Aiming high, White Sox needs leading up to opener start with pitching

“Pitching concerns might be a little heavier on our mind than the position player side of things,” Hahn said Friday.

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — General manager Rick Hahn’s expectations are high enough to float “World Series” out there without rolling eyes at his first public appearance of 2022.

The Sox have one of the best teams in baseball on paper, but they shouldn’t be done putting finishing touches on the roster.

More pitching is needed to bolster a rotation of Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, Dallas Keuchel and Reynaldo Lopez, especially during a season that will follow a shortened spring training. Especially knowing Kopech never threw more than 132 innings in a minor-league season and will be returning to a starting role. And especially not knowing what Keuchel will do.

“Pitching concerns might be a little heavier on our mind than the position-player side of things,” Hahn said Friday.

The Sox would be in better shape with Carlos Rodon on the roster, but he signed a two-year, $44 million deal with the Giants on the first day of the second phase of free agency. Rodon’s return to the Sox wasn’t expected.

Rodon had his best season in 2021, throwing 132 innings — his most since 2016 — and posting a 13-5 record with a 2.37 ERA and 187 strikeouts. He also had a no-hitter and made his first All-Star team. Rodon, who has been plagued by elbow and shoulder injuries throughout his career, wasn’t the same during the second half as fatigue set in, swaying the Sox to decline giving him an $18.4 million qualifying offer. 

It was a choice that prompted Rodon’s agent, Scott Boras, to say “thank you” during the GM meetings in November. It also was a choice that ultimately cost the Sox draft-pick compensation.

In addition to rotation depth, the Sox also would do well to address the bullpen. Multipurpose infielder/outfielder Leury Garcia, best suited in that role, is the starting second baseman right now, and a platoon of Andrew Vaughn, Gavin Sheets, Adam Engel and Garcia is what the Sox have in right field.

Hahn suggested that would be good enough.

“We’re prepared to go forward with the roster we have right now,” Hahn said.

But as usual, hiding his cards as he always does, Hahn played it down the middle.

“However, we are fully aware that there are places where we can get ourselves better,” he said. “Pitching staff- and position player-wise.”

In any event, hours before the Rodon deal was announced, Hahn wasn’t expecting the instant free-agent and trade flurry of activity many predicted.

“Given the fact that we weren’t able to communicate with agents and other clubs [during the lockout], I’m not surprised it’s been a little bit slower than anticipated at this early stage,” he said.

Hahn expects the market to be active up to Opening Day. Just how active the Sox are will bear watching. He says he is, after all, aiming to win it all.

“I don’t think any of us would be doing our jobs properly — and by that I mean the front office, players, coaches — if our aspirations weren’t to win a championship, and feeling we need to do everything in our power to win the World Series in 2022,” Hahn said.

“To a man and woman in the organization, the goal is to do everything in our power to win in 2022.”

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