our group, we feel pretty good about where we sit today.
"I’m going to err on the side of managing and minimizing expectations. So, to quote 'Hoosiers': 'Our team is on the floor.'"
Swinging from one extreme to the other, though, does not completely rule out more additions, as Hahn said.
Look to last year for some hints. Searching to bolster starting-pitching depth then, the White Sox signed Gio González, a veteran who wasn't going to top the rotation but, the hope was, provide a reliable arm at the back of it and, if all went well, serve as a long reliever. It didn't work out that way, and González proved ineffective in both roles. But a signing along those lines — of which Bauer, obviously, is not — would make sense as the White Sox are all too familiar with the perils of not having enough starting-pitching depth.
But the White Sox have also made clear this winter, chiefly in trading for the lone remaining year on Lynn's contract, that win-now moves are possible. One year of Cruz or some other veteran DH while Vaughn continues his minor league seasoning and gets his first experience above A-ball? That doesn't sound outlandish in the least, even if Cruz is reported to be searching for a two-year contract. But remember, too, that the team thinks highly of Vaughn's bat.
None of this, of course, firmly answers the question of what comes next.
But the answer is not "don't hold your breath," nor is it "get ready." It's "we'll see." And considering White Sox fans can see that their team is currently in a tremendous position heading into the 2021 season, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
And even if you find that disappointing, remember Hahn's other message: that a front office's work is never done.
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