12/14/12 5:35 PM ET
Hahn tasked with building club to dethrone Tigers
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
In fact, "work to do" stands as a logical possibility to replace "All in" or "Appreciate the Game" as the new marketing slogan for the 2013 White Sox.
Work to do, as in unfinished business from an outstanding 2012 season that saw the White Sox lose the American League Central title over the final 15 games of the campaign. Work, as in fulfilling the multi-purpose of continuing to develop young talent while contending for the postseason. And work, as in putting together a team capable of challenging the powerhouse that is the defending American League champions from Detroit.
That last goal is foremost on Hahn's mind in the present. As he has mentioned on a few occasions recently, there's still plenty of offseason to make the necessary moves. But with reports of the Tigers agreeing to a new multiyear deal with pitcher Anibal Sanchez on Friday, joining the addition of Torii Hunter and the healthy return of team leader Victor Martinez, this challenge gets more difficult by the day.
News of Sanchez's five-year, $80-million agreement with the Tigers sent many White Sox fans on social media into the rebuild mode. In Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Sanchez, the Tigers have one of the top rotations in the entire AL and quite possibly in baseball. Their already potent lineup has become stronger, so some ardent White Sox supporters believe it's time to see what top young players become available in deals for key veterans such as Adam Dunn and/or Alex Rios and build for the future.
It's a somewhat understandable reaction, but a bit of an overcorrection during the second week of December.
Hahn and his staff continue to look for an impact left-handed hitter. That player is likely to come through trade, with the White Sox possibly having to weaken themselves in one area such as the rotation or in the outfield to get decidedly better somewhere else. They also are looking for a veteran reliever to fill the void created by free agent Brett Myers' departure, but with $93.45 million committed to 11 players and salaries for Alejandro De Aza, Gordon Beckham, Dayan Viciedo and the rest of the roster bringing the White Sox close to their $109 million payroll number, Hahn and company have to get creative.
Does that creativity mean moving someone like Rios or Viciedo, whom the White Sox don't want to trade, but both have major value for a solid return? Does it mean shipping out Gavin Floyd, a durable starting pitcher who is under control for 2013 at $9.5 million, and reducing the White Sox strongest suit? It's something Hahn doesn't intend on doing, but it might have to be done if an offer is too good to refuse.
Already gone is Kevin Youkilis, who anchored third base for a team that held down first place for 117 days last season. Fan favorite catcher A.J. Pierzynski is destined for a new locale, with Tyler Flowers replacing the .284 career left-handed hitter.
Adding Jeff Keppinger offsets the departure of these two big bats and gives the White Sox a more complete, diversified attack, something Hahn was hoping to provide manager Robin Ventura in '13. To continue along those lines, the White Sox could go after Colorado's Dexter Fowler, who is a switch-hitting outfielder with speed and power, or try to make an offer the Padres can't possibly refuse for switch-hitting third baseman Chase Headley, who is not thought to be available.
Peter Bourjos, one of the fastest players in the game, is on the market with the Angels signing of free agent Josh Hamilton and provides that same sort of speed/power combination as Fowler: only from the right side. Ultimately, the White Sox want good hitters and good players, whether they are right-handed or left-handed.
All of these scenarios are hypothetical, so what if nothing comes to fruition? What if the White Sox do very little between now and the start of Spring Training?
Rebuilding still makes little sense because this team, as presently constructed, can contend for a playoff spot. The pitching staff is stacked, although stacked with a few question marks, such as John Danks' bounce-back ability from season-ending arthroscopic shoulder surgery and Jose Quintana's return from September struggles. Their lineup is filled with proven hitters such as Paul Konerko, Rios and Dunn, with players such as Alexi Ramirez, Viciedo and Beckham having room to grow to reach their vast potential with the bat.
Remember that last offseason was not a particular active one for then-general manager Ken Williams and Hahn, who was his assistant GM. It wasn't until the team got moving in-season that moves were made to add Youkilis, Myers, Francisco Liriano and Dewayne Wise, without subtracting anything but utility infielder Eduardo Escobar from the future plans. If the White Sox fall well short at the season's outset, then the rebuilding process could be enacted.
Wise already has been brought back, giving the White Sox necessary outfield insurance with Jordan Danks. Jake Peavy was a major addition at the top of the rotation via a two-year, $29 million deal agreed upon in October.
So, the White Sox are in good position to succeed, even with work to be done. But that work doesn't have to be completed by Feb. 12, when pitchers and catchers report to Camelback Ranch.