SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The White Sox have arrived at the point in their rebuild where they should improve their roster significantly, take the next step and play to win.
The time has come when general manager Rick Hahn and executive vice president Ken Williams should be feeling more than a little pressure to make that next step after seven straight losing seasons.
This offseason calls for boldness, fearlessness and shrewd risk taking. Read into it what you will, but Williams was in a good mood after checking in at the Omni Resorts, this year’s site of the GM gathering. You would be, too, on a sunny 76-degree afternoon that began in the cold November snow for Chicagoans like Williams.
“We’re here to do business as usual,” Williams said. “Well, not usual. More than usual.”
Let’s hope so. These meetings set in motion preliminary talks and texts among GMs with GMs, and GMs with agents laying groundwork for offseason plans. And while you will hear the Sox linked to most, if not all of the free agents including the big ones – Scott Boras clients Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg – we won’t know how serious their intentions are until actual offers are accepted or rejected.
With little in the way of bad contracts on the books, and minimal payroll obligations for 2020, think of the possibilities. The Sox have cash to spend and no reason to stash it any longer.
“We do have some economic flexibility,” Hahn said in September. “That was part of the plan from the start.”
Hahn, the face and voice in of the rebuild, had yet to arrive, his flight delayed in Chicago. He will address media Tuesday and Wednesday to share his first formal thoughts on the offseason since late September. Expect him to play things closer to the vest than last offseason, when intentions to pursue Manny Machado and Bryce Harper were made clear.
Remember how that worked out?
The Sox will sign free agents but will make trades, too, and because you just never know if a Kyle Schwarber or Kris Bryant can be pried away from a team like the Cubs looking to retool under a first-year manager, something off the map shouldn’t be ruled out.
Long shots, sure, but oh, the intrigue.
Four years into a rebuild, the Sox figured their farm system would be deep enough now to use prospects for adding established or major league ready players to their roster. Their ample supply of minor league outfielders, as a whole, stalled in 2019. Injuries were a factor as they were to a nice supply of pitchers including Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning, Zack Burdi and Jimmy Lambert. So Hahn’s pool of prospect pieces is limited.
If that means taking a chance by doing the near-unthinkable and moving, say, shortstop Tim Anderson or Yoan Moncada in a can’t refuse 2- or 3-for one blockbuster that brings the Sox closer to winning a World Series sooner rather than later, the Sox should pull the trigger on such a deal. Maybe pony up and sign Rendon to play third base while they’re at it.
Moncada and Anderson are building blocks and potential future All-Stars being brought along, as planned, in a young group including Eloy Jimenez and Lucas Giolito.
But the motto should be, “whatever it takes.” Even if it hurts a little.
Of course, the Sox would rather see Moncada and Kopech flourish and make the Chris Sale trade, already a winner for the Red Sox because the left-hander helped them win a World Series in 2018, a win for both sides.
They want to see Anderson, their 2013 first-round draft choice and AL batting champion, take the next step defensively and show the baseball world they can draft and develop. They want Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease give them a decided victory over the Cubs in the Quintana trade.
Here’s to seeing those things happen. More importantly, Sox fans say, here’s to winning again.
The pressure is on Hahn and Williams to — with more than usual ambitions — make that happen in 2020.