As White Sox general manager Rick Hahn prepared last winter to oversee a long-term rebuilding project, he divided the process into several stages. The first involved trading veterans to contending teams for minor-league prospects. The second focused on player development as those prospects climbed the ranks and reached the big leagues.
The mission of the third stage was clear and concise: Compete for championships.
On Friday, Hahn said he felt good about the first chapter of the rebuild, now complete.
“It’s what we, as a group, set off to do 12 months ago or so, whenever this process officially started,” said Hahn, who traded veteran right-hander Miguel Gonzalez to the Texas Rangers late Thursday to wrap up a busy season of trading. “We’re pleased with how this first stage went. We know there’s more work to do, but the first element of it has gone, for the most part, according to plan.”
Commence Stage 2.
The Sox don’t look at September as the final month of a long, losing season. Instead, the front office and coaching staff see this as an opportunity to test young players with an eye toward 2018. Pitchers such as Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer all stand to benefit from a strong finish. Position players such as Tim Anderson, Matt Davidson, Adam Engel, Yoan Moncada (when healthy) and Nicky Delmonico (when healthy) also will be evaluated daily with the future in mind.
“It’s almost a better test than spring training because it’s actually ongoing here,” manager Rick Ren-teria said. “We’re going to use every possible moment for us to evaluate and assess where they’re at, with the understanding that we know there’s still things that they need to improve upon. We’ll use this last month to do a lot of assessment. Hopefully, we’re spot-on in terms of what we see or don’t see.”
In what could be a 100-loss season, details likely will matter more than game outcomes in the final month. Does a young hitter sprint out of the batter’s box every time? How does a pitcher handle a borderline call that doesn’t go his way? What kind of teammates are they?
“They are still a part of the Chicago White Sox as a team, and that cannot be lost,” Renteria said. “They’re performing to do things that will help us win on a daily basis. It’s not a selfish approach in that ‘I’m just going to take care of me.’ That doesn’t function anywhere, not in the long term. So, hopefully the way they’re playing the game is the way they’re supposed to, and they continue to learn and expand their capabilities.”
Fulmer, 23, arrived Friday as the Sox expanded their roster. The hard-throwing right-hander spent the bulk of the year at Class AAA Charlotte, where the clubhouse often buzzed with news of the latest player to be promoted.
“We know that we are the future of this ballclub,” Fulmer said. “We just have to hang around each other as much as we can in order to get that brotherhood the way we want it. With the mix of veteran guys that we have here and the young guys, we definitely have something special here.”
More losses could lead to a higher draft pick in 2018, but Hahn isn’t focused on that. He cares more about Stage 2 than pick No. 1.
“It looks to be a robust draft class,” he said. “Whether we’re picking one, three, five or whatever, we’re going to wind up with a very interesting talent to add into this mix.”
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