By Tim Baffoe–
(670 The Score) You do you, Rick Hahn. For all the talk of this round of MLB free agency being the dullest in recent memory, the White Sox general manager probably could not care less.
The White Sox aren’t expected to contend in 2018, and that’s mostly intentional as they continue their rebuild a la the Cubs and Houston Astros. Still, Hahn isn’t sitting on his hands while more attention is focused on established teams around the league staring down potential trades and playing chicken with big-name free agents.
On Thursday, the White Sox acquired relievers Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan and $3 million in cash in a three-team deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kansas City Royals. Minor league infielder Jake Peter was sent by the White Sox to the Dodgers in the deal.
“We feel we have added some veteran options to the back end of the bullpen,” Hahn said. “Both have experience pitching later in games. This gives (manager Rick Renteria) and the coaches some versatility in how they employ the bullpen. This allows us to protect and pace the development of some of our young players. This also supplies us with some flexibility options over the course of the summer as things unfold.”
The knee-jerk response to this deal for many Hot Stove addicts is “meh.” No superstars are involved. The prospects involved aren’t the names that echo across the baseball landscape.
But the trade filled an immediate need for the White Sox, as their bullpen was in serious need of bodies. But Avilan and Soria function as more than roster spots. Their veteran presence will be a boon to what is and will continue to be the gradual trickle of young prospects joining the big club.
“From a makeup standpoint, both Avilan and Soria are very strong in that regard,” Hahn said. “That is true of their work ethic and presence in the clubhouse. That continues a trend we have tried to put in place during the last two years. We want to bring guys who set a good example for these younger players.”
This shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s one thing to have Yoan Moncada and Carson Fulmer and eventually Michael Kopech and maybe Eloy Jimenez in 2018. It’s another to have them develop as complete big league players, which involves more than throwing and hitting the ball. A random veteran middle reliever can do a lot to show a kid how to be a professional. So can a field general like catcher Welington Castillo, whom Hahn signed in December in another move that didn’t necessarily raise eyebrows around the league but nonetheless should be a positive impact on a developing pitching staff and youthful clubhouse.
The biggest aspect of this trade is the flippability of Avilan and Soria. Should they perform well, Hahn expects them to become trivia questions. As in “Who did the White Sox trade to acquire (insert more stud prospects that contribute to the 2020 team)?” These relievers are hopefully the new Tommy Kahnle and Anthony Swarzak, both of whom Hahn flipped for prospects in 2017.
It’s not blockbuster stuff, but it’s what Hahn needs to do for now. This kind of stuff is the “meh” that can mutate into the “wow” once a team is ready to compete. And Hahn even got the Dodgers and Royals to send over a combined $3 million to boot.
“I would say our main focus is on the 2018 club,” Hahn said. “We will continue to look at things that put us in a stronger position for the long term as well. We are going to continue to search for viable depth throughout the organization. Having guys who match up nicely and complement each other is of interest to us. So are guys who can go multiple innings. Those people can potentially lighten the load on other players.”
Hahn has to say that he’s focused on this upcoming season, but 2018 means mostly developing youngsters and moving players of no long-term value for minor leaguers you get lucky on. The team will be interesting to watch in that regard, but it also has enough talent right now that the on-field product this summer can still be entertaining. Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia are still here (for now).
But it’s really about after 2018, and making what on the Hot Stove surface feels like a tepid trade is very much the move a general manager in the throes of a rebuild needs to do without much care for not rocking our bored boats. And if an opportunity for an exciting move comes along that makes sense for the direction of the White Sox, it will get proper consideration, as was shown when Jose Quintana was sent to the Cubs in 2017.
Rick Hahn will continue to Rick Hahn.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for 670TheScore.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not Entercom or our affiliated radio stations.