Rick Hahn clarifies a few White Sox positions, sort of

The previous time Rick Hahn spoke to the media as a whole, the White Sox hadn’t made the team option decisions on Craig Kimbrel and César Hernández, nor had they decided whether to issue a qualifying offer to Carlos Rodón.

The monthlong silence has since been broken by regular appearances, whether on Chicago radio shows or at the general managers meetings in Carlsbad, Calif., so Hahn’s made himself available for further elaboration, even if it mostly turns into reiteration.

Through these appearances, Hahn’s at least been able to provide some clarity in three areas, at least if you possess some literacy in tea leaves.


We talked about this on Monday, and between Carlos Rodón’s injury-scarred track record and the loaded free-agent pitching market, the environment wasn’t conducive to offering Rodón a contract they didn’t want him to accept. That seems to be what Hahn’s saying:

“Essentially, it’s a contract offer of $18.4 million for one (year),” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Tuesday at the GM meetings in Southern California. “And we made the assessment based on everything we know, which includes our needs and our other targets, that that wasn’t an offer we were comfortable making at this time.”

Rodón’s situation brings back memories of 2008, when the White Sox could effectively dare Orlando Cabrera to accept arbitration upon reaching free agency after the season, expecting him to reject a $9 million salary because the Sox were going to bury him on the bench. They carried an Opening Day payroll of $121 million back then, good for top five in the league. Thirteen years later, their payroll was only $5 million higher.

(Cabrera ended up signing with Oakland for $4 million; the White Sox gained two draft picks that turned into Trayce Thompson and Josh Phegley.)

Set aside the payroll disparity, and one key phrase in Hahn’s answer is “everything we know,” because given all the physical issues Rodón battled during his time with the White Sox, everything could be a loaded term in multiple senses of the word. The decision loses all of its controversy if Rodón only makes 10 starts in 2022.


I can’t remember Hahn being so candid about the possibility of trading an under-contract player as he’s being about Craig Kimbrel.

“We view him as a potentially impactful reliever as he’s been for the vast majority of his career,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Tuesday on Day 1 of the GM meetings in Southern California. “We’re not alone in that opinion.

“It didn’t work out the way we wanted last year so perhaps there’s a better use of his skills than how we were doing it,” Hahn said. “So we have to reconsider his usage with us versus a potential trade.”

On the surface, those quotes sound like they’re keeping every option open, but Jesse Rogers found somebody who could turn the subtext into normal text.

“He’s as good as gone,” one rival executive said Tuesday.


When it comes to the three positions where the Sox could use more impressive internal candidates, I’m having a hard time gauging how serious Hahn is about his plans for right field and second base. Hahn told ESPN 1000’s Kap & J. Hood show on Monday that the Sox are closer to having internal options in right field, for whatever that’s worth.

Hahn is trying to voice confidence about the incumbent backups to a similar degree, but I don’t think he’s as successful in masking the preferred path forward.

“Certainly there’s room for improvement from both Seby and Zack,” Hahn said. “A lot was asked of them, especially after Yaz went down, so some of their development might have been rushed. But we think both of them can be even stronger defensively than what they displayed this year.

“You obviously hope your primary catcher, especially someone as important as Yaz is to us, is able to answer the bell as frequently as possible. But as he gets older, and we hopefully keep him strong for an extra month (of postseason play), having someone in that backup role that we can feel confident in is important. I think a lot of our pitchers over the course of the year grew more and more confident with Seby and Zack, which is good, and look forward to seeing how they show up in camp.

I see how Hahn can say a lot was asked of Zavala and Collins. I can’t say how anybody can say the situation rushed development. Zavala was 27, with 229 games in the high minors, including three cracks at Charlotte. Collins was 26, with 231 high-minors games over three seasons. After the latter caught Rodón’s no-hitter in April, the Sox were taking victory laps about the job they did with Collins’ defense.

The one-knee catching stance has become an en-vogue way of boosting the framing of low pitches for catchers who do not naturally excel there. But the fact that Grandal is largely ditching it now that his right knee has recovered, and that Collins is still working through the nuances of it at age 26, is a testament to the long development the Sox have had to steel through to start seeing some reward at the major-league level. It also puts a different perspective on the efforts they made to jolt the process, like exposing Collins to how much work was left to be done in 2019.

“Rick (Hahn)’s method, there’s always a method to his madness,” Hostetler said. “When he makes a move, it’s for a reason. I knew Zack was probably getting frustrated with not playing. But I was glad to see it from a standpoint of him having to learn what being a major leaguer was all about.”

Their development wasn’t so much rushed as it was tested/exposed, unless the Sox want their catchers to have the kind of runway that crosses state lines. That’s why I’m thinking this is more Hahn avoiding the open denigration of players that were merely asked to do too much, especially if they might be included in deals, or their own future plans as a third catcher.

It’s hazier with the other positions, mostly because second basemen have come relatively cheap in recent winters, and Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets indeed have paths to productive MLB careers. It’s not ridiculous to think they could solve a position between them, even if right field seems beyond their grasp of real actual defensive adequacy. There’s a little bit of the good kind of flexibility here (finding the most effective solution and adjusting the other positions), as long as it doesn’t turn into the bad kind of flexibility (having the capability of doing something because you never do anything.)

(Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

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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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They need a backup catcher who can control the run game pretty desperately.

I don’t see the possibility of a Kimbrel trade being as ridiculous as some people are implying. The market for relievers is *very* thin this winter. There will be more desperate teams in search of bullpen help than relievers with the pedigree of Kimbrel available (Phillies, Mariners, & Angels all seem like good bets to make an upgrade via trade).

Right Size Wrong Shape

I don’t see the need to control the run game from the backup as a huge deal (although it would be nice). In order I’d like to see someone who can not lose strikes for the pitchers, get balls called for strikes for the pitchers, not let every other breaking pitch roll to the backstop and hit a little.

John SF

need a catcher who can control the running game

it’s one of the things I see most commonly said on twitter, reddit, and comment sections– but it’s just not true.

We need a backup catcher; that’s true. The most important qualifications for that catcher are:

  • reliable all-around defender including framing
  • respected game caller
  • 650 OPS bat, or better (about a 75 wRC+, which is fine for a catcher or SS)
  • healthy enough to catch 70 games, if needed

If we are going to ask more of this hypothetical backup catcher, the next asks would be:

  • lefty bat / platoon splits that aren’t bad against RHP
  • 700 OPS bat (~95 wRC+)
  • respected player / leadership
  • available on a good contract

I think “able to control the running game” is really in the third tier of things we should care about.

  • control running game
  • exceptional framing
  • >750 OPS

Which is to say, it would be nice. But it’s far from essential. Anyway, talking about what kind of hypothetical catcher we need doesn’t even make sense. There are an extremely limited number of viable catchers available in free agency or for a cheap trade. We should get whichever one of them we like best and who we can afford.


He’s a backup catcher. I could give a rat’s ass if he can hit. The Astros made it to the World Series with Maldonado as their starting catcher and he doesn’t even clear your basic qualifications. We need a defense first catcher because that’s where they are going to derive most of their value on this team.

Trooper Galactus

There’s also the matter of several pitchers in our rotation being absolutely abysmal at holding runners.


I’m confounded by this. Do they not teach how to pitch out of the stretch anymore?


I agree on Kimbrel. Fans too narrowly focus on AAV rather than guaranteed money. Teams place a premium on lesser commitment (in years and $), even with a higher AAV. Kimbrel at 1-year, $16m will, I suspect, be much more attractive to teams than guaranteeing Graveman or Jansen $25m+ over 2-3 years.


Hahn has talked up Vaughn/Sheets as live RF options and Collins/Zavala as live backup C options because he has no reason not to. Multiple of these guys’ names could conceivably come up in trade talks. Maybe they are really in the mix for their respective positions, but might as well talk then up in the meantime.


These quotes make me wonder if $170m is an optimistic estimate of the payroll Hahn is working with.


I don’t feel like these quotes are anything earth shattering. There are a tooon of starting pitchers with huge question marks against them this offseason. I don’t disagree than an 18M+ AAV for Rodon, given his history, is a big pill to swallow for most teams but especially this team.

Ted Mulvey

Off-topic from this post, but I wanted to get the link out there before I forget in case anybody is interested: over at Fangraphs, Jay Jaffe has a terrific profile on Minnie Minoso.


I regret that I have but one upvote I can give to Ted’s comment and link.

Ted Mulvey

I suppose I could upvote myself, but I shall maintain (forum) decorum.


Read the article about Minnie. It makes the best case I’ve ever seen about how the prejudices of MLB even after Jackie Robinson, cost him playing time he would otherwise have had in the American, National, and/or Negro Leagues. It also addresses how the later rules requiring players to be considered either in MLB or the Negro Leagues (but not both) unfairly compromised Minnie’s case. Vote for Minnie!


Has Hahn been asked about payroll plans? I don’t expect much but lawyer talk, especially after he learned his lesson from ‘the money will be spent’ comment, but still would be good to get something to decipher

Last edited 1 year ago by metasox
Trooper Galactus

The White Sox could add no more money to their payroll beyond Kimbrel’s and be well into record territory as a franchise. I can’t help but feel the company line will be to focus on that while ignoring that it wouldn’t even be a top-10 payroll.


After rushing guys like Crochet and Vaughn, the line is also ‘hey, look at all this great player development we are doing, who needs payroll.’

Trooper Galactus

Burger, Mendick, Gonzalez, and Sheets are gonna be the players that force the window open, baby.


We have flexibility right now. Does that mean it’s the wisest move to spend most or all of that on one need, as opposed to spreading it over multiple? That’s what we have to weigh over the coming months. And do we have to move something in order to address more needs in a smarter way? That’s what these next few months are all about.

Sounds to me like he’s been given enough payroll to add one big name free agent, if he so chooses. I’m guessing that’s what happens, then the Sox use the Kimbrel “savings” to cover everything else.

Trooper Galactus

Going after a big ticket guy for once would be a nice change of pace. All too often Hahn has tried to spread the money around and winds up with guys who dive off a cliff. Problem is, getting a big name usually entails a multi-year commitment of big money, which is what Jerry never lets them do.


I agree. If the options are re-sign people like Rodon/Leury or plug our RF/2B holes with legit free agents, to me that’s an obvious choice. We can’t expect to get a trophy with offensive black holes at multiple positions.


The problem is, we’ve seen in the past that the Sox brass and us fans have different opinions on what constitutes a “big name free agent”.


How is Nick Castellanos not 30 yet? Crazy.
I’d love to see the Sox go hard early for Castellanos and Semien, but not get ridiculous. Make them each an aggressive offer and see if they want to join the Sox. If Boras responds with his usual BS, move on to the next guy. There’s definitely a number with each of those players where you walk away without a second thought.


I’m expecting us to go after Taylor and see how the rest of the offseason goes. If we can snag a 2B for cheap, Taylor plays RF or vice versa. He’s also someone I wouldn’t get overly excited about which seems to fit most offseasons.


I agree with the not overly excited. He’s the kind of guy who starts regressing as a Sox almost immediately.

Trooper Galactus

If he did, I wouldn’t blame them for the signing.


He kind of reminds me of Marwin Gonzalez with a little more power.

Trooper Galactus

I think Taylor’s a much more consistent and effective hitter. Through his age-30 season (Taylor’s current age), Gonzalez put up an OPS+ of 101, and that is HEAVILY skewed by his whopping 146 in the trash can season of 2017. For the most part, he was a decidedly average to below average hitter. Taylor, on the other hand, has a 109 OPS+ for his career that has stayed relatively steady in the 110-125 range since becoming a regular player. Taylor’s also a better base runner, I think, though entering his 30s that shouldn’t be a huge factor in signing him.

Last edited 1 year ago by Trooper Galactus