CHICAGO -- Calling the season “gut-wrenching,” Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn gave clues Monday about how the front office intends to change the team’s fortunes in 2014.
“Unfortunately we have a number of areas that we need to upgrade,” Hahn said, agreeing that offense, defense and base running are at the top of the list. "Where we have performed offensively, obviously being at the bottom of the league in runs scored, how we’ve performed defensively and how we’ve performed on the bases has been well below our expectations and well below acceptable, so we have a fair amount of work to do and we realize that.
“It’s something that because of the way the season has gone, we have had a little extra time to prepare for what we wanted to do. We were able to do some of it at the trade deadline and hopefully, come October and November, we will continue down that path.”
The White Sox entered play Monday 57-85 and were officially eliminated from any playoff possibilities Sunday, although they have realistically been eliminated for months now. If the White Sox go 5-15 over their final 20 games, it will give them their first 100-loss season since losing a franchise-record 106 in 1970.
All options for improving the team will be on the table, according to Hahn.
“We have work to do especially on the position-player side of things and the main avenues, outside the farm system, are free agency and trades,” Hahn said. “Given our expectations and the amount of work we have to do I think we’ll be active in both.”
The White Sox did free up in the neighborhood of $27 million in salary for next season just by trading Jake Peavy and Alex Rios. Then there is the $9.5 million being paid to Gavin Floyd, who is not expected to return after his contract expires. Paul Konerko, who could also be gone after his contract expires in less than a month, is making $13.5 this season, although $7 million of it is being deferred.
After a rough season on both the field and at the gate with attendance, a reduced payroll is a strong possibility. If that is the case, adding through trades would be the White Sox’s most likely route for improvement.
While plenty of young pitching has emerged this season with the minor league performances of Erik Johnson, Andre Rienzo and Charlie Leesman, Hahn sounded extremely hesitant to part with any of the young arms.
“At the trade deadline we heard a lot about our young pitching and I suspect that will continue into the offseason and we will remain open-minded about all of it,” Hahn said. “While it might be a strength to dip into a little bit to help augment other needs, it’s not one we want to compromise too greatly because that is how we feel ultimately we will compete.”
Dipping into their young pitching pool might not give the White Sox a return package that is needed. And because the current staff is so left-handed heavy, Hahn might be eyeing the trade of an established starter to help get the White Sox some offense in return.
As staff ace, Chris Sale isn’t going anywhere, and with almost $43 million still owed to John Danks after this year, dealing him doesn’t seem likely either. That could mean Jose Quintana or Hector Santiago are possibilities to be traded, with Quintana holding the most value.
Instead of dwelling on the negative of the season, Hahn is promoting a positive spin.
“I try to look at it from the perspective that what we have in front of us now is a tremendous opportunity,” Hahn said. “It’s a chance to address some of the issues we have and areas that we need to get better in and frankly we’re starting with a little bit of an advantage given the pitching and a bit of a blank slate in terms of a lot of areas that need to be improved.
“There are a lot of different routes we can go down to get better. I view this as a difficult season and one that is hard to sit through and certainly it’s been trying, but it will provide us with a lot of opportunities here to get better.”