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Fear the White Sox

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Meanwhile, Chicago nearly has a clean slate in terms of future payroll. According to Cots Contracts, the White Sox have just $10.9 million in committed money on the books for 2019, and it drops even lower after that. To me, the combination of Chicago's gaggle of high-ceiling, near-ready prospects and maximum financial flexibility makes the White Sox baseball's sleeping giant. And with an overachieving season -- not playoff contention, or even a run at .500, necessarily -- Chicago could create a perception of forward momentum that might look enticing to premium free agents.


There are other reasons for the White Sox's young players to push for wins, but that perception has to be high on the list. That's what was on my mind when I spoke to White Sox general manager Rick Hahn during spring training:


How is the vibe around the team different this year than last year? You've got a lot of the heavy lifting done in terms of your change in direction, and a number of the pieces you'll be counting on in the future are right here in big league camp already.


Rick Hahn: It's funny, we spent a lot of time talking over the last four or five months of the offseason about how we're going to need some patience here. There is going to be some excitement, whether it's what Eloy [Jimenez] does in camp, or whether it's Dylan Cease. We're going to be patient with these guys and give them the time they need and not force the issue with any of them. We've also said that where we sit as an organization right now, we do conceivably have answers at every position. From inside the organization, [we have] long-term answers for a championship club. But we know that baseball doesn't work that way. The baseball gods can be cruel. Unexpected things are going to happen. So certainly there is a level of optimism, but losing [injured prospect] Jake Berger (Burger) for the season is a reminder that we have to continue to be diligent in accumulating talent and allowing it the time it needs to develop.


Over the offseason, there was so much written about the slow free-agent market that one of the drivers of that might have been the number of teams that are pulling back right now. Do you feel like you got out in front of that a little bit with the timing on your own decision to pivot?


RH: We timed it not necessarily based on macro-market issues, but more of a combination of knowing that we had one premium talent on hand that was controllable but not enough depth to really contend, or compete, and that we knew that we had to change the way we were approaching things.


The problem on our rosters wasn't Nos. 1 through 7, let's say, but 8 through 40. Every year, we were caught kind of plugging and playing to fill in the gaps and stick our finger in the dike. That wasn't working and there was frustration from myself, Kenny [Williams], Jerry [Reinsdorf] and the fan base.


Based on where the future free-agent market seemed to be headed, and based on when we were moving our talent, there wasn't quite as much traffic around us in terms of other teams doing the same thing. So the timing did make sense from a larger-scale, market-based standpoint. But really, we were motivated by the fact that our whole way of doing things wasn't working.


Obviously, you guys are in a big-picture situation and not looking to skip steps. But how important is it to create a perception or even a reality of forward momentum?


RH: It's funny. We are one year into this. Two offseasons, but one actual season into this process. These things, on average, tend to take roughly five years or so if you look around the game. Having started off with more valuable assets than a typical rebuilding team, initially through the trades we made, we're hoping we can shorten that timeline a little bit. But we are still very aware that we are in the early process of this.


There have been podcasts this offseason suggesting "maybe the White Sox can contend for a wild card this year." It's great that there is that enthusiasm and there is that level of potential expectation of competitiveness one year into a rebuild. I think that speaks to how Ricky [Renteria] has them playing and how people view the prospects that we have acquired.


But around here, we are taking that longer-term view. We know we are one year in. We know there are going to be growing pains. Yes, it's important to show progress with certain guys. But wins and losses aren't necessarily going to be the byproduct of that. If they are, fantastic. The more wins, the better. We're all competitive and we want to win. But when you're entering the second year of a rebuild, it's more about individuals than the whole.

Edited by caulfield12

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