Rick Hahn has the White Sox well on their way to a new identity.
Assigned the unenviable task of retooling an aging and ineffective offense, the White Sox general manager has had a productive month.
Faced with the possible retirement of Paul Konerko after this season and the reality both Adam Dunn and Alex Rios would likely be gone after the 2014 season, Hahn has expedited the process.
In less than four weeks, the first-year GM added three solid prospects to the upper half of a minor-league system short on impact talent, including outfielder Avisail Garcia, whom the franchise sees as a potential future All Star.
He also added depth in the form of three lower-level prospects through the trade of Jake Peavy and has another player to be named later on the way for moving Jesse Crain.
The third — and perhaps most important fact — is Hahn shed nearly $40 million in payroll, including $27 million next season in salaries guaranteed for Peavy and Rios, who was traded to the Texas Rangers on Friday.
While it’s not exactly how he envisioned the trade deadline going in his first season as Kenny Williams’ successor, Hahn is satisfied with what he has accomplished.
“Although this wasn’t how we wanted to spend the July and August trading periods, overall we are pleased with both the return talent-wise as well as the flexibility created by the deals,” Hahn said in an email Sunday. “We know we still have a lot of work ahead of us, but we feel we were able to take some important steps that will help hasten the process of this turnaround.”
Along with Garcia, who came from Detroit in the three-team deal that sent Peavy to Boston, the White Sox received outfielder Brandon Jacobs and infielder Leury Garcia.
Hahn has described Leury Garcia, an infielder who came over from Texas on Sunday to finalize the Rios trade, as a potential super-utility player who could have a bigger role if he develops as a hitter.
While how good of a bat he possesses remains in question, Leury Garcia has plus-plus speed, an outstanding glove and an arm strong enough to handle both shortstop and second base. He has also played third base and has seen time in center field.
Those assets are lacking near the top of a White Sox farm system that was ranked No. 29 in the majors by Baseball America at the start of the season.
While Leury Garcia might stay at Triple-A Charlotte until rosters expand on Sep. 1, the White Sox have already begun to get a look at Avisail Garcia, whom they believe could be a long-term answer in the outfield for years to come.
Arriving from Charlotte late Friday, Avisail Garcia showed off his deceptive speed on several occasions this weekend. The 22-year-old Venezuelan beat out an infield single and stole a base on Sunday and on Friday night advanced from second to third base on a fly ball to center field.
“We all know how good he is,” veteran slugger Adam Dunn said. “For him to be a young guy with all the hoopla coming up and to be thrown in the fire, it’s too early to judge him. He’s a good player.”
The White Sox need plenty more good players to help turnaround a team off to its worst season since 1970 and on pace for perhaps only the fourth 100-loss season in the history of the franchise. With 46 games left, the White Sox are on pace to lose 101 games.
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Though difficult to watch, the silver lining to a difficult season is the White Sox are bound to end up with their highest draft pick since they selected Alex Fernandez with the fourth overall pick in the 1990 amateur draft.
Currently the White Sox are tied with the Miami Marlins for the second worst record in the majors. The Milwaukee Brewers, who have the fourth worst record in the majors, entered the day six games ahead of both teams.
With what’s been projected as a deep draft class, the White Sox should be able to add more impact talent. Hahn also believes the club, which has roughly $48 million committed to next season’s roster, will have financial flexibility for free agency or trades.
“It’s going to go to making the big-league club better for the long haul, no doubt,” Hahn said. “One of the positives of an unfortunate season like this is we’re going to have the opportunity in all probability to spend a lot more money on amateur talent. So certainly any savings, that’s probably going to be the first couple of line items next year, what we spend on the draft and what we spend internationally. Even after that, given the flexibility that’s opened up, there will be the opportunity, whether it be via trade or free agency, to perhaps take on money as the offseason unfolds.”