The trade deadline is a month away. It lands on the final day of July, to be specific. But on the final day of June, it was all anyone expected White Sox general manager Rick Hahn to talk about.
With an immensely underachieving Sox team taking the field every day -- it was 10 1/2 games out of first place and mired in a four-game losing streak when Hahn spoke before Sunday’s series-finale with the Indians -- it’s pretty much expected that the Sox will be sellers and that some players that currently call the South Side home won’t be doing so a month from now.
Still, Hahn is cautious to commit to a trade deadline role for his club.
“As we sit here right now, our strong preference is that we start rattling off a winning streak that gets us right back in the thick of this thing,” Hahn said. “We feel the talent’s there and the upside remains there. Stranger things have happened. If that does happen, then we’re going to return to our accustomed role at the deadline, and that is looking to add guys and continue that run.
“Obviously, we’ve seen everything you’ve seen. We’ve felt the frustration that the fans have felt. The players have felt the disgust that the fans have felt at times, and we’re very cognizant of how we’ve played. So if that does not happen, you will see some changes.”
But as much as Hahn wants the manager, players and coaches to focus on winning ballgames on a daily basis, he’ll be ready to deal if the time comes and the team’s situation hasn’t changed. And, according to the GM, the phone has been ringing.
“I think it’s been a pretty healthy pace right now, and it has been for the last few weeks,” Hahn said. “I think that’s part of the reason you’re seeing the rumors out there, some more accurate than others.”
Hahn refused to address specific trade rumors, but he did offer up an answer when asked if anyone was untouchable.
“As a general philosophy, I don’t think we’re doing our job if we don’t listen to people’s ideas on every player within the organization that they want to talk about,” Hahn said. “That doesn’t mean that some players are extraordinarily difficult to acquire, but you have to evaluate on an ongoing basis, not just in any July when you may be a seller or a buyer but throughout the offseason, what are the values of the players that you have.”
Some of the current grimness surrounding the Sox is that their minor league system is not as stocked with highly touted prospects as other franchises. Before the season started, “Baseball America” ranked the Sox system 29th out of 30 major league organizations. Still, Hahn said the minor leagues are doing what he wants them to do.
“We don’t rank it vis-a-vis others. That’s not really our thing,” he said. “When we’ve talked about the rankings before, the focus for us in the minor league system is it doing the two things it’s supposed to do. 1. Provide talent for Chicago. 2. Provide trade assets for us to acquire talent for Chicago. In the last season and a half, we’ve seen homegrown guys like Chris Sale, Addison Reed, Nate Jones, Dayan Viciedo and others who are coming now that are going to help us win in Chicago. So from that standpoint, the system’s functioning the way we want it to function. We have invested more in the last 18 months in the system, and I think we’re going to start seeing the fruits of that in the coming years.”
There’s a general consensus that the return on any trades made in the coming weeks would go toward replenishing the farm system. Hahn addressed what he hopes to get in a deal, and pointed out that current players won’t affect who the Sox can acquire.
“I’m just going to answer that one broadly and say it’s more high-impact premium talent,” Hahn said. “Obviously, that refers to starting pitching, that refers to talent up the middle. There are positions of strength in the organization, but if it’s the right player -- if we were to acquire the right impact player -- it doesn’t matter where the depth is in the organization, just get the right guy.”
Hahn was unsurprisingly unspecific in his press conference Sunday. The questions and answers weren’t about exact trade rumors, instead based on philosophy. But it’s a philosophy that -- with each Sox loss -- looks more and more likely to be put into practice. And soon.