By Bruce Levine–
GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS) — Arizona once boasted some of the craftiest gamblers. So when you consider what Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has up his sleeve, it had better be the fifth ace in the deck.
The poker table is weighted toward Hahn. The gamble is waiting on trading his veteran pitchers and sluggers when they currently have high value and are healthy. As spring training has begun, the White Sox brass must decide if the wait for a deal they can’t refuse is worth the risks involved.
The World Baseball Classic presents the greatest challenge to the White Sox front office and its grand plan to trade left-hander Jose Quintana and closer David Robertson for the most productive young players in other organizations.
On March 5, Quintana, Robertson and setup man Nate Jones will join their WBC teams. Quintana will pitch for Colombia, while the two relievers are on Team USA. The dice begins to get thrown at this point, with the danger coming in other managers and pitching coaches controlling Chicago’s precious arms.
White Sox officials are looking at the practical side, eschewing the idea something may happen to their pitchers. After all, these are veterans who have been through the rigors and been fine.
The case of Robertson seems risky, as he’s coming off a minor knee surgery this offseason. Jones previously missed almost a year with arm and back issues, then came back healthy in 2016. Quintana has never been hurt.
Of course, the White Sox have no say so in the matter of telling a player to be a no-go for the WBC.
Hahn expressed a desire to keep his player development plan going by moving veterans and bringing in a large cache of top young talent. After moving ace left-hander Chris Sale and outfielder Adam Eaton in December for seven players, the progress of the plan has slowed down. Talks have been hot and heavy with teams such as the Astros, Pirates, Rangers and the Yankees, with most professing great interest in Quintana.
“We will continue to keep an open mind,” Hahn said. “Where there is conversations to be had, we will pursue them.”
With the veterans now in camp, trade rumors will have less impact on them, Hahn said. He believes as they work toward the season’s beginning, the players can commiserate with each other about their present plight in limbo.
“It is harder on the players when they are at home dealing with the trade rumors,” Hahn said. “They have to hear from friends and family about the latest rumors. When they are here, they can focus more on doing their job. Regardless of what uniform they are wearing, they know how to prepare for a season.”
The pitchers in question must control what they can control moving forward.
“It is tough,” Robertson said. “There is nothing I can do about it. I just put it in the back of my mind, come to the field and do the work I need to do. Whatever decisions the organization makes is what they are going to do. I don’t really have a choice. I am here to play baseball. I will try to get better and let the cards fall where they may.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.