With July 31st approaching, Rick Hahn said Friday he doesn’t think the White Sox are quite there yet in terms of putting a consistent winner on the field.
At 46-51, few would argue with the second-year general manager.
But two of Hahn’s All-Star players don’t think the White Sox, a 3-2 winner over the Houston Astros at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday night, are far off the mark.
With Jose Abreu in the fold, shortstop Alexei Ramirez believes the White Sox can contend in the window while he’s still under contract. Ramirez has one more season left on his current deal with a $10 million team option for 2016.
“Absolutely we can win,” Ramirez said earlier this week through a translator. “The focus of this team, the focus is on the team and not individual accomplishments and individual numbers.”
Hahn has been upfront since he began to rebuild the franchise last July that it might take time.
The White Sox were centered around a core on the downslope not 12 months ago headed for 99 losses and Hahn has been hard at work retooling the 40-man roster since.
While they still have several holes to fill in the bullpen and rotation and must determine which direction they’re headed in as many as four positions — tasks that likely can’t be addressed until the offseason — the White Sox are much better than they were last July when it was clear a radical change was needed.
Much of the shift is due to the play of Abreu and leadoff man Adam Eaton.
Abreu — who Detroit Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer said has had a Miguel Cabrera-esque impact on the White Sox lineup — has revitalized a struggling lineup. More consistency is needed, particularly at the bottom of the lineup, which could come with the return of Avisail Garcia, but the White Sox are scoring 4.3 runs per game this season, up from 3.7 in 2013.
Whereas Hahn had to do whatever he could last season to get the ship righted, he’s not in the same drastic spot this year leading up to the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.
So while teams might ask about Ramirez — and offer them quite a bit in return — the White Sox are in a different spot in that they need complimentary players instead of centerpieces. Three-time All-Star Chris Sale likes the positioning of the team just a season removed from a disastrous 2013 campaign.
“I think we’re in a good spot,” Sale said. “We’ve got Alexei for two more years and Abreu for another five. Those guys have carried us to this point if you really think about it. We’ve had a lot of help from a lot of different guys in the clubhouse.
“To have those forces in our lineup for years to come and adding a few pieces here and there I think we have a really good shot.”
Given their inconsistent performance, it’s hard to see Hahn believing that the White Sox have enough to win this season to go out and acquire help.
He has said over and over he wouldn’t take it lightly if the White Sox are in a position to win.
But, he doesn’t want to mortgage the future to do so, either.
While they won’t need to offload players like they did with trades last July and August, many believe the White Sox would make a deal here or there to bring in more young players or open playing time for others.
Hahn said he won’t “force anything.”
He also said he’s not ready to evaluate how far the White Sox have to go before they consider themselves in the right spot.
“Once everybody's healthy, once we see the prognosis on guys for 2015, then we'll have a better sense of what our potential holes are and how we're going to go about filling them over the coming months,” Hahn said. “Again, we know we're not there yet. We're still a work in progress. We're certainly pleased about a lot of the developments over the past year. We're hopeful to add to that in the coming weeks and if not the coming weeks, then certainly the coming months into the offseason.”