Plus: Carlos Carrasco signs an extension and the Royals have a perfect future Royal in their sights
Transparent attempts to play coy are no longer necessary for Rick Hahn, who made it rather clear that the White Sox are going for Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado in a conference call with reporters on Thursday.
What he plans to do as a Plan B, however, is a matter of interpretation.
James Fegan’s Athletic article has the most comprehensive version of Hahn’s quotes from the press conference. A truncated version of this one caught my eye on Twitter, for what it suggests on both sides of the activity spectrum (emphasis mine):
“We don’t want to do anything short-sighted at this point,” Rick Hahn said in his pre-winter meetings conference call on Thursday. “Anything that’s just necessarily going to make us have a short-term band-aid so to speak and potentially put us in a difficult situation for the long term when in fact we are then in a position to contend on an annual basis. In other words, yes, there are top of the market premium type players that we’ve made no secret about potentially fitting our long-term vision for this organization. However, if for whatever reason anyone along those lines doesn’t wind up in the White Sox organization, that doesn’t mean then we are going to scurry around and look for short-term fixes to get modest improvements.”
For a team like the White Sox’ position — a team with tons of payroll and dead spots on the immediate depth chart — they’re in a position to acquire short-term fixes and benefit from modest improvements, so I’m not a fan of the negative connotation, even if I get what he’s going for. I’m hoping “scurry” indicates only the mindset behind the moves and not the moves themselves, because the team can use any sort of improvement that doesn’t compromise the core prospects after a 100-loss season.
The may-as-well-lose-if-you-can’t-win mindset can end now, because contending is the common thread with the early free agent signings:
- Josh Donaldson: Braves
- Patrick Corbin: Nationals
- Nate Eovaldi: Red Sox
Throw in the Cardinals trading for Paul Goldschmidt and there’s been no letup among the hopefuls.
The White Sox don’t have to get to 82-80 to sell a vision, but a win total that starts with “7” would be helpful. The 71-91 Mariners of 2013 could land Robinson Cano. The 61-101 Mariners of 2010 had to settle for Chone Figgins.
I’m guessing Figgins’ immediately awful four-year deal is the kind of move Hahn wants to avoid when using “scurry.” I assume he’d deploy a different verb for the acquisitions of Welington Castillo or Alex Colome, both of whom represented modest and short-term but welcome improvements, even if Castillo didn’t materialize for unrelated reasons.
And ultimately it’s good that Hahn isn’t spending like his job is on the line, because somebody who is 0-for-6 in winning seasons as a GM might ordinarily start feeling such pressure. But it’d be nice to see some returns from the rebuild this year, because beyond the obvious reasons, there’s the Ponzi scheme feeling Grant Brisbee talks about:
There will be teams who try to be the Astros or Cubs and fail miserably, however. Think of the Royals or Pirates screwing up year after year of high draft picks in the ‘90s and ‘00s. These teams — and there will be several of them from this latest rebuilding fad — will alienate their fans horribly. When there are a dozen or so rebuilders at the same time, it becomes something like a baseball Ponzi scheme. There are only so many prospects to go around, so many good players, and not all of the teams promising their fans a return on their emotional investment will be able to pay out.
The Sox have a better shot than others at breaking through thanks to baseball’s worst division, but that only underscores the issues if they once again fail to clear the very low bar for third place.
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Speaking of the Central:
*The Twins signed Jonathan Schoop to a one-year, $7.5 million deal. Schoop was non-tendered by the Brewers, who saw Schoop’s bat evaporate after a midseason trade. He hit just .244/.273/.447 between Baltimore and Milwaukee last year, and Minnesota is hoping for something closer to the All-Star season he had for the Orioles in 2017.
*The Royals are “looking hard” at Billy Hamilton, which is really a perfect fit. There’s the fact that he has a .299 OBP in each of the last two years, and there’s the idea that his season OBP will be irrelevant when he torments the White Sox with his speed six series a year. The Sox saw Hamilton tie a game with his legs last year.
*The Indians signed Carlos Carrasco to a reasonable four-year, $47 million extension., which makes it all the more likely that Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer are moved.