Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn went into this offseason with a long list of things to accomplish.
Among other things, the 25-man roster needed to get younger, smarter on the basepaths and better offensively. It was to be a daunting task.
Jon Heyman from CBS Sports summed up Hahn's progress to this point:
1 team that really seems to have a plan is the #chisox. had obvious needs: hitting, athleticism, youth, and addressing them— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 20, 2013
This is all quite refreshing for White Sox fans, who have long endured the endless cycle of pillaging the farm system in an effort to win now. It is an antiquated model of operations that led to a farm system largely devoid of legitimate prospects capable of impacting the major league roster.
Now I did give grades on most of the moves Hahn had made up until the end of the 2013 winter meetings last week, but I did not address some of the minor leaguers he picked up earlier this offseason. Nor was his most recent signing included in the conversation.
So let’s power-rank all of the players Hahn has brought in before power-ranking the impact on their respective position groups.
10. C Tyler Flowers (one-year, $950,000)
9. IF/OF Jake Elmore (waiver claim from Houston Astros)
8. 1B Paul Konerko (one-year, $2.5 million)
7. C Adrian Nieto (Rule 5 pick from Washington Nationals)
6. SP Felipe Paulino (one-year, $1.75 million with 2015 team option)
5. RP Ronald Belisario (one-year, $3 million)
4. 3B Matt Davidson (trade with Arizona Diamondbacks)
3. RP Scott Downs (one-year, $3.75 million with 2015 team option)*
2. CF Adam Eaton (trade with Diamondbacks)
1. 1B Jose Abreu (six-years, $68 million)
* Scott Downs’ signing is pending a physical, via the Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan.
As a quick summation, here is essentially what Hahn did to address the catcher position.
He selected Adrian Nieto in the Rule 5 draft and gave one of the worst catchers in the American League a $950,000 contract. Not exactly groundbreaking moves to improve the worst position group on the team.
Now if Nieto can supplant either Tyler Flowers or Josh Phegley, fantastic. If not, he will be offered back to the Nationals for $25,000 under the terms of the Rule 5 draft, and the White Sox will open next season with Flowers and Phegley back doing what they do best…not getting on base, hitting an occasional home run and striking out.
The offseason is not done, though, and if Hahn has shown us anything to this point, it is that we can never truly count out the possibility of bringing in another backstop.
The acquisition of center fielder Adam Eaton is very intriguing and earns an A- as an isolated move. He has proven capable of getting on base at a fantastic clip in the minor leagues, has some very nice speed and is smart about it, but those abilities have largely failed to carry over into the major leagues.
It must be noted he has only appeared in 55 MLB games, but the move does not improve the position group’s power ranking as greatly as it could have, because Eaton still has to prove capable in the big leagues. Then again, it won’t take much to be an upgrade over Alejandro De Aza.
Even though Hahn traded Addison Reed and Hector Santiago, the pitching staff improved.
It is true that Paulino has had some significant arm troubles, and Belisario is coming off one of his worst seasons. Both are buy-low options, however, who are more than capable of putting together very good years.
How do you think Hahn has done so far?
Also consider that moving Reed and Santiago opened up a spot for Daniel Webb in the bullpen and all but guaranteed that Erik Johnson will open the season in the starting rotation. Finally, Scott Downs is one of the premier left-handed setup men in baseball. His addition is a coup for Hahn.
1. Corner infielders
Paul Konerko is going into his last season; third base is a perennial problem for the White Sox; and Adam Dunn is, at best, a platoon designated hitter. Yeah, it wasn’t going to take much to improve the talent at the corners.
Hahn went above and beyond, though, when he signed Jose Abreu and traded for Matt Davidson. Abreu could be a beast with the lumber at first base, and Davidson is highly regarded as a power-hitting third baseman.
Sure, both of them need to prove worthy of the hype, but what were question-mark positions are now manned by two players with enormous upside. And for the first time in what seems like an eternity, the White Sox have young players at first and third who are true middle-of-the-order hitters.
So far, this offseason has gone according to plan. That is, of course, if you asked the general manager.