Following one of the worst seasons in Chicago White Sox history, general manager Rick Hahn has his hands full as he prepares for the 2014 season. A return to competitiveness in the AL Central is a tall task, indeed.
Is there a definitive blueprint Hahn can follow to make sure the White Sox enter next year ready for a successful campaign, though? Of course not. If there was, every team would be following it, but Hahn is off to a riotous start.
First off, he signed Jose Dariel Abreu to a six-year, $68 million contract. It is a calculated gamble that could pay tremendous dividends. MLB.com’s Scott Merkin went so far as to call Abreu’s signing “the center of their reshaping process over the next two or three years.”
Abreu is a power bat with tremendous mechanics, according to FanGraphs.com’s Dan Farnsworth, and nearly unlimited potential. His signing was a huge move for Hahn and the White Sox.
Secondly, he brought in a hitting coach who actually appreciates on-base percentage. Unlike his predecessor Jeff Manto—who thought that OBP was an overrated metric—Todd Steverson understands that an offense’s ability to score runs is dictated by the number of runners who reach base safely, via the Chicago Sun Times' Daryl Van Schouwen.
To be fair, there is only so much preaching a coach can do. It is ultimately up to the batter to identify if a pitch is outside of the zone and then have the patience to take it. For the organization, though, it is nice to finally have a hitting coach who will focus on the fundamentals of winning baseball.
Those two moves will have a positive impact on the team’s long-term success and are indicative of how the rest of the winter will go. And that’s the point.
See, if there is a blueprint (there's not) for success this offseason, it is that Hahn needs to continue making prudent decisions. Don’t take this the wrong way, but there is no fixing this team before spring training. There are simply too many holes.
At minimum, they need a catcher, a third baseman and a center fielder. Heck, they need just about everything from a positional standpoint. Success this offseason must not be defined by the players Hahn does or does not acquire, though.
After all, it is fairly safe to say that guys like Robinson Cano, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo will not be donning White Sox uniforms next season. The contracts they will demand are simply not in the budget. In an ideal world, one or more of them are in the batting order next year, but that is an unrealistic expectation.
And everyone who is clamoring for the White Sox to release or trade Adam Dunn can stop holding their breath. The team will not release him and pay the remainder of his salary. Yes his contract is a burden no team should bear, but he will not be going anywhere.
The moves Hahn makes from here on out figure to be minor. He could make a splash and pick up someone like Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is probably not going to be tendered a contract by the Boston Red Sox, according to ESPN.com’s Gordon Edes, but even that may be out of the realm of reason.
To be sure, Hahn could surprise many of us and trade Alexei Ramirez and/or let Alejandro De Aza walk. A more likely scenario has him trading a pitcher or two for some minor league talent, signing a couple of mid-tier free agents to fill out the roster and preparing his young team for the 2014 season.
And that's just fine.
There is no definitive blueprint for success, but Hahn is certainly pointing his team in the right direction.