By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — After trading left-hander Chris Sale and outfielder Adam Eaton in December, the White Sox still have plenty of heavy lifting to do in their overhaul.
The dramatic change in team philosophy began last August when the Sale auction began in earnest. His blowup last July and another White Sox team that looked good on paper but struggled convinced owner Jerry Reinsdorf to go along with his front office’s new approach. A long-term view of a baseball club isn’t easy for a competitive 80-year-old to settle on, but Reinsdorf understood that this this was the proper direction.
After the club’s first two valuable pieces were dealt at the Winter Meetings, it appeared both left-hander Jose Quintana and third baseman Todd Frazier would soon follow out of the door. That hasn’t happened yet. The fact that the market for sluggers like Frazier was overstocked knocked diminished his trade value and has slowed the process. In the case of Quintana, the White Sox’s desired price and other teams’ offers haven’t matched up.
Hahn and executive vice president of baseball operations Kenny Williams have been burning up the text and phone lines with proposed suitors for their players. Timing is everything. This is true in most walks of business and professional baseball deals as well.
“If we had our druthers, we would continue to make transactions like the Eaton and Sale deals in rapid succession,” Hahn said. “Our desire is to get through this process and build a sustainable core of talented players as soon as possible. Our desire and impatience is not going to dictate this market and the schedule of these moves. The timing of these moves will be based upon the market and our ability to get the right value in these trades. While coming out of D.C. feeling like we would have more transactions between that point and today. Obviously that has not been the case. However, we remain in contact with other clubs. There is certainly a chance before we get to camp or at least by Opening Day, there will be additional moves.”
In his seminar with manager Rick Renteria on Friday at SoxFest, Hahn did express some disappointment about not having done more regarding player movement at this juncture. He emphasized he wasn’t willing to hand players away at less than the market value. As to getting other general managers to think along with the White Sox, an injury or two early spring training will certainly get teams more interested. Quintana, Frazier and closer David Robertson will look a lot better to a desperate club that has lost an important cog to injury.
“There is a balance here,” Hahn said. “It is based on what players are available to you today as opposed to what will be offered at the trading deadline or next offseason. There is also the possibility of keeping a player. We have some premium talent on this roster that is controllable for the next several years. That is still in the window of when we expect to be back contending for a championship. You balance what is available to you today, as opposed to what may be there for you in the future. Thus you have the possibility of keeping a player.”
Any posturing by Hahn doesn’t change the possibility of injuries happening and the White Sox needing to avoid such risk. Frazier sprained his ring finger lifting this offseason, so he’s not in perfect shape right now if a deal was proposed. It just takes one unfortunate circumstance to alter a player’s trade value.
“We know we are closer to the beginning part of this process than we are to the end,” Hahn said. “We know there will be some difficult days ahead of us. Virtually every Sox fan I have talked to understands this process and is embracing it. They are looking forward to seeing the fruits of this labor, even though they know there will be hardships along the way in the short term.”
Hahn has been blunt about the fact that he doesn’t expect his team to be a playoff club in 2017.
“It is tough to satisfy two masters,” Hahn said of rebuilding and winning simultaneously. “Our focus is to build something sustainable. In the short term, we may have to pay the price at the big league level. After losing with Sale and Eaton last year, it’s tough to stand up here and say this team is ready to contend in 2017. I think everyone now understands what we are trying to accomplish in the long term. Again, we are closer to the start than the end of this process in rebuilding this club.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.