AL Central activity: Rick Hahn aims big, Twins find a patch

AL Central activity: Rick Hahn aims big, Twins find a patch

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.

* * *  * * *  * * *

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.

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BeefLoaf108
Member

Good post. Hahn’s quote is either complete and utter bullshit, or we gots a problem.

Lurker Laura
Member
Lurker Laura

As a Sox fan, I’m going to assume the latter.

However, if one is being charitable, one could read it as “not going to panic and throw money at this year’s Adam LaRoche equivalent.”

ParisSox
Member

That’s how I read it. 

melidoperez
Member
melidoperez

The way the FA market has evolved, is it even really possible to hamstring yourself that much anymore in FA? 10 years ago yeah, but guys like Brantley, McCutchen, etc. simply aren’t in a position to get 4-5 year deals based on past performance. Even if they signed 3-4 guys to 2 year deals at positions where there isn’t a prospect knocking on the door, it’s hard to imagine that having any kind of limiting impact long term.

KenWo4LiFe
Member

Hahn’s quote bothers me. So the only way we are going to sign anyone is if Machado or Harper sign? If not… we are going to win 55 games this year because Avi, Omar and Davidson are gone and as sorry as it may be, they were three of our best bats.

Otter
Member

I hope what Rick is saying is that he’s going to avoid signing players like Melky to long-ish deals. And if that’s what hes saying, I agree. Giving, say, Markakis a three year deal would be a poor use of resources.

If all Markakis can get is a one year deal and the Sox sign him, I’m fine with that.

KenWo4LiFe
Member

I’ll give markakis a 10 year deal dammit.

BeefLoaf108
Member

LOL! By year 3 he’ll just be a handsome mascot

KenWo4LiFe
Member

either that or closing in quickly on 3000 hits!

As Cirensica
Member

Markakis is indestructible, he can play the 10 years contract

Adam Engel can be the mascot starting in 2019

Otter
Member

Plan B should be taking on short term salary to receive good/very good players in their mid (or early) 20s. Use the payroll flexibility this year, please.

knoxfire30
Member
knoxfire30

Im actually totally on board with only signing premiere talent, otherwise see you next off season.

dwjm3
Member
dwjm3

I want a tier one free agent as much as the next guy but if the plan is Harper/Machado or bust that seems extremely dangerous

knoxfire30
Member
knoxfire30

I dont think its just them or bust… but a 35 year old JA Haap or a 31 going on 40 year olds body Brantley dont do much for me. Kuechal and Grandal are the next tier guys that I certainly still think make sense for the future. It is very hard to do all your shopping in one offseason so a carefully chosen piece or two this offseason if they whiff on the big names is fine. I also like the idea of kicking the tires on using payroll flexibility to leverage a team with a young piece. The take seager for haniger idea has been shot down by mariners management in recent days but that “type” of a deal I would be in on.

Gutteridge70
Member
Gutteridge70

That is my fear also, Harper with potential health problems and Machado with his arrogance.

karkovice squad
Member
karkovice squad

They’re both arrogant and have been injured.

Trooper Galactus
Member

If it’s Harper/Machado or bust in terms of “acquisitions we expect to be cornerstones of our next contender”, then yeah, I’m fine with that interpretation.

yolmers gatorade
Member

The Sox have at least 3 position player holes, CF, 3B, and a corner outfielder. They have 2 starting pitcher holes. The bullpen may be fine, but will have a lot of young talent. But the Sox have no one in their farm system ready to fill these holes. So, yeah, unless we want another 100 loss season, we need to sign some players on one year deals to fill these spots

Jason.Wade17
Member

Spending 30-40 million on decent to average players to gain 10-12 wins does not bring the White Sox any closer to a championship

yolmers gatorade
Member

You want to put the young players on the roster in a position to win if they play well. Getting some veterans on one year deals to fill some spot can do that. Plus, the Indians are sooo vulnerable. I think it’s worth a couple of draft spots to inject some excitement and winning expectations into the team

GreatjonHumber
Member
GreatjonHumber

If we spend 30 million on free agents and they add 15 wins we should build a giant statue of Hahn astride the Dan Ryan.

Jason.Wade17
Member

Not the direct comparison, I’m making but ok. It’s more the assumption the entire team adds 10-15 wins, not the free agents alone make up a difference of that.

melidoperez
Member
melidoperez

Putting 30-40 million in the Reinsdorf family trust and running Adam Engel/JB Shuck types out there and killing the morale of the players who matter and your fan base doesn’t get you closer to a championship either.

Jason.Wade17
Member

What does that even mean? Were the morals of players like Altuve, Freeman, Rizzo, Arrieta, etc killed becauses they were a couple years ahead of their teams curves? Did those players development get stunted somehow because they were on bad teams.

Jason.Wade17
Member

Well and I’m not arguing against supplementing talent, I believe its a must; however, this second/third tier of free agents scare me.
Just looking at the 2017 FA’s, teams like Padres, Angels, Cardinals, Phillies, Cubs are regretting the money they gave Hosmer, Cozart, Fowler, Santana, Darvish/Chatwood, etc.
And of course there will be a point where taking those risks are needed to supplement the roster, but I don’t see it with this crop of 2nd/3rd tier FA.

melidoperez
Member
melidoperez

In complete agreement with you there. In no way advocating those types of deals. I’m more saying that I’d prefer at this point to sign Lance Lynn to a 2/18 deal than have that rotation spot go to a poo poo platter of washed up/reclamation/non prospect types.

Trooper Galactus
Member

The Darvish, Chatwood, and Fowler deals are kinda bad only in hindsight. Darvish and Fowler got hurt, but that doesn’t mean they were bad signings from the get-go. As for Chatwood, he was last year’s free agent upside darling, and a lot of people were in on him as a potential steal. But Hosmer? Yeah, nobody but the Padres saw that deal being anything but utterly and completely stupid.

zerobs
Member
zerobs

Last year the Twins signed supplemental talent: Rodney, Reed, Lynn, Morrison. Their rebuild stunted because Sano and Buxton stunted and the 3 War 30-somethings they signed to supplement them couldn’t provide 1-war each.
Renteria is going to do just as many silly things with a 72-win team as he would with a 62-win team.

Trooper Galactus
Member

This basically describes every attempt by the White Sox to compete after 2008.

melidoperez
Member
melidoperez

I just meant I understand the goal but that not every move is made with the reasoning being that it wins a world series. You can make moves that have other benefits.

Is signing a few Brantley/McCutchen caliber players going to win a world series for the Sox? Of course not. Would a few of those signings of legitimate mlb players ease a little of the burden on Eloy/Moncada and other young guys needing to be saviors because the Sox rolled with AAAA players at those positions instead? When they try to continue supplementing next year, will selling a FA they want be easier if they run out the scrubs and win 64, or would a “we’re ready to contend” be more convincing coming off a 77 win season? Would having a better chance of winning on a day to day basis result in a little better morale/ticket sales/ratings than just resigning ourselves to another 64 win season? Probably.

Jason.Wade17
Member

I totally get what you’re saying. I guess I view the benefit of that not worth the risk of those type of players having diminishing value.
Let’s say Pollack for instance signed with the Sox at a similar price tag to what Fowler signed with the Cards. Similar-ish enough players for this example. Then Pollack has more injuries and his talents decline and in year 2 of his contract, the Sox are stuck with a 50 million dollar 0-2 WAR player.

melidoperez
Member
melidoperez

Am on the fence with Pollack and think his range of outcomes is probably the widest. The way the current market values guys, I was thinking about a certain number of guys who might end up in the 2/30 range. You’re helping the everyday product at a time you have very little tied up in contracts and they will run out before they could cause any real issues.

Jason.Wade17
Member

And of course all opinions change at different prices. Would I like Brantley and McCutchen on the Sox? Absolutely.
However, I think if Brantley or McCutchen are going to take short term deals, they would take them with contending teams. I think there are plenty of teams with money like the Braves, Yankees, Phillies, Mets, Angels, etc that could sign those guys at those prices.
I wouldn’t want the Sox to have to be the best offer in order to sway the lower tier guys, because that often leads to over paying.

melidoperez
Member
melidoperez

That’s where I see it differently I guess. My viewpoint is that the Sox are just sort of in the right place at the right time by being sort of in the middle of their process. Most of the current contenders are sort of stacked at those positions, have other needs, or are eyeing the tax stuff. We’re used to everyone just eventually signing with NY/Bos, but both of those teams already have their of/dh stacked.

Then you have a fair amount of teams a year or two behind us in the tear down process (Sea, Tex, KC, Det, and other) that would make even less sense than us in signing some of these guys. Being a team sitting on a ton of money who actually wants to add to get better right now is actually kind of the exception right now. And the fact that teams are filling a lot of their needs via trade and not FA is only helping.

Jason.Wade17
Member

And also, I’m 100% on board with the White Sox spending money, even was last year, but it seems most fans want to spend it on anything/everything just because its there and the Sox need better players.

35Shields
Member
35Shields

Two starting pitcher holes? That’s way too generous to Giolito.

yolmers gatorade
Member

True, but they seem committed to him at least to start next year.

35Shields
Member
35Shields

That’s true and I’m not terribly opposed to assigning a rotation spot to some combination of Giolito/Covey/Stephen/etc. We have plenty of room in the rotation and plenty of intriguing-ish AAA starters. But I’d be pretty surprised if Giolito is still starting by June.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Keep in mind that part of the reason the White Sox allowed him to slog his way through all of 2018 in the majors was to preserve an option for him. If he hasn’t ironed out a few kinks to start 2019, they can send him to Charlotte for a reset.

dwjm3
Member
dwjm3

I wonder why bucket Grandal fits in? Does Hahn consider him premium talent?

Smclean09
Member
Smclean09

Lucroy makes me nervous about Grandal. Offense declines quickly for catchers and we see how framing can fall off. Every free agent has risk of course and I would be delighted if they sign him….

But Hahn dont care about no stinking framing anyway.

35Shields
Member
35Shields

Except there’s no evidence that catchers age worse than other players. Nor is there evidence that framing ages significantly.

Lucroy may have fallen off a cliff, but Russell Martin, for instance, has aged gracefully. His age 32-35 seasons with the Blue Jays has been worth 11.9 WARP.

zerobs
Member
zerobs

As a commenter pointed out to Fangraphs, that analysis is flawed because of survivor bias.
(Not to mention cherry-picked goalposts and uneven lengths that he tried to explain away with the weak PED era argument.)

In regards to Lucroy, he wasn’t the first catcher to wilt in the Texas heat.

35Shields
Member
35Shields

Survivor bias is only relevant if it affects catchers more than other position players. Possible but citation needed.

karkovice squad
Member
karkovice squad

Catchers mostly don’t move to other positions once they decline. So survivor bias does affect them more in the aggregate than other players.

So the key is in identifying the likely survivors.

Smclean09
Member
Smclean09

I want to make it clear that by me saying I fear that he would fall off the cliff, doesnt mean I have a rationale base for my fear.

I will say the survivor bias makes sense a bit to me, because most catchers dont have the bat to carry them down the defensive spectrum and the ones that gained value with their glove didn’t keep their jobs when they aged or stopped hitting because it wasnt as regularly used for assessing value until recently.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Statistically speaking, there should be more concern for Harper falling off a cliff than Grandal, especially given their respective price points. Not to say the White Sox should be avoiding either, but fans need to understand that, excitement over big-ticket free agent signings aside, there’s always significant risk in these deals.

Smclean09
Member
Smclean09

More risk per dollar and length absolutely. I’d love them to take either gamble though.

More risk to being a productive player I think would be Grandal, because while having a 2 win DH making 35 million, that’s Harpers floor.

karkovice squad
Member
karkovice squad

That framing study is years out of date.

Whether we call Martin’s decline graceful or not, 70% of his production came in his first 2 years with TOR. Almost 40% in the first year alone. And the backloaded contract structure frontloads the value proposition even more.

Which highlights that once the Sox start adding they need to commit to following through on it.

roke1960
Member

I would assume signing Grandal or Pollock or Keuchel would be a part of the plan B if they don’t get Machado or Harper. All three of them could be part of a longer term plan going forward. Even someone like Marwin Gonzalez or Brantley might fit that bill. I don’t think guys like Happ or Nelson Cruz would be part of the plan unless they signed Machado or Harper first.

GreatjonHumber
Member
GreatjonHumber

I would put Pollock in the “only makes sense with Machado” group. Grandal would be a good signing in any context.

roke1960
Member

Pollock is a very good player, IF he is healthy. He might be worth rolling the dice on.

BeefLoaf108
Member

Pollock’s contract requests appear modest as well, of course the marketplace could decide differently, I guess we’ll see.

knoxfire30
Member
knoxfire30

pollock missed basically all of 2016 and played 2/3rds in 2017 and 2018 and is commanding a 5 year 80 mil type deal… HARD PASS , he is a nice player but he cant stay healthy, is on the wrong side of 30 and CF is probably the deepest minor league position in the organization

As Cirensica
Member

Yeah…Pollock is just an expensive Adam Eaton

GreatjonHumber
Member
GreatjonHumber

!!!

melidoperez
Member
melidoperez

Yes, still trying to erase those memories of Eaton averaging 144 games/5+ WAR a year in his 3 years here. No thanks to talented guys who can actually hit, run, and field competently who had injury issues in Arizona.

As Cirensica
Member

I wasn’t saying it was a bad thing. Also, Adam Eaton had only one 5+ season, your comment reads as though he IS a 5 WAR player on a consistent fashion

zerobs
Member
zerobs

Eaton had 2 5-war years with the Sox.

As Cirensica
Member

fWAR

melidoperez
Member
melidoperez

Sorry, was looking at baseball ref and he had 15.4 over the three years. My point being injury stuff can be freakish, and just looking at the last couple years and assuming a player will keep missing that much time might not be wise, as Eaton showed us by playing 144 a year with us after his issues.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Players who post 6+ bWAR probably SHOULD be expensive.

karkovice squad
Member
karkovice squad

He requires draft pick compensation. Given the risks involved, the Sox would be better off making ridiculously above-market 1- or 2-year offers to Brantley or McCutchen. That way the costs are all upfront when they’re easy to absorb.

Or signing Grandal if we’re looking at losing a draft pick.

HallofFrank
Member

This quote seems like a great thing to me. I’m sure they will sign players either way, but I think he’s just saying that premium talent is the aim and the backup is *not* whoever we can scrounge up for a few years. 

roke1960
Member

I agree with your take. I don’t think it’s Machado/Harper or bust. But it’s not going to be a winter of signing Melky and LaRoche just to fill up the roster.

NateDPT12
Member
NateDPT12

What doesn’t make sense is, if you’ve not converted on Harper/ Machado, why are you concerned about payroll flexibility?

The only person signed to a long term deal after this season is Anderson. If you think they’ve got payroll flexibility this year, just look at next year.  How would signing someone like Brantley this year limit their ability to go after Arenado/Rendon etc. next offseason?

It almost sounds like he’s talking about a $120M payroll restriction, (which is ridiculous for this franchise at this point in time) but even at that level, they should still be able to sign a premier FA next offseason as their payroll commitments going forward are practically non-existent. 

It also underscores the need for them to do pretty much whatever it takes to land Harper or Machado. They’re not going to be able to immediately flip the switch to contention purely with prospects. They need to start moving towards competitiveness now. Unless someone offers something like 425M+ over 12, there is no reason for them to be outbid for Harper or Machado. Even at that though I’d still consider it.

zerobs
Member
zerobs

You sort of answered your own question. Harper/Machado you might get into a bidding war for, no way you’re doing that for Brantley. I think Hahn is implying that he got into a bidding war for Cabrera and Robertson. The only thing indefensible about over extending for Cabrera et al is that they also cost high draft picks which one of the weakest farm systems could not afford to lose; the team did have a few 5 and 4 war players that needed supplementing at the time.

zerobs
Member
zerobs

If you think they’ve got payroll flexibility this year, just look at next year.

I agree to an extent but the 5-WAR free agents in next year’s crop are already older than Harper and Machado, and there’s no guarantee they’ll be available. That’s why I like Jim’s idea from the last thread about trading Abreu for a blocked prospect if its possible. I would also consider trading Rodon for a blocked prospect.

lil jimmy
Member
lil jimmy

You don’t spend money, just to spend money, but the average payroll last year was 138 million. This team could spend 80 million and still have a below average payroll.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Yup, the average MLB payroll in 2018 is about $8 million more than the White Sox record. Sure, Jerry used to spend bigly, but the league really left us in the dust the last few years.

karkovice squad
Member
karkovice squad

And median is about another $4m higher than that.

roke1960
Member

Another good sign for the Sox. It looks like the Twins are making the band-aid fixes that we don’t want the Sox to do. If they don’t spend big, I don’t see them being competitive this year. That would just leave the Indians to compete against.

yolmers gatorade
Member

I think the Sox should overpay for 3 years of JA Happ. Sure, at 18-20 million, he is probably not going to give surplus value. The Sox need another lefty starter though, and he could contribute to a winning g 2020 and 2021 team. These are the kinds of moves I think they should make now.

roke1960
Member

Nationals owner says their offer for Harper was the best they could do. He does not expect Harper to re-sign with them. Looks like one less suitor to compete with.

Trooper Galactus
Member

That also means that the White Sox are prepared to go over $300 million if they’re legitimately still in on him.

roke1960
Member

Hahn sure sounds serious about landing one of the two. I would imagine they’ll be in til the end for one or both.

jose robcada
Member
jose robcada

jim bowden today said on mlb network that he had heard that both the white sox and phillies offers had “dwarfed” that 10 year 300 million contract although he said he cant confirm… so white sox are really pushing very hard potentially