Rick Hahn’s first true test as a general manager is here much faster than he ever could have imagined it would arrive.
When Hahn succeeded Kenny Williams as the White Sox GM last October he couldn’t have expected to be in this position this soon.
The White Sox headed into the 2013 campaign with the belief their pitching depth and a strong defense would have them preparing for a postseason push right about now.
But that season hasn’t yet materialized, and it isn’t about to, either.
The White Sox lost, 6-2, to the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field to drop a season-worst 20 games below the .500 mark.
Instead of looking to add players to the roster before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, Hahn is expected to spend the next seven days determining which direction an organization short on major league-ready impact prospects should head.
“First-year general manager, we put him in a terrible situation,” first baseman Adam Dunn said. “We put him in a bad spot. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. It’s just tough.”
Which way Hahn should head is made more difficult because the White Sox boast pitching depth.
Most teams that suffer significant injuries to three of five members of its originally planned rotation would be ecstatic over a pitching staff that carried a 3.97 ERA into Wednesday.
With Chris Sale, John Danks and perhaps Jake Peavy atop the rotation, along with developing starters in Jose Quintana and Hector Santiago, Hahn has to feel the White Sox are never far out of contention.
But something is clearly wrong, and change is necessary.
Two weeks ago, Hahn said his team had earned its poor record, that the blueprint employed this season is incorrect. Yet the majority of the roster of a team that won 85 games and remained in the pennant race until the final three days of 2012 is still in place.
Hahn — who has declined to comment on anything related to the trade deadline for the past two weeks — has to weigh those factors against the fact that his farm system isn’t ready to provide any immediate answers aside from pitching prospect Erik Johnson and perhaps infielder Carlos Sanchez, the youngest player in the International League.
He also must decide where to make the cuts and determine how deep of an incision to make.
Will he just refinish the cabinets or must he rebuild entirely?
Anyone and everyone on the roster seems to have been mentioned in trade rumors over the last five weeks.
Peavy and outfielder Alex Rios appear to be the most sought after chips in Hahn’s pocket. Interest in free-agent-to-be reliever Jesse Crain has only been slowed by a right shoulder strain. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez’s name has popped up several times.
Other names thrown out have included: outfielder Alejandro De Aza, infielder Jeff Keppinger and relievers Addison Reed and Matt Lindstrom.
Just as Hahn predicted in June, the White Sox and their underachieving roster are quite popular at the deadline as scouts have poured into U.S. Cellular this week in order to provide up-to-the-minute reports to their organizations.
“When you look at them individually, you see the value in each of those players and what they are capable of doing,” Hahn said in Detroit earlier this month. “It just hasn’t clicked.”
But with the exception of Crain, all of the players contending teams are interested in are under contract for next season. So while Hahn might want to move what he can as soon as possible, he’s not under pressure to make such a decision immediately.
“I’m sure it’s a tough, tough job to navigate through all that kind of stuff,” team captain Paul Konerko said. “That’s really the only thought that goes through my head. I think everybody thinks it has to happen. This stuff has to happen. But when you look at it from really what it is, it really doesn’t.”
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Either way, Dunn is glad he’s not in Hahn’s seat.
He knows the offense’s inability to score this season, a year after it finished fourth in the American League in runs, is a significant reason for the team’s failures.
So is a porous defense that committed its 69th error of the season on Wednesday. The White Sox made a major league low 70 errors last season.
The mental mistakes on the bases and in the field have been through the roof, too.
“We for the most part have the same nucleus of guys we had last year, and we’re obviously not producing like we did last year,” Dunn said. “But who’s to say next year everything gets back to normal and we do what we’re supposed to. I’m glad I’m not having to make those decisions.”