BOSTON — The trade deadline is rapidly approaching and Rick Hahn already has his poker face on.
When it comes to his team’s rebuild, the White Sox general manager has no qualms admitting his job isn’t finished — there’s work to be done.
The White Sox, who improved to 43-47 with a 4-0 win over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Monday night, need better pitching, to know which way they’re going at catcher, in left field and at third base in order to become perennial contenders.
The team’s roster also features several players whom Hahn has indicated he’s willing to trade as well as others who are speculated to be on the block. But even with all those variables and rumors circulating about the futures of Dayan Viciedo and Adam Dunn — both of whom homered Monday — as well Gordon Beckham and Alejandro De Aza, Hahn is playing it cool.
It’s a luxury he’s afforded unlike last season, when it was clear the White Sox needed to find a new direction and fast. So unless Hahn gets what he wants, the White Sox trade activity could be very limited over the next 3 1/2 weeks.
“There’s certainly no urgency to do anything,” Hahn said. “I think most of the players I’ve read about online that are rumored to be out there are all under control beyond this season. There’s no urgency to cash in an asset, so to speak, before it expires.”
The White Sox were an antique train wreck short on patience last July.
Not only were they on their way to 99 losses, the White Sox were built around an aging offensive core of Paul Konerko, Dunn and Alex Rios. If they had any hope of quickly turning things around, Hahn had to maximize the value of Jake Peavy and Rios, both of whom had a year left on their deals and trade appeal.
Hahn netted outfielder Avisail Garcia and three minor-leaguers in the Peavy deal and then freed up playing time for their young outfielder in the trade of Rios to the Texas Rangers. Both moves gave the White Sox some of the financial flexibility they needed to sign Jose Abreu in the offseason.
In December, Hahn traded closer Addison Reed and Hector Santiago for prospect Matt Davidson and center fielder Adam Eaton. All of a sudden, the White Sox had a new identity in a span of five months.
That paradigm shift gives Hahn and the White Sox less urgency to be active.
Even though three infield prospects at Triple-A are knocking down the door — Micah Johnson is close, Marcus Semien has already produced in the bigs and Carlos Sanchez is back on track — Hahn isn’t forced into a deal because Beckham has a full season before he hits free agency.
Just because Hahn made it clear in December he’d part with either De Aza or Viciedo for the right price, neither is a free agent next season, which means he doesn’t have to just give them away. De Aza has another full season before he’s a free agent and Viciedo isn’t one until 2018.
Hahn isn’t blind to the notion his defense needs improvement and the offense needs more consistency, especially in the lower half. The pitching needs to be much better too and he’s aware of that as well.
Hahn said the White Sox, who entered Monday with 30 fewer runs scored than allowed this season, have earned their current record.
“We really haven’t had that run of momentum of success that we hoped for,” Hahn said. “We’ve fallen into a couple of ruts along the way that last year was much more difficult for us to dig ourselves out of. We are pleased with that side to be able to stop the negative trends when they have come up on us.
“At the same time, we haven’t gone on that positive run of success that we’ve been waiting for that is going to put us in position to clearly be in the thick of a pennant race.”
He’s hopeful any moves he makes over the next 24 days to six months to next spring can aid in that cause. But he only intends to complete a deal if it fits the plan and giving away controlled contracts for less than fair value doesn’t seem to be part of it.
Hahn could be bluffing, but that doesn’t sound likely.
“We are willing to make a deal at any point where it makes most sense for or long-term interests,” Hahn said. “Whether that happens in the next two weeks or it takes until the offseason or spring training next year, we are not going to force the issue.”