Here is what White Sox GM Rick Hahn had to say at his meeting with media Monday at the Winter Meetings in San Diego:
On Ken Williams and the Blue Jays:
“There is zero doubt in my mind that everybody in this room, when we’re going through our plans is 100 percent focused on the White Sox right now. And until the day that one of us isn’t here I expect that to continue to be the case.’’
Progress in trade talks and free agent discussions?
“We’ve got a lot of conversations ongoing on multiple fronts right now. Some are frankly a little farther along than others and we are in a couple of scenarios where we could get within a phone call or two of getting something done. That said, we’ve been in that position before and will be again where you get really close but it doesn’t quite come to fruition. I think it’s important we stay diligent and aggressive on numerous fronts until we get to the point that we’re able to convert on one of our higher priority targets.’’
Do leaks, rumors, hinder your efforts?
“It’s extremely difficult, extremely difficult. And on the one hand, as a fan of the game, it’s an exciting time and it’s good there’s all this focus on baseball when it’s cold in most of the country and people are bearing down for the holidays. It’s an exciting time for the fans as they get hope up for their clubs. Obviously you all have a job to do and the reporters downstairs do and have responsibilities to their readers. Selfishly though it makes it real hard, real hard. When stuff gets out you then are subject to other clubs potentially jumping in and bidding up a price on a free agent conceivably or accelerating their timetables whether it be on that target or on backup targets because they’re worried they’re going to lose that person. You could have other clubs jumping into trade talks. Over the years it has proven much more beneficial for us to keep things out of the light of day. I get why it happens. It’s part of the business and if I weren’t wearing my White Sox hat I’d be following it all and excited just like everybody else.
Would you pay big money for a closer?
“The way we see it we have X dollars to spend and Y number of needs. It’s more a question of how do we allocate to make the most impact on the 2015 club and beyond. Do we try to acquire to fill a certain need via trade or do we dip into the free agent market to address that need and look for a trade in another spot? As we said through the start of the offseason, not every need is going to be satisfied through the free agent market. One, that’s not a great way to build your club and two, it’s just not realistic given the volume of needs that other clubs have and who’s readily available. The short answer, if that’s possible at this time, is, yeah, it’s conceivable that we wade into free agency to reinforce the bullpen but we still have despite some of our struggles in 2014 we do have a strong drafting and player record in terms of developing closers and it’s something we’re optimistic will continue into the future.
Is hard-throwing prospect Francellis Montas (acquired in Jake Peavy deal) considered a closer possibility?
“I think we all view Frankie long term as a starter and that is a testament to his stuff and pitchability. Now there is that possibility, similar to a guy lie Buehrle, Sale, Garland to an extent or the old Baltimore Orioles way that we bring some if these starting pitcher prospects through the bullpen as a way of getting them more major league ready, getting their feet wet at the major league level. I know a lot of people I read from outside the organization think Montas can close for a major league club now and that may have some appeal come spring. But right now we’re viewing him long term as a starter and haven’t yet determined yet is his big league career will start in the pen or in the rotation.
How do you view the rest of the AL Central?
“Shoot, we had the AL champs and a separate division winner in our division, so when we set out to assess where we’re at for ’15 and where we need to get to it’s a pretty high bar based on how teams performed last year. Cleveland made a nice pickup today and I’m sure there’s others coming for them. Terry Ryan and his staff in Minnesota is as good as they get so we have four tough obstacles in our division. That was the case in 14 and we expect it to continue.’’
Does Tony Campana have a chance to make the team?
“Campana brings an 80-run tool which is a nice piece to have around and something we don’t have a lot of in the organization right now. We signed him to a minor league deal with an invite to show us what he can do come spring. We certainly saw with Kansas City the impact of Gore and Dyson come September and into October and Tony has the chance to be that type of player if not more before then.”
How is Nate Jones (Tommy John surgery, due back mid-season at earliest) coming along?
“He’s coming along fine. The thing with Nate is he’s go, go, go and wants to be out there quickly and wants to be 100 percent quickly. He recently had a checkup with Dr. Andrews and our doctors checked up with him and the agent and Nate and the uniform message Nate got was ‘Let’s slow down a little bit, take your time. This is for your long-term benefit. You don’t need to be off a mound Dec. 1 or whenever you’re trying to accomplish.’ He’s feeling good and if anything, we need to tap him down a little bit.’’
Weighing going for it now against sustained success:
“I don’t think any of us are eager to forsake the future to win for the short-term for a marketing impact or a short term bang for the buck. The focus is always about extended windows for as long as we possibly can. Now we’re in a position from a prospect standpoint where we render some things for short term fixes we’re be able to backfill internally with impact prospects and players that will keep us where we want to be for an extended period. So that’s what we’re balancing.
Do you have more trade pieces in your farm system than when you became GM 2 years ago?
“I think a lot of it is a lot closer and perceived as higher impact so it is higher than it was two years ago. That comes also with the caveat that you are more reluctant to move it because you see what other clubs see that you have potentially high impact players. Some at premium positions, and that has a great deal of value not just via trade but internally if you were able to keep it. So it’s a good problem to have and a position we’ve worked hard over the last few years to get ourselves into.
Brantly was claimed on waivers today. That gives you 5 catchers on the 40-man roster.
“Five is a big number of catchers on the 40-man. So we’ll address that over the course of the next several weeks or so. We like that Brantly is lefthanded, is still young, his receiving skills started solid, regressed a little bit and actually improved in recent months according to our reports. He has options left so he provides us depth if he’s not on the big-league club. He’s an interesting guy. Like having that balance and depth at that position.
“Everything is a prelude to a possible move. No matter what else we were talking about we would have put in a claim on Brantly. You have a lefthanded hitting catcher who is major league ready and provides us depth at a premium position. That’s an asset.
Can you land a right-handed starter via trade?
“It’s absolutely possible. There’s a fair amount of free agents still out there are well so we’re not committed to either path just yet, still talking to other clubs as well as agents. We haven’t really ruled out any avenue on any lead just yet. If a couple of these free agent names come off the board in the coming days than yeah we may have to refocus on trades.
Is Lester backing everything up?
“I still don’t know. Most of the dialogue we’ve had with other clubs or agents, nobody has said ‘I need to wait until this happens to get serious with you guys.’ That may be the case and may be soft pedaling a little but I haven’t picked up on it.
Spending big on a closer would prove you want to win right now
“We hope to make impact moves for each of our needs. Whether it’s a big name or an expensive piece in the rotation, the bullpen or a position player standpoint, I think it would send that type of message. We’re very cognizant of the fact that it’s nice to make headlines in December, but none of it is going to matter if we’re not winning in June or July or certainly September. So while doing something big or splashy now might resonate with the fans and show that we mean business, the results on the field will truly be what dictates whether we got it right and whether we’ve answered what they asked for from us.
Trade position players for other needs?
“It’s realistic we would potentially subtract from our big league club to address other needs on the big league club. We’ve gotten to the point as a farm system where we have multiple options that are appealing to other clubs, and as long as it’s not someone that necessarily takes away from the ’15 club and puts us in a detriment for ’16 and beyond, I think we would seriously consider moving anybody who made us better for an extended period.
Hesitate to go back to long-term deals that previously sunk the club?
“We worked hard to get to the point we’re at right now where we have some flexibility. And we knew that entering the 2015 season was going to be a bit of a pivot point for the major league club, even going back a couple of years when you looked at us on paper when you knew that Dunn, Peavy, Rios and PK were likely going to be elsewhere for 2015, that this was always going to be a time where we had some choices to make. Do we spend more for free agents? Do we try to acquire some high-priced talent via trade? And how is the best and most prudent way to put that club together? When we make a large commitment, whether it’s a guy like Abreu or Sale or the next free agent we sign, it’s not with the eye that we’re going to necessarily have dead money on the back end of it. Does it happen? Yeah. It’s part of the cost of doing business, and none of us in this industry are smart enough to identify on the way in where it’s going to be. We sort of know in our mind that that’s going to happen, but as a result we don’t shy away from deals that have a reasonable chance to make us better for an extended period of time.
Acquiring a guy for one year and make it work?
“It’s not ideal. It’s not the No. 1 target or plan as you enter the offseason, but as opportunities arise that you know are certainly going to improve you in the short term and potentially allow you the opportunity to still contend in the long term, you still have to look at it. It’s about the cost exchange. It’s a cost-benefit thing in the end. How long is the control you’re acquiring? What are you giving up to get that control? And what’s the likelihood you’re going to be able to extend that control beyond the short period you acquired? It’s more art than science, but at the end of the day, if it puts us in a better position to contend for ’15 and reasonably ’16 and ’17, then you have to seriously consider it.