As the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline passes, one thing is certain—Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn knows a thing or two about running a professional baseball team.
Now the process wasn't perfect, but he made the White Sox a better team through a series of shrewd moves.
On Monday for example, Hahn traded Jesse Crain—who is on the disabled list— to the Tampa Bay Rays. Then on Tuesday, he used every bit of leverage available to entice the Boston Red Sox into assuming the rest of Jake Peavy’s contract, while also securing four prospects in return for the right-hander's services.
Think about that.
He traded a pitcher who cannot pitch right now, and unloaded an oft-injured veteran in just over 24 hours, while improving the White Sox's farm system and creating payroll flexibility for next year, and beyond.
Quite remarkable, especially when you consider that the centerpiece of the Peavy trade was Avisail Garcia.
I resist saying that the he is a five-tool player, as that is hardly ever an accurate assessment, but the kid has legitimate 20 HR and 80 RBI potential, according to ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden.
The Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers wrote that Garcia has the potential to be “an impact hitter” for the White Sox and thinks that Bowden’s projection “is selling him short.”
The 22-year-old outfielder was hitting .374 in 147 at-bats for Triple-A Toledo at the time of the trade and was a critical piece to the Detroit Tigers’ playoff push in 2012. He is also not arbitration eligible until 2016 and is not set to become a free agent until 2019.
To be sure, he is not a perfect player.
According to FanGraphs.com, he strikes out quite often, has difficulty making regular contact and had a ridiculous .455 BABIP at Toledo, but unlike the other outfielders in the White Sox farm system—who will be touched on in just a moment—Garcia has more than just potential.
So trading Peavy to the Red Sox was a move made because it was a good one for the Sox and not for any other reason. Too often, trades like this can turn into nothing more than a glorified salary dump.
As impressive as the talent Hahn received for Peavy is, the amount of payroll the White Sox shed as a result of the trade may be more so. In fact, moving Peavy—who has about $20 million remaining on his contract—without providing the Red Sox with any salary relief is a coup in itself.
According to BaseballProspectus.com, the White Sox payroll in 2014 now sits at a relatively modest $61.25 million. That should provide Hahn ample flexibility to address arbitration eligible players such as Gordon Beckham and Alejandro De Aza, work on Dayan Viciedo’s perpetually vexing contract and add a bat via free agency.
That figure does not take into consideration the uncertain futures of other White Sox regulars such as Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez. There is a chance that Hahn puts them on waivers or tries to trade them this offseason.
How would you grade Hahn thus far?
Were that to happen, the likelihood he could acquire the offensive talent needed to compliment a still-formidable pitching staff will increase substantially.
Of course, the past few weeks were not a complete success.
Jacobs, who is hitting .327 since being assigned to Double-A Birmingham, is a nice prospect and all, but seems to be cut from the same cloth as four other outfielders currently in the White Sox system.
Jacobs joins Trayce Thompson, Courtney Hawkins, Jared Mitchell and Keenyn Walker as big-power/high-strikeout guys who will need at least one more year of seasoning before making the 25-man roster. That is if they develop that far.
And let's not overlook the fact that Rios and Ramirez are still on the roster. A more concerted effort could have been made to trade them, although no one but the GM knows exactly how hard he tried to make a deal work.
On the whole, though, Hahn has proved to be quite capable as White Sox GM. In a very short amount of time, he is pulling them out of the morass that Kenny Williams created.
By no means is he finished, but I'll give Hahn a solid B to this point.