Cleaning up the mess from a 99-loss season hasn’t been easy for Rick Hahn.
The number of challenges has been great as he tries to reconstruct the White Sox roster.
While the White Sox have an aging core of position players, they also possess good pitching depth. And Hahn has confidence in his scouts and player development department to replenish the team’s stockpile of arms.
That assurance in his front office has twice allowed Hahn in the last week to deal a young, controllable pitcher to find yet another long-term solution.
On Monday the White Sox traded closer Addison Reed to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for 22-year-old third baseman Matt Davidson, six days after they traded Hector Santiago to acquire young center fielder Adam Eaton.
“It’s a nice luxury for me to have,” Hahn said. “And while you never feel good about trading young pitching because it’s extremely difficult to acquire in this game, it does give me some level of confidence knowing we’ve got the same scouts and the same player development guys in place that have developed guys over the last decade-plus and the confidence they’re going to continue to develop their replacements going forward.”
Whether it’s internally or externally, the White Sox have had success with the development of young pitchers going back some time.
In recent years Gavin Floyd, John Danks and Jose Quintana were brought in from outside.
Reed, Santiago, Chris Sale and Nate Jones all matured within the system. Erik Johnson and several young relievers appear to be on the cusp.
With Sale and Quintana atop the rotation and Danks locked in for three seasons, Hahn felt safe to trade Santiago for Eaton, a potential leadoff hitter and center fielder. He felt the same about Reed and Davidson, who Hahn sees as a “middle-of-the-order run producer for a long time.”
Davidson might need work on the defensive side. It’s plausible he won’t crack the opening-day roster in 2014. But the White Sox feel they added in Davidson a bat with 25-to-30 home run potential that can complement Eaton, outfielder Avisail Garcia and first baseman Jose Abreu. And even though he had to part with a pitcher, Hahn couldn’t pass the chance to add another potential core player.
Now, less than a year after his offensive core was centered around three 30-somethings in Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko and Alex Rios, Hahn has four players who will be 27 or younger on Opening Day. All four also won’t hit free agency for six full seasons.
“It's certainly never easy to give up homegrown players like Santiago or Addison Reed,” Hahn said. “But we did feel it's imperative to start addressing some of these position player issues that we have and do so in a way that could not only potentially help us in ’14 but, perhaps more importantly, help us for the long haul. We feel like we’ve gotten a good start on doing that over the last five months.”
Meanwhile they have developed pitchers for years.
The 2005 staff featured homegrown starting pitchers Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland and Brandon McCarthy. Pitching coach Don Cooper also helped Jose Contreras put together his best all-around season that year. And several Sox relievers delivered top-notch performances.
When the White Sox won the division in 2008, Danks was 23 and Floyd was 25.
Two seasons ago, despite an inexperienced bullpen, the White Sox stayed in first place for 117 days before Detroit surpassed them in the final week.
“We have a pretty decent track record in terms of finding the right guy when the need arises,” Hahn said. “We just felt at this time, given where we’ve been from a position player side of things, we had to take the opportunity to get what we feel would be another potential long-term core position player piece.”