When it comes time to open the checkbook and spend big in free agency, the resources will be there, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn promised.
For now, as the Sox patiently bring their prospects along through various phases of their rebuild, payroll likely will sit somewhere in the modest $70 million-$75 million range. But in a year or two, that should change significantly.
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“Being competitive in free agency and targeting big-ticket items and hopefully converting on them is going to be the next logical step when the time is right,” Hahn said at the Hilton Chicago at the outset of SoxFest on Friday. “Anyone who doubts that this organization will break from past perception or past process, I think the evidence is there over the last year that the old standard has fallen apart.’’
Jose Abreu’s six-year, $68 million deal signed before the 2014 season stands as the biggest splash in Sox history, although Albert Belle’s five-year, $55 million deal in 1996 was bigger considering the market prices at the time.
A nine-figure deal will be groundbreaking, but Hahn says the Sox already have busted “myths” about the organization by implementing a teardown and rebuilding, paying a $26 million tax to sign Cuban free agent Luis Robert on top of Robert’s $26 million bonus and making a blockbuster trade with the Cubs.
“Each of those steps along the way reinforced this process and put us closer to being in position to win championships,’’ Hahn said.
When it becomes apparent that the Sox need to add, he said, “I can certainly assure you that the resources will be available.’’
Whether it’s enough to win over free agents, well, there are no guarantees.
“Can I assure you we’re going to be able to convert on every target? No,’’ Hahn said. “Unfortunately, it’s going to be a robust and competitive market.’’
As for this season, Hahn said he’s fine going to camp with the current roster, which looks to have Abreu and Avisail Garcia, subjects of trade rumors, on board.
The Sox value Abreu more than other clubs because of his off-the-field contributions. Other teams know about Abreu’s work ethic and clubhouse presence, “but they don’t necessarily know how great a value he provides us, so it’s tough to line up potentially on a deal. And even though he’s only controllable for another two years, we view him as an important part to what we have going here.’’
Perhaps an extension is not out of the question.
“Knowing how active we’ve been in the last year, I know there is natural speculation that other veterans may be moved to continue to improve the future,’’ Hahn said, “but there is also an argument in certain cases that you find a way to extend that stay, so they are controllable through when you expect to be in a position to contend. On [Abreu], we don’t have to make that decision. We don’t have to make it next offseason even. We have to be aware of what the market is and be aware of what the cost is to keep him around, as well.’’
Abreu wants to stay and be on board if and when the team gets good. And he’s aware of the trade chatter.
“I know it’s out there,’’ he said. “But that’s something I can’t control.
“I love the city. I love the fans. I love the team. I feel honored to be here and feel honored to wear this jersey every day.’’
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