Bold GM style won't change with Hahn
November, 30, 2012
By Doug Padilla | ESPNChicago.com
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastRich Hahn faces several big decisions in his first offseason as White Sox general manager.CHICAGO -- Those bold player-personnel moves the Chicago White Sox have become known for over the past decade won't go away, so says the new guy now entrusted to wield one of the more interesting wands in sports.
When Rick Hahn was hired as the club's new general manager late in October, it appeared that a new day had dawned for the White Sox. Hahn, after all, has a more stoic, controlled approach, while former general manager Kenny Williams (now club president) has been known to respond in a more fiery, from-the-gut fashion.
So when the annual winter meetings officially kick off Monday in Nashville, it will be Hahn in the head chair, working deals with agents and fellow general managers, while Williams has to adjust to relinquishing some of that control.
Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty ImagesA.J. Pierzynski appears to be a longshot to return to the White Sox given their budget constraints.
So have those crafty, creative and often daring moves the White Sox are known for seen their last days? Hahn says, not so fast.
"We have worked together for a long time and from a cultural standpoint that really hasn't changed," Hahn said this week. "We're going to continue to pursue any opportunity to make us better, now or in the future, aggressively. Even though (the person) who is having the conversation will be different, the priorities and the intent remains the same."
Williams' past moves, which were more calculated than he sometimes gets credit for, were never a one-man show anyway. The White Sox are still leaning on the same scouts and statistical analysis crew as they once did. And both Williams and Hahn will be in the decision room as well, as they always have been, with a slight difference.
"When it comes time to talk specifically with an agent or another club, that will be me, most likely, leading the things up as we have for the past several weeks," Hahn said. "And when it comes time to parcel through our options and make recommendations we will meet as we always had over the last decade or so as a group and discuss it as a group with our scouts and Kenny and myself and our front office guys and our coaching staff and come to what we feel is the best decision for the organization as a whole.
"But in terms of specifically having communications with other clubs or agents, then I guess that is different than last year in that I will head those up to a larger degree than I did in the past."
Hahn also admits to another slight shift in how things operate. He no longer gives himself even the slightest break to get his mind off potential moves to make the club better.
"It's funny, for the last 12 years, I really felt I lived and breathed this job and it was a high priority for me, how the club did and the composition of the club's roster and its operations," Hahn said. "But frankly, sitting in the GM chair, I've noticed that it is literally the last thing I think about when I go to bed and the first thing I think about in the morning. There was, apparently, a little time on the fringes where I was able to get away before that I've lost here in the last five weeks."
With Jake Peavy already re-signed to bolster the starting staff, Hahn has been consumed, of late, with thoughts on how to make the club better at third base and catcher, assuming A.J. Pierzynski moves on as a free agent.
Listening Hahn talk about the state of the club's payroll, it sounds like there isn't much chance of bringing back Pierzynski, or Kevin Youkilis, for that matter.
"There is a little bit of room as we sit here today to maneuver, but to do anything, I suppose, described as major we would likely have to make another move elsewhere to free up some cash," said Hahn, who revealed he is still in contact with agents for both Pierzynski and Youkilis. "But there is move to operate right now, still."
Hahn said other clubs covet some of the White Sox's young pitching in a potential deal, and while the club sees that as a strength, there doesn't figure to be enough quality young arms in the bunch to consider it a surplus.
Moving Dayan Viciedo or Gordon Beckham to third base has received some consideration, but is too far down on the priority list to consider that a legitimate possibility right now.
Another wrinkle in the White Sox's plan to potentially bring aboard somebody new is the desire for a left-handed bat to go along with those from Alejandro De Aza and Adam Dunn.
"We do become a little too right-handed there and that would be a concern, and I think it's a legitimate concern," Hahn said. "Our right-handed hitters, some of them do have a fair amount of success against right-handed pitching so it's not a fatal flaw in the lineup. But I would like to give (manager) Robin (Ventura) a little more flexibility to mix and match a little bit and that would entail having a little more balance available to him."
Then again, Hahn admits that perhaps the White Sox don't end up making a splash at these winter meetings. While other teams will undoubtedly make noise next week, Hahn isn't preoccupied with the idea that he has to stir the fan base into a frenzy during the first week of December.
"Look, I firmly believe that if we win, if we put a product on the field that merits the fans' patronage and devotion, they will come," Hahn said. "If it's a splashy move, it will only be made because we feel it will help us win ballgames which is ultimately the goal. As I have said before, we have more than enough resources around here to win, and it's our job to allocate them to give us the best chance to win, not to allocate them in a way that potentially increases attendance because of something splashy."
The White Sox were never good at owning the winter meetings anyway. The Miami Marlins owned them last year and look where that got them.
Williams' most interesting moves came when not as many people were watching. Perhaps more accurately, they came from the direction people weren't looking.
"I like the meetings," Hahn said. "I like the fact there is excitement and a winter focus on baseball and transactions and obviously people do head there with a club, or as a player-agent, with the hope and belief that something could come together.
"There is this level of anticipation which I get, but you don't get added points for getting a deal done at the winter meetings. Our goal is to have the best roster that we can have come Opening Day. And if that means we acquired a player on the final day of November or the final days on January, that doesn't matter to us come April."