Somewhere inside U.S. Cellular Field is a list put together by Rick Hahn. On that list are the players he wants and needs to help turn around the fortunes of the Chicago White Sox franchise.
“There is a list,” Hahn admits.
So, what’s first on it?
“The thing right above No. 2 on the list, and that’s all I’m going to tell you.”
Hahn was being coy about who he wants. Who can blame him?
But speaking with the White Sox general manager as his team narrowly avoided losing 100 games this season, Hahn sounds like he’s prepared to really shake things up, especially on offense after the White Sox finished last in the American League in runs.
If you have your way in what you'd like to do, how different will the White Sox starting lineup be next year?
“It's funny. At the end of the season I think it's a bad time to talk to any baseball guy on a losing team because you want everybody different,” Hahn said. “That's part of the reason we take a few weeks afterwards. We handle some administrative things. We don't make any real major decisions.”
But after that, the wheels will be in motion to make changes. Possibly many of them.
“I expect things to look different. As to how drastically different things will look, it's going to depend on the market and what's available to us,” Hahn said. “But we don't want to make changes just because it's different and we don't have to see this anymore. We want to make changes because they're a step towards our ultimate goal of annual contention and another World Series championship. So we're not going to force anything, but if I had my druthers there will be a lot of changes because we'll head down that path.”
Hahn says he wants to “aggressively” and “quickly” improve the club. One area that is in dire need of an upgrade offensively is at catcher where White Sox backstops combined to hit just .197 with 26 walks and 162 strikeouts.
“If something becomes available we're going to have to look at it pretty carefully,” Hahn said of the catching position. “If it so happens that the means to addressing multiple needs is from behind the plate then we'll look very carefully at it and possibly go that route.”
The White Sox also need more defense, power and speed, not to mention a reason for fans to buy tickets for next season. I brought up Chicago native Curtis Granderson, the New York Yankees outfielder who is set to become a free agent and the kind of personality Sox fans could identify with and embrace.
Would the White Sox try bringing Granderson back home?
“Fortunately, given when we're taping this I can hide behind the tampering rules since he is currently property of another organization,” said a smiling Hahn, who then spoke in general terms about a guy like Granderson. “There are a lot of needs to address, and certainly some balance in the lineup, a guy who has some speed and some power and can help you on defense has some appeal.”
The White Sox have roughly $46 million committed to salaries next season. The team is allocating an additional $10 million or so for the domestic amateur draft and another $5 million for the international pool, which Hahn describes as “a real shot in the arm for our farm system.”
After arbitration cases, there will be money to spend. How much exactly, Hahn doesn’t know yet. In terms of trades, he’s had preliminary conversations with teams but mostly with a narrow group of GMs he was speaking with before the trade deadline. When the season ends, “it’s all 29 teams who are trying to address needs. So we don't have a firm feel on fits just yet. That will come over the coming months.”
Will the White Sox pursue a high-priced free agent?
“If there is a player that fits, not just for a band-aid improvement for 2014, but the longer term objectives and goals, absolutely I would expect us to be a player in that,” Hahn said.
Unlike last winter, when the White Sox biggest moves were signing Jeff Keppinger and re-signing Jake Peavy, this winter sounds like it will be much more active.
“We've got a pretty tremendous opportunity in front of us,” Hahn said. “We have the ability to recraft this thing and restore this offense on the position player side of things and continue to develop on the pitching side of things. It's disappointing and it's frustrating, but we’re working with more or less a clean palette at this point.”
So what can White Sox fans expect?
“Everything is open for discussion,” Hahn said. “So the possibilities and opportunities for us to upgrade in certain areas are fairly numerous.”
It should be an interesting winter.