Sox GM Hahn might have to become trader out of necessity
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN email@example.com May 28, 2013 10:12PM
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Chicago White Sox
Updated: June 30, 2013 6:43AM
If and when it’s time for general manager Rick Hahn to roll up his sleeves and reconstruct the White Sox, his tool belt will be missing a utensil or two, and his materials and supply shed will be half-empty.
With Paul Konerko’s contract up after this year, Adam Dunn’s expiring after next year and Alex Rios’ the year after that, the 3-4-5 core of a lineup that is being counted on to produce runs will be gone before the Sox know it.
There are no minor-league slugging first basemen of note waiting in the wings, and if Dayan Viciedo is moved from left field to first, the Sox’ collection of first- and second-round outfielders — Jared Mitchell, Trayce Thompson, Keenyn Walker and Courtney Hawkins — isn’t doing much to put Hahn’s mind at ease.
“You can always use more of those guys,’’ assistant GM and former farm director Buddy Bell said last week, “because all those guys aren’t going to be impact guys. Hopefully there’s one that performs at the level you’re hoping for.’’
Hopefully. Where will the every-day players and prospects to fix things up come from if they don’t? Where will Hahn turn for the home runs, RBI and runs when he can’t bank on his farm system? Planner Hahn might be left with no choice but to become Trader Rick.
Signing a high-priced free agent only makes sense if the Sox are a player or two away. With flat attendance for a team that spent 117 games in first place last season, reduced ticket and parking prices this season and a seemingly competent marketing crew, big-ticket free agency might not be the answer for a franchise that, while not crying poor, has fewer revenue sources than, say, the Cubs.
What’s more, the trend to lock up future stars to long-term deals before they hit the free-agent market — as the Sox did with Chris Sale and the Cubs with Anthony Rizzo — and the loss of draft picks to sign free agents make that option less and less appealing. Add to that the glut of huge contracts out there that owners would love to have back (see Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Dunn to name only a few), and GMs should know to proceed with caution.
The Sox drafted and developed Sale and a small stable of relief pitchers led by closer Addison Reed, but besides them, the list of home-grown impact players on the 25-man roster is thin. Starting pitching is the most precious commodity, and the Sox are not drafting and developing enough front-line starters. Sale will be the exception unless prospects such as second-rounder Erik Johnson, fifth-round lefty Scott Snodgress and Brazilian Andre Rienzo prove otherwise.
“We’re looking for middle infielders, corner infielders and more depth in our pitching staff,’’ Bell said of the Sox’ farm system. “We’re not real solid there because a lot of our guys like Sale, Reed, [Nate] Jones, [Hector] Santiago, [Brian] Omogrosso, [Dylan] Axelrod, [Jose] Quintana all kind of moved up quick. That kind of thins things out, so you’re always looking to retool your big-league club’s minor-league system, as well.’’
So far, Hahn has not been the wheeler-dealer his predecessor, Ken Williams, was. But he might be forced to put his trading gloves on soon. Getting third baseman Conor Gillaspie for Class A reliever Jeff Soptic during spring training suggests Hahn just might know how to use them.