- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- The Chicago White Sox's Rick Hahn is enjoying being in the driver's seat as the team's lead baseball man at this year's general managers meetings. Hahn has hit the ground running, making trades and signing his own would–be free agents while talking to clubs and player representatives.
The Sox would like to add a quality speed player and shore up at catcher. Many late-season games were lost waiting for a three-run home run as the team lost a three-game lead in the American league Central with just two weeks left in the season.
Hahn leads his staff into these meetings with a clear vision of winning the division next season. At this time last season, former GM Ken Williams said the team was rebuilding.
"We expect to contend in 2013," Hahn said Wednesday. "I certainly wouldn't go down that (rebuilding) path. At the same time, we are looking to build on our foundation for long-term success. There is a bit of a balance -- trying to win in the immediate future as well as having a club that we feel will be a playoff contender for years to come. So we are really building along two fronts this time."
"The last two weeks have been a blur," said Hahn, who made several moves while presiding over the team's organization meetings immediately prior to the GM meetings. "This is all new to the territory, but I am looking forward to getting back to Chicago to continue to work on the actual job itself.”
The Sox's new front office chief has been upfront about his interest in free agents A.J. Pierzynski and Kevin Youkiliis.
"We have had pretty good contact with our own free agents and agents for other guys out there," Hahn said. "Our guys (free agents) do know us. They know what we are about. They know we are fairly direct but at the same time there will be a fairly robust market out there. It is a matter of them exploring their value and if they are a fit for us going forward."
Hahn was happy for former bullpen coach Juan Nieves, who was hired as the Red Sox's pitching coach Wednesday.
"It is bittersweet," Hahn said. "You like to see your guys and good guys rewarded. He will be missed, he is a hard worker, intelligent, creative and a real fun guy to have around."
According to Hahn, an in-house replacement from the minor league system will be named to the big league staff. Former White Sox stars Bobby Thigpen and Richard Dotson, both minor league pitching coaches, should be on the short list of possible replacements for Nieves.