Hahn faces tough decisions on A.J., Peavy, Youkilis

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Hahn faces tough decisions on A.J., Peavy, Youkilis

Rick Hahn will have to make difficult decisions on a World Series hero who gave the White Sox an identity and a hard edge, as well as the Cy Young Award winner who underwent experimental surgery, not to mention: Youk!

Thats just the start of the offseason dominoes still waiting to fall on the South Side.

Hahn took timeout for the news conference announcing his promotion to general manager, but said afterward that budget meetings were still happening on Friday at U.S. Cellular Field. While the White Sox havent settled on a final payroll number for next year, preliminary projections gave him confidence that it would be right in the same neighborhood we spent in 2012, somewhere around 100 million.

A.J. Pierzynski is positioned to become a free agent, while the White Sox are expected to decline options on Jake Peavy and Kevin Youkilis, seeing if they can work out another deal. They also hold club options on pitchers Gavin Floyd (9.5 million) and Brett Myers (10 million with a 3 million buyout), with Francisco Liriano about to hit free agency.

Hahn believes Tyler Flowers will be an everyday catcher in the big leagues, which could spell the end for Pierzynski, who was on the verge of signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers in December 2010 before the White Sox stepped in with a two-year, 8 million deal.

I try not to handicap these things at this point, Hahn said. Weve had A.J. here for eight years and hes been a fantastic member of the White Sox organization for every minute of it. Weve signed him to I think three multiyear deals in the course of those eight years. Two years ago at this time, I think there was probably a thick level of pessimism about him coming back.

A source indicated that Pierzynski had lunch with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf after the season ended, while Hahn said he spoke with the catchers agent last week.

It was a good dialogue, and an open dialogue, and well stay in touch, Hahn said. Until he gets out there and sees what his market is and we get out there and sort of explore alternatives and other ways to spend our money its impossible to handicap. But I know there was pessimism this time two years ago, so I dont get too caught up in whatever pessimism there is now.

Pierzynski is 35 years old and coming off a season in which he generated 27 homers and 77 RBI. Peavy also made a salary drive, returning to the All-Star Game and going 11-12 with a 3.37 ERA while accounting for 32 starts and 219 innings.

Look, there arent a lot of free-agent pitchers out there, and there is a fair amount of money that has to be spent by other clubs, Hahn said. Pitchers get paid a significant amount and Jake given his track record and especially his 2012 season where he answered questions about his health is going to be a pretty popular guy.

So that one may be a challenge, but weve had good talks back and forth already, honest conversations. I know Jakes preference which he hasnt been shy about is to be back here in Chicago. And thats always a good place to start. But there does come a point where there are certain opportunities elsewhere that dont make sense for us to try to chase.

It sounds like emotions wont get in the way this time. Of the top 10 moments during his 12 years as assistant general manager, Hahn estimated that Mark Buehrle might have been responsible for three or four of them. But that didnt mean the White Sox should match the four-year, 58 million contract the Miami Marlins gave the veteran left-hander last winter.

Hahn believes the White Sox should compete for a playoff spot next season and win multiple World Series titles. Hes inheriting a team that should have Chris Sale and John Danks near the front of the rotation, and Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko and Alex Rios in the middle of the order. Theyre running out of room for more big-ticket items.

This is an opportunity for a lot of these players, as their first time out on the open market, Hahn said. Understandably, they want to hear from the other 29 clubs and may be interested in what their value is. Given the sort of shallowness of this years free agent market and the fact that there are some clubs with some money to spend, Im not overly optimistic that were going to be huge players in free agency.

But at the same time, were going to be out there looking for values and certainly continue to talk to our guys and see if we cant fit them in for next year, too.

Todd Frazier's late single lifts White Sox over Mariners

Todd Frazier's late single lifts White Sox over Mariners

The White Sox offense showed a bunch of late life on Thursday night.

Todd Frazier had two hits with runners in scoring position, including the game-winner, as the White Sox topped the Seattle Mariners 7-6 at U.S. Cellular Field. Frazier’s one-out single in the ninth inning off Nick Vincent scored Adam Eaton as the White Sox won for the fourth time in five games. Frazier’s game-winning hit was his first since June 2015 and the fifth of his career. It and a game-tying, two-out, two-run single in the seventh helped Frazier shake off a game in which he struck out three times in his first three at-bats.

“You learn something,” Frazier said. “You take the last at-bat and throw it away and just keep on going. Unfortunately, it took me three times to do that. To come up clutch today felt pretty good.”

Frazier leads the club in home runs and RBIs.

Similar to his teammates, however, Frazier has lefty plenty of chances for more damage on the table. He entered Thursday hitting .159 with runners in scoring position for a team that ranks 18th with runners in scoring position (.255).

While Frazier struck out with runners on the corners in the first inning, he succeeded in his next two tries. He picked up Jose Abreu in the seventh after the slugger struck out against Steve Cishek. Frazier sat on a slider and ripped a 2-0 pitch into left field to drive in Eaton and Tim Anderson, whose one-out RBI double made it a 6-4 game.

Then in the ninth, Frazier came through again. Eaton’s bloop single to center got things going before Anderson bunted him over. Vincent walked Abreu to get to Frazier, who singled to left again.

Frazier was previously 17-for-17 with five doubles, four homers and 42 RBIs with runners in scoring position.

“These are the best ones,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You can't rely just on the homer. There's more to his game than that. You have to be able to knock in runs when you're not hitting them over the fence. He can use the other side of the field. I think he can level it out somewhat and get some hits. Just put it in play more because you don't know know what's going to happen.”

[MORE: Rick Hahn denies rift in White Sox front office, holds off on plans for 2017]

David Robertson found that out in the top of the ninth inning when his outing was delayed for several minutes by a trio of fans who ran onto the field. Robertson worked around the delay and a one-out walk to keep the score tied at 6.

Down 2-0, the White Sox scored three times in the first inning to briefly take the lead.

Abreu and Avisail Garcia both singled in runs and Dioner Navarro had a bases-loaded sacrifice fly.

White Sox starter Anthony Ranaudo pitched well after a slow start and then ran into bad luck in the sixth inning. What looked to be a surefire double play ball kicked off Ranaudo’s glove and combined with an Anderson throwing error led to a three-run inning that put Seattle ahead 6-3.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Ranaudo allowed six earned runs in 5.1 innings.

The White Sox were 6-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

“That’s just part of it,” Robertson said. “I guess that happens some times.

“Everybody played hard. They didn’t give up at all tonight. We pitched well enough to win and had timely hitting. A few things went our way, a couple errors that really ended up giving us a few runs. A few things went our way and it was great to pick up a win.”

Jay Cutler, Dowell Loggains face deepest test yet in Bears' third preseason game

Jay Cutler, Dowell Loggains face deepest test yet in Bears' third preseason game

Third preseason games come with added significance simply because it is the one practice game in which the starters play the closest to a full game prior to the start of the regular season. But for the Bears, Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs is potentially far more important for another reason.

The Kansas City game looms as something of a new tipping point in the one relationship that must function above all others for immediate success of the franchise:

The working relationship/bond between offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and quarterback Jay Cutler.

The two-plus quarters that Cutler is expected to play will be the longest yet trial by fire for his trust in Loggains. The latter has been a coordinator previously in his career, but with less time and success in the position that most of Cutler’s previous list of coordinators.

And few of those relationships survived, let alone flourished once Cutler lost faith or belief in their messages, whether under an avalanche of sacks, poor play selection or design, or whatever.

Cutler put up the best season of his eight-year career in 2015 with Loggains as his position coach. Adam Gase was the coordinator, Gase came in with credibility from having worked with Peyton Manning in Denver. The credibility traced to not necessarily what Gase might have taught Manning, but rather because of what Gase undoubtedly LEARNED from Manning.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Saturday’s test will be far short of the ones the regular season holds, when Loggains’ offense has been scouted and schemed for. But after a stretch of “quizzes” for Cutler-Loggains, this is a “test.”

Buy-in with Loggains?

Loggains has traction with Cutler – for now. Cutler was consistent in his compliments of Loggains last year, but it was Gase ultimately in his ear on game days. Indeed, the entire offense believed in Gase: “When I’m in the huddle…and we get a play call,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said at the time, “there’s never a time where we look at each other and think, ‘Oh [darn].’”

The NFL reality is that Loggains, who has stressed an even stronger commitment to running the football (Long and associates love that), has to earn, or re-earn that gut-level trust.

Most of all, from Cutler.

The lurching start to the preseason – the Bears’ 22-0 home loss to Denver, in which the offense with Cutler netted 13 yards in 10 plays, two of them ending in sacks of Cutler – was test No. 1. The Cutler-Loggains relationship appeared to emerge intact.

“We talked,” Cutler said. “We talked a lot about that game. I think the major point for us was, ‘Let’s not panic. Let’s not hit the fire alarm and put guys in a panic.’

“Because it was the first preseason game and we watched the film and a lot of the stuff that went wrong was because of mistakes… . So it was a matter of just kind of cleaning that stuff up and just going back to work. Which I thought we did a really good job of offensively [at New England]. Hopefully we can do that this week, too.”

Tough warm-ups

NFL schedule-makers did Loggains and the Bears no favors. Their first three preseason opponents – Denver, New England, Kansas City – were all top-10 run defenses. Meaning: The Bears are working to establish Loggains’ run-based offense right into the teeth of three of the NFL’s best at stopping that.

[RELATED: Rookie class making much-needed impact from Bears]

The Bears want to run. But just consider: What if they can’t run against a monster Chiefs front that includes Jaye Howard and Dontari Poe and which held the Bears to 3.3 yards per carry, tied for their second-lowest of 2015, in their meeting last season?

Which then tasks Loggains with getting the offense to the right solutions, and those traditionally have not been – and should not be – solely found in Cutler’s right arm. The Bears streamlined and simplified Cutler’s decision-making last year, by design, and it was the right strategy, minimizing a Cutler weakness.

But now Loggains is front-and-center in those decisions. And Cutler has never appeared to suffer from an excess of patience through his career, even the new, more mature Cutler.

And not only WHAT Loggains tells Cutler, but also HOW he tells him, will matter. Gase was generally quiet; that worked. Loggains is very expressive, which Cutler said he now appreciates.

“He sets the tone every day,” Cutler said. “There’s never a gray area. He sets the tone, sets the standard, and if you don’t live up to that, meet those expectations, he’s going to be vocal, he’s going to let you know.

“As a player, that’s all you can ask for: A coach telling you how to do it, and when you don’t do it, you expect him to push you and help you achieve those goals.”

Preseason game No. 3 will be the biggest test yet for the synchronicity that is there now but needs to stand up to inevitable failures.

Illinois lands Huntley DE Olalere Oladipo

Illinois lands Huntley DE Olalere Oladipo

Illinois added another important in-state piece as Huntley three-star ranked defensive end Olalere Oladipo (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) announced his college decision Thursday night to the Fighting Illini.

"Illinois has a great staff, is close to home," according to Oladipo. "Illinois felt like a nice fit for me."

Oladipo is also the second verbal commitment Illinois added Thursday as the Fighting Illini added a commitment from Miami (Fla.) Central four-star ranked wide receiver Carmoni Green (6-foot-1, 178 pounds).

Oladipo is now the sixth in-state verbal commitment for the Fighting Illini Class of 2017. Oladipo joins St. Rita OLB Marc Mondesir, Auburn OT Verderian Lowe, Marian Catholic QB Cameron Thomas, Chicago Brother Rice WR Ricky Smalling and Bolingbrook ATH Kendall Smith.

Illinois now has 11 known verbal commitments total in the Class of 2017.