Hahn, White Sox prepared to make sensible moves
First-year GM under no pressure to make splash at Winter Meetings
CHICAGO -- The White Sox enter this year's Winter Meetings with questions to potentially be answered at third base, catcher and even in terms of the possibility of a shortage of left-handed hitters in their lineup if free agent A.J. Pierzynski doesn't return.
They also will arrive Sunday in Nashville, Tenn., knowing there isn't an absolute requirement to make a move in order to improve the team.
"You get yourself into trouble when you feel like you have to do something," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn of the team's overall outlook for the Meetings. "Given the options we have internally, we don't feel like we have to make a move. We aren't going to make one to say we did something."
Even with that in mind, don't look for the White Sox to stand pat. The opportunity to improve the team might come this week. It might come in Nashville or it might come in the weeks leading up to the holidays.
Team interest remains in bringing back Pierzynski and Kevin Youkilis. But with the 2013 payroll set to check in somewhere around the 2012 number of $97 million, and with 10 players already under contract at $90 million, internal options will have to be considered in some areas and those free-agent returns ultimately might not be possible.
Tyler Flowers stands in line to take over for Pierzynski behind the plate, and with all due respect to his friend and fellow catcher, Flowers recently told MLB.com that it's time for the White Sox to see what they have in him four years after he was brought to Chicago via a trade with the Braves. The White Sox will be in search of veteran catching help for the power-packed right-handed hitter who is known as much for his game-calling as his bat.
As for third base, Hahn certainly hasn't given up on Brent Morel. The issue for the team's starter in 2011 and for the outset of 2012 is making sure his balky back is ready for the rigors of a 162-game schedule.
"Our No. 1 thing with Brent is that he's healthy and able to maintain his health," Hahn said.
A trade could be an option to provide added assurance at third, with the White Sox possessing six quality starting pitchers, as well as a handful of young options held in high esteem. This perceived surplus doesn't mean one of these pitchers necessarily is gone, and certainly doesn't preclude the White Sox from going after another starter.
"It's conceivable," Hahn said. "Certainly, we are like many other clubs in that you can never have too much pitching. With our rotation and our options in the bullpen and the Minors, it's not a priority in the offseason.
"If we have a chance to add to the depth, we will explore it. We aren't going to turn our back to adding quality depth."
Bringing back Jake Peavy through a two-year, $29-million extension already has made this offseason a positive one for the White Sox. They locked down their staff leader before he got into the whole free-agent process, something they weren't able to do with Youkilis and Pierzynski, making it tougher to bring them back in competing with interest coming from other teams.
Dewayne Wise also gives the White Sox a veteran presence off the bench, with the left-handed-hitting outfielder rejoining the team on a one-year, $700,000 deal. The 40-man roster presently sits at 40, so the White Sox would have to make a personnel move to add a player.
That route seems to be the most likely traveled by the White Sox, although this front office has proven in the past to expect the unexpected. The White Sox don't believe the top-of-the-line free agent is the only way to make a major change.
Check out the moves made prior to the 2005 season with the signing of Tadahito Iguchi and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez as prime examples. They also have never shied away from the high-impact player.
"Let's put it this way: I don't want to go into specific conversations about specific free agents," Hahn said. "Historically, we've checked in on the big names, via free agent or trade. By exploring all options, by having conversations with one club or free agent, you might unlock the possibility to make a move you didn't anticipate."
These Winter Meetings marks the 13th for Hahn. While he's the man calling the shots in his first year as general manager, he doesn't expect much of a change aside from spending a little more quality time with the media.
Everyone involved with the White Sox in Nashville will get together in a meeting room, as they have done in the past, and as Hahn said, titles "will be thrown out the window." They will speak freely about what's out there and look for options to uncover.
In the end, a move will be made if it makes sense in pushing the White Sox closer to prime playoff contention. Then again, there's no pressure on Hahn or the organization to get something done simply because it's the Winter Meetings.
"Traditionally, you do see more activity," Hahn said. "People are all in the same place, agents are present and there are more conversations and expectations that things will get done.
"There's frankly no magic to that week where you have to do something: it could happen before or after. We are in the process of having fairly substantive conversations with other clubs or other agents, and I wouldn't be surprised if there's a greater amount of activity in Nashville because the foundation has been laid."