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.

Bears’ Markus Wheaton says wide receiver group is 'definitely underrated'

Bears’ Markus Wheaton says wide receiver group is 'definitely underrated'

No doubt, there are doubts about the makeup of this 2017 Bears wide receiver corps. But as the departed Alshon Jeffery created doubts, health-wise, the past two years about whether he could stay on the field to prove himself worthy of a big payday (which he didn’t even get from the Eagles), Ryan Pace brought in a handful of replacements who’ve flashed in this league before. But recent history’s shown each of them has something to prove as well.

From Rueben Randle to fellow former Giant Victor Cruz. From former first rounders Kendall Wright to Kevin White, taking a third swing at making it though an entire NFL season.

Then there’s Markus Wheaton, the only free agent signee at the position this season to receive a two-year deal ($11 million total, with $6 million guaranteed). Like the rest of the group, though, he’s at a career crossroads. Following seasons with 53 and 44 catches in Pittsburgh in 2014 and 2015 (with a 17-yard average in the latter), the quick-twitch former Steeler was limited to three games a year ago before eventually undergoing surgery for a torn labrum in January.

“Everyone’s new, so we don’t know what it’s gonna be,” he said of the group at the team’s recent minicamp in Lake Forest. “In Pittsburgh you kind of have a clue `cause they’ve done it for so long. Everybody’s new, everybody’s trying to find their niche, so we’ll see how it goes. Anything’s possible. We’ve got a lot of guys who are looking for opportunity. A lot of guys that are hungry and have something to prove. Anything’s possible. Anyone can come out on top. The ultimate goal is to win games and I’m sure the coaches will put us in position to do that.”

The former third-round pick out of Oregon State (where he’s the Beavers’ all-time career leader in receptions, one ahead of Brandin Cooks) played all three receiver positions in Pittsburgh at various times, and while he seems most natural in the slot, is working to make himself as versatile as possible here. But that comes with some risk as a quarterback room that’s also gone through its share of turnover tries to get on the same page with all the targets. But Wheaton is more than confident the results will come from within this group.

“I think we definitely are underrated," Wheaton said. "We’ve come in and worked to get to where we wanna be. We will get there, and it’ll show up on the field.”

The incumbents in the room include Joshua Bellamy, Deonte Thompson, Daniel Braverman, Cam Meredith, and, of course, White. Wheaton can see the potential in the ex-seventh overall draft pick.

“I couldn’t imagine all the stuff he’s been through, all the pressure that’s been put on him," Wheaton said. "But he’s a down-to-earth guy who works extremely hard, so I think he’s gonna get his. He’s a big-time playmaker, so I’m excited to see him play.

“They welcomed me with open arms. Everybody’s down to earth, been easy to talk to so when I have questions, I’ve been getting answers, so it’s been real easy for me.”

That surgically-repaired shoulder was cleared for full participation just in time for minicamp two weeks ago. And Wheaton won’t allow himself to become hesitant physically as he aims to conquer what hesitation he could have within the offense, working with quarterbacks not named Ben Roethlisberger.

“I really don’t think there’s time for that. When you’re ready to go, you just go,” Wheaton told us. “You come in, you work, you rehab. And for me personally I had to rehab a lot to get back to where I wanted to be. There’s a level I want to be at. I’ve been just working to get there, so there’s no time for that.”

That last statement comes even if some observers hesitate to call Wheaton and these wideouts “underrated.” They’ll start attempting to prove that when the Bears report to Bourbonnais exactly one month from Monday.

Derek Holland not satisfied despite strong outing in White Sox loss

Derek Holland not satisfied despite strong outing in White Sox loss

Derek Holland turned in one of his best starts of the season on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, the White Sox had nothing to show for it after a 5-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Sunday afternoon.

In six innings, Holland allowed four hits, one earned run, and two walks while recording six strikeouts. He was charged with his only run in the seventh, when he allowed a single to Yonder Alonso, who came around to score after Holland had been pulled from the game.

Despite his confidence in the bullpen, which has been one of the White Sox biggest strengths this season, Holland would like to see himself go deeper into the games.

“I should be getting into the 7th and not having 110 pitches,” Holland said. “The bullpen's done a great job of picking us up in the seventh, eighth and ninth. The starters, and really pointing more to myself, we need to...I need to go out there and go longer."

Entering Sunday, three of Holland’s last four starts had been the worst outings of the season – allowing 22 earned runs over those four games. Despite the team’s 5-3 loss, Holland felt his outing was a step in the right direction.

“I felt good about everything out there,” Holland said. “(Omar Narvaez) and I were right on the same page. There were just a couple of things that got away from us. Just one of those things. Defense made the plays for us when they needed to, unfortunately we just didn't come out on top."

Manager Rick Renteria also had high praise for the 30-year-old southpaw, who bounced back from one of his shortest outings of the season.

“I thought Holland, hopefully what's not lost is Holland's outing today was really, really good,” Renteria said. “He kept us in the ballgame. They've got some kids that can swing the bat. They were putting things together. All we were trying to do at the end was minimize any damage they could produce. We weren't able to.”