Sox — like Cubs — looking to rebuild, but Rick Hahn’s path harder to chart
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN email@example.com July 6, 2013 1:22AM
Former Sox general manager Ken Williams left successor Rick Hahn (above) with little to work with in the minors. | AP
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Updated: August 8, 2013 7:06AM
On the North Side, a starving fan base waits patiently, trusting president Theo Epstein’s every move as he rebuilds the Cubs from the ground up.
Step by step, piece by piece, the fan base knows what it’s getting.
On the South Side, first-year general manager Rick Hahn has a plan to make the White Sox look presentable again, but nobody knows exactly what it is.
Hahn has a last-place team and a lacking farm system to restock it with because his predecessor, Ken Williams, thought little of trading valuable pieces from it to acquire veterans who kept his teams in contention. It didn’t help that the Dave Wilder kickback scandal in Latin America blackballed the Sox from a talent-rich resource.
The Sox do have this going for them: They are making headway again in Latin America, as evidenced by their $1.6 million signing last week of 16-year-old outfielder Adolfo Zapata. And they have trading chips such as Jake Peavy, Jesse Crain and Alex Rios, to name only a few veterans, who could bring good prospects to restock their thin minor-league system.
Sources say that short of left-hander Chris Sale, anybody and everybody is on the table as Hahn works the phones with other GMs and player agents. That would include 24-year-old Addison Reed, the Sox’ homegrown closer. Not that they’re looking to trade him, but Hahn will entertain any trade that makes the Sox better — and catches the attention of their following.
‘‘They need something to shock the fan base, something to snap it,’’ a source in the organization said. ‘‘We’re rebuilding, but we’re rebuilding in a big way, almost like we’re super-charging the core of the team with one move.’’
Hahn, who was Williams’ assistant for 12 years, couldn’t be in a tougher spot in his first season at the helm. Williams knew the farm system better than he did, so Hahn will rely on scouts and others in the organization for input.
‘‘He’s in a tough spot, especially since Peavy’s injury,’’ the source said. ‘‘[Peavy] was the most marketable guy. He’s a spotlight guy. He will bring you the most ready minor-league guy, and you might even get major-league-ready guys for him.’’
Peavy threw off a mound Sunday and is getting closer to returning, perhaps shortly after the All-Star break. He is under contract through next season and doesn’t have a no-trade clause, so he could be dealt during the offseason, and it’s always nice to make a splash with the fans at the winter meetings.
‘‘Rick has been put in a tough spot, but he’s a really smart guy,’’ the source said. ‘‘That Latin signing is a sign of things to come. And if we get the second pick [in the 2014 draft], that would be something new because we’ve been left in NBA hell [in the draft order] since Kenny has been at the helm. That style has always put us in the middle. You’re getting there, you’re getting there, and all of a sudden it comes off the rails and you finish 16, 17, 18, right in there. Going No. 2 [in the draft] is a lot better. A lot better.’’
In the post-steroid era, where doubles and defense will trump home runs, the Sox must replenish their system with more speed and up-the-middle players (Latin Americans who can run and throw). Higher draft picks, more international signings and additions to the farm system through trades can brighten the Sox’ future. What that future is, nobody knows.
Hahn is working on it.
‘‘He’s working the phones,’’ the source said. ‘‘He’s a master at behind-the-scenes stuff, dealing with agents. I think he’s looking to strike the best deal as humanly possible. I think anybody and everybody is [tradable].’’