By Bruce Levine–
ORLANDO, Fla. (CBS) — Arguably the most active team in baseball last season, the White Sox may be sitting on the sidelines early on the trade market and free-agent market this offseason.
The White Sox have already heard tentative offers for first baseman Jose Abreu and outfielder Avisail Garcia, who each have two years of club control left. But it’s doubtful they act quickly.
“It would be foolish for any of us to break off conversations,” general manager Rick Hahn said Monday, the first day of the GM Meetings. “You never know where you might end up, whether if it’s that conversation or six months later, leading to a fit that will serve us well.”
The White Sox pulled off the two biggest trades of the 2016 Winter Meetings last December, sending left-hander Chris Sale to the Red Sox and outfielder Adam Eaton to the Nationals in deals that netted them seven prospects in all, including second baseman Yoan Moncada, right-hander Lucas Giolito and right-hander Reynaldo Lopez, who’ve all made their way to the big leagues.
This year doesn’t figure to feature the same fireworks. As other teams in a win-now mode probe the player acquisition market, Hahn has instituted a wait-and-see approach for the White Sox this offseason, at least initially here at the GM Meetings.
Chicago’s plan is to sit back as the market plays out with premier free agents like first baseman Eric Hosmer and premier trade candidates like Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, then re-engage with action, be it in the lower-profile wave of free agency or by conversing with clubs that miss out on the big names.
“We have engaged in talks for the last couple of weeks,” Hahn said. “We have talked to every club in baseball. This is an opportunity to follow up on some of those conversations face to face and see how things advanced or die on the vine is more frequently the case. This will be a little bit different from an offseason for us. I expect a lot less activity. I will say I expect important player acquisitions over the coming months. It will not be the same volume we have had over the past year.”
Opposing clubs have also approached Hahn about young White Sox players who aren’t on the trade market. He has no inclination to move any of them, though he knows a time may come some day when that’s the case. So it’s worth listening intently to know how other teams currently view the White Sox’s young talent.
“Yeah, we have been approached on that,” Hahn admitted. “We have had some general conversations along those lines. It a more likely scenario a year from now when we have a better sense of where are depth truly is. We may have outfield depth at that time to relocate some of those resources. But for now, it’s still a little bit too early.”
Where the White Sox do need to act is in the bullpen, as they traded away four key relievers in a nine-day stretch last July. That’s their immediate focus this offseason. Also on their mind is the addition of a journeyman starting pitcher or two. The thought process is to sign these players to a one-year deal, hope a couple of them perform well, then flip them for some young talent at the trade deadline that better fits the rebuilding timeline.
Patience is an attribute the White Sox have preached from the start and must display if they’re to maximize their farm system. And patience must be on display as well in listening to offers on Abreu and Garcia.
“It has to be in play,” Hahn said of listening to offers on those two. “Everything is in play. Even a couple of years ago when we come to these meetings, there would be all these Chris Sale rumors. The reason for that was we had to keep our options open. There are simply no untouchables. We have to fully vet and understand our players and make an appropriate decision about what is best for the long-term health of the organization.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.