COMMENTARY | The Chicago White Sox's slow start at 20-23 is not cause for alarm for first-year general manager Rick Hahn. While the mediocre results and aging core has caused some fans to call for a rebuilt roster like what is in progress on the north side of Chicago, Hahn does not appear interested in such a project.
"We are a long way off from making any definitive change in direction towards selling guys off," Hahn told MLB.com.
This patience is admirable and logical, given the White Sox's veteran roster as well as injuries and scheduling quirks which have undoubtedly taken a toll on their overall record. As I wrote yesterday, the schedule has been very unbalanced toward away games until now; the White Sox will be spending much of the next month in Chicago and against very beatable opponents.
In the offseason, the White Sox took a very unaggressive approach. While big money was flung at free agents such as Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke, the White Sox shied away from large salary commitments. Their highest dollar signing of the offseason was Jeff Keppinger, who received $12 million over 3 years. Though management may have just not been thrilled with the crop of free agents, it is more likely that they wanted to be in position to rebuild or reload if necessary.
43 games into the season, the path remains unclear. The White Sox have had some stellar pitching and abysmal hitting, but the production of Adam Dunn and the return of Dayan Viciedo to the lineup have led a recent surge in offense. Hahn and the White Sox management will certainly be watching closely in the coming weeks, knowing that the schedule demands a good run sooner rather than later.
Hahn did acknowledge the possibility of a change in strategy if things take a turn for the worse, but it is hard to know how far he would go in a potential rebuild. Given the state of the franchise and comparative results, Hahn should avoid any plan resembling the one in action for the Chicago Cubs or Houston Astros.
The White Sox will likely go as far as Adam Dunn takes them. If Dunn plays well enough that his contract becomes tradable, it is almost certain that the White Sox will be winning enough not to want to trade him. If he falters and the White Sox fade out of contention, it will be a certainty that Chicago will be paying the entirety of the deal.
After that, Jake Peavy and Alex Rios would be prime targets for a midseason sell-off. They could certainly net some value in terms of players, either in the minor leagues or MLB. After that, the veterans in the bullpen could go, though it is uncertain how much relievers with expiring contracts can net in a trade. Beyond that, there are not many movable parts.
Even with Peavy and Rios in the fold, the White Sox will still have freed up around $30 million in payroll for next season from the losses of Paul Konerko, Gavin Floyd, Jesse Crain, Matt Thornton, and Matt Lindstrom. A fairly quick rebuild could be achieved using that money on free agents, at least hypothetically speaking. There is almost no money committed in the 2015 season, just John Danks, Alexei Ramirez, Chris Sale, and Jeff Keppinger. By then, the entire team can be remade with veterans and the current young players if necessary.
Trades simply would not achieve that much in terms of savings because the White Sox will already have significant money available. They could potentially receive some nice players in return, but the value will be limited since there are not that many current players that can be fathomably traded. Likewise, the value of Peavy and Rios is unlikely to change in the next year and may even go up next year since their contracts will be near expiration. This reduces the risk for the White Sox to stand pat at this year's deadline.
Regardless, the point is moot for now. The White Sox are not far from contention and are showing serious signs of life on offense. Luckily for White Sox fans, their rookie general manager is showing patience and would sooner add players to improve the team than subtract them.
Jacob Long, a native to the Chicago area, is a writer for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He has experience covering sports and news for WMC-TV in Memphis, TN and has contributed to sports blogs such as The Flapship. Follow him on Twitter @jlongrc.
- Sports & Recreation
- Chicago White Sox
- Rick Hahn
- Jeff Keppinger