Entering offseason, Rick Hahn cautiously sets caution aside (but still within reach)

When we last heard from Rick Hahn about the 2020 White Sox, his prospectus underwhelmed even for accounting all things he can’t say. “Let’s see” doesn’t quite cut it as a rallying cry for a GM who is under no danger of being fired after seven losing seasons in seven tries at the job, and might still be safe after 17 of ’em.

His end of season summit on Friday offered more to chew on, even if he stopped short of fulfilling my podcast prediction of an end-of-season Jose Abreu extension celebration at Guaranteed Rate Field.

As usual, Hahn avoided overextending himself. When it came to an overall projection, he said that the White Sox were likely to be better on June 1, 2020 than March 26, 2020, and better on Sept. 1 than June 1 regardless of what happens, and he didn’t want to establish a floor of expectations until moves are made over the offseason. He didn’t even offer specifics for Abreu, except that he likened it to Paul Konerko’s dalliances with free agency when it came to eventuality.

But there were other cues signaling a higher gear.

For instance, he said it was “a little premature on the everyone-coming-back conversations” with regards to the coaching staff. He offered compliments to the coaches, saying their player-development backgrounds helped set standards for the youth-infused roster, but said that “we’ll deal with specific staffing issues once the season’s over.”

James Fegan beat me to looking for what Hahn said about the coaches last year, when Hahn said that only other managerial vacancies might prevent the coaching staff from returning.

Take that uncertainty, and then combine it with his comments about the Sox’ inability to get on base …

“You have a guy like (Tim Anderson) who can do damage in and around the zone. You don’t really want to take that away from him, so we’re not saying, ‘Hey, Tim Anderson needs to walk more.’ But you want to make sure everyone is swinging at pitches they can do damage on, and not necessarily expanding beyond what they’re capable of doing.”

… and maybe the Sox are indeed evaluating the way they’re approaching a reshaping of uniformed personnel. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s way more than usual.

Hahn also drew a distinction between last offseason in this one when asked about pitching free agents on joining the White Sox.

“I was candid last offseason that when you’re talking to some free agents — last year, we were probably a year too soon, so you had to sort of map out what it was going to look like and educate them a little bit about who was coming and how we saw this thing coming together,” Hahn said.

“I think over the course of this year we saw a lot of it come together before our eyes, and it’s fairly easy to project out who’s going be joining us from our system and what that’s potentially going to look like. The excitement’s there, not just in our clubhouse, but around the game right now.”

Is last year was “a year too soon,” then logically this year would be the time for action, right? So that’s something.

And when asked about potential areas of improvement, Hahn pointed to right field, DH and a starting pitcher or two. These are the same positions Hahn attempted to address last winter, but perhaps Hahn will have more success expanding the pool beyond the friends and family of a major free agent his boss is going to low-ball.

If Hahn pumped the brakes in any regard rhetorically by his standards — and he usually drives with the parking brake engaged regardless — it was in regards to the farm system as a whole. When asked about the rough year on the farm, he said, “In 2020, I don’t think we are going to be what we targeted for organizational depth just yet.”

He couched that by saying that the second tier of the farm system should return form injury, and self-sufficient depth is the last thing to materialize — which strikes me as highly convenient for a supposed rule of thumb — but he’s only being honest in the sense that dealing from depth will probably be difficult to accomplish without taking a hit on their previous value.

But with a pristine payroll and plenty of room on the 40-man roster, the White Sox have plenty of room for aggression even if they’re limited in the trade arena, and with talented players entering their primes and a manager who hasn’t lost his clubhouse despite all the losing, this would be the time to give all the success stories some support.

Hahn acknowledged that by saying in his closing comments, “I think we’re entering the next stage.”

Buuuuuut, because Hahn is Hahn, he also laid out future stages and hurdles, saying “it’s going to involve continued growth, and a path towards heightened competitiveness. […] How quickly we get to the most important stage, that being winning? I think it’s premature to say right now.”

Maybe Hahn is correct from his perspective and there are distinct differences between “the next stage,” “a path towards heightened competitiveness” and “the most important stage.” From our distance, it should all look the same: the team’s better tomorrow starts by making the team better today.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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lil jimmy

I’m asking.
If we keep Yolmer and Leury, and resign Abreu, (15 mil?) What is the payroll before any added signings. I’m thinking 60 million, but don’t really know.

Yolmer's gatorade

BRef has them at $53.3 million with arb salaries after they dump Castillo. The estimate goes with arb salaries up to $103 million in 2021 and $163 million in 2022. So, maybe they give out one long term contact, two 2-3 year deals, and one one year deal. Something like Bumgarner 4 years, $80 million, 3 years, $45 million, Abreu 2 years, $30 million, and a DH on a 1 year deal.

karkovice squad

That looks more dour on paper than it is in reality. There will be massive turnover of arb-eligible players on the back of the roster to clean up the ’21-’23 phase.

Trooper Galactus

Those figures are not even remotely reasonable. Lopez, Giolito, and Moncada will only be in arb-2 in 2022, and they only have about $17m committed to Tim and Eloy. I think that figure gives the arb salaries to every player listed, more than can even be rostered. Even if a lot of these guys are good, I don’t see much more than $60m in arb salaries there.

karkovice squad

They’re included because of how payroll is calculated for the salary suppression threshold. B-Ref included their placeholder arb values at the bottom.

But yes, those figures just say there are a lot of guys who are due to be non-tendered, traded, outrighted, or released over the next 3 or 4 years.

PauliePaulie

You would have 9 players under contract- Abreu/15, Herrera/8.5, Colome/10, Sanchez/5, Garcia/4, Anderson/4, Jimenez/2.3, Rodon(on 60 day)/4, McCann/5- for just under $60mil.

ImmortalTimeTravelMan

There is no way Sanchez gets that 5….

PauliePaulie

Then adjust down as you see fit.

ImmortalTimeTravelMan

1.5? Can’t see another team giving out more than that….

PauliePaulie

He’s arb eligible. So if they keep him, as jimmy guided in his post, the deepest pay cut he can take is 20% off the $4.625 mil he makes now.

asinwreck

If Hahn pumped the brakes in any regard rhetorically by his standards — and he usually drives with the parking brake engaged regardless — it was in regards to the farm system as a whole

That explains the stench.

NateDPT12

Does the comment about being better able to sell free agents on the team this off-season season compared to last bother anyone else?The implication being the reason they didn’t sign Machado is they just couldn’t sell him on the rebuild, not that they underbid the Padres by $50.Ugh, typing that sentence brings back all my frustration from last off-season. They got outbid by the freaking Padres!

I salute Hahn for recognizing they need to add pitching, a RF, and a DH, though I’d add a catcher to that list as well.  I still have no confidence in his ability to fill those holes with anything resembling quality Major League Baseball players.

ImmortalTimeTravelMan

What I want:

RF Ozuna
DH/LF Pederson
SP Keuchel
SP Hamels

What I get:

RF Gardner
DH/RF Calhoun
SP Nova
SP Hamels

I wouldn’t mind Nova back next year as a 5th starter provided we get a legit front end of the rotation pitcher as well.

WilburWoodWasTheMan

If we could land Bumgarner or Keuchel, I’d be fine with Nova, too. Given all the 5/6 inning starts that we are likely to get from Kopech/Cease/Lopez, it probably maes sense to grab a couple of relievers like Will Smith & Arodys Vizcaino to avoid having to rely on the likes of Ruiz and Fulmer again.

I also would love to see Puig take a year guaranteed / year player option contract to prove he’s worth a longer term contract. He either responds well to the clubhouse full of countrymen and you extend him or he provides a bridge to whatever emerges from the minors (Walker/Basabe/Adolfo/Rutherford/Gonzales)

If we could pick up Grandal as a catcher/1B, I think he catches most days and helps to fill in the DH hole with rotations of players like Abreu/Collins/McCann/Grandal/Mercedes, & guys that need off-days from the field, etc.

Of course, if an Encarnacion becomes available, grab him too!

karkovice squad

I think the “year too early” comment applies more to other players, Kimbrel being a good example.

PauliePaulie

Eluding to dropping some of the dugout personnel is the good kind of tease.

As Cirensica

I think we’re entering the next stage

I wonder what that stage is.
Winning 75 games?
80 games?
85? games?

That won’t be enough.

We are gonna play 161 games this year, so the max amount of wins could be 72. that’s a 10 games improvement which was pretty much created internally. This team needs 20 more wins to be into something. Kopech, Madrigal, and Roberts would add some wins, but probably not 20. Signing 2 premium free agents will do it. One has to be a front of the line pitcher, and I would also bring Nova back.