Saturday, March 25 2023

As offseason begins, Sox’ Hahn’s attention turns to trades originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The White Sox have their manager in place after officially hiring Pedro Grifol last week.

Now comes the hard part: Making sure they have the right players.

A number of issues impacted the White Sox in 2022 as they finished .500 and missed the postseason for the first time since 2019, including injuries and underperformance across the roster.

“Just about everything that could go wrong last year went wrong,” general manager Rick Hahn at the GM Meetings this week.

“So, there is an element of, well, better health and guys being with a new staff, having a new voice and just natural regression back to their normal levels of performance will improve us.”

But Hahn also knows the White Sox can’t sit idly this winter and count only on better health and positive regression for their players.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in the room who’s pounding the table for, ‘let’s stand pat, run it back with these guys,’” Hahn said. “We know there’s areas we can get better.”

Even entering 2022, when they were universally projected to win the AL Central, the White Sox roster had room for improvement. Depth was an issue going in and was magnified as injuries piled up.

While Hahn said he expects to be more active in trades than free agency, he said that “doesn’t mean we’re closing off any avenues.”

“We’ll look at things,” he said. “But again, we’re committed to a handful of guys already based on the contracts that we’ve given out in the past. It doesn’t mean they’re necessarily all going to be here come Opening Day.

“But there’s a reason we gave these guys the money we did and that’s because we believe in their upside. Getting them back to the level that they performed at in the past is a priority for next year.”

For what it’s worth, free agents could officially begin signing with new teams Thursday.

But whether you’re talking trades or looking at the open market, second base, outfield and starting pitching stand as three of the White Sox’ biggest needs.

The White Sox declined Josh Harrison’s 2023 club option this week, and AJ Pollock declined his player option. They have internal options at second but will pursue an addition.

RELATED: White Sox to pursue 2B addition after Josh Harrison move

Who will flank center fielder Luis Robert is uncertain. Hahn didn’t rule out top outfield prospect Oscar Colas as an option in right. Eloy Jiménez’ primary position may be DH. He showed in the second half he can produce there while largely not playing the field.

Johnny Cueto was a great late pickup, but it appears he will leave as a free agent. The White Sox will need to add at least one starter; their rotation depth chart currently includes Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito and Davis Martin.

“Finding a way to fill that would be good,” Hahn said of the void left by Cueto. “Now, Martin’s an option, so it’s not an emergency by any stretch.

“No one’s ever going to feel comfortable they have enough pitching.”

As far as catcher, Yasmani Grandal getting healthy and returning to his 2021 level “would be a huge shot in the arm,” Hahn said, adding he expects Grandal will benefit from working with Grifol.

“Do we have to add a catcher to accomplish what we want to do next year? No,” Hahn said when specifically asked. “Do we have to get better at various positions? Yes. And certainly, that was one area we underperformed.”

Fans let Hahn know how they feel about the position at both airports during his trip to Las Vegas for the GM Meetings.

“I was getting my bag and had various fans tell me that catcher was an area we need to improve at,” Hahn said. “So, word is out on that. I get that that’s out there.

“Certainly, an area where we could stand improvement, whether that comes internally or externally.”

None of this even mentions Grifol and Hahn have each stressed the Sox defense has to improve, an area Grifol said he’s a “stickler.”

“Pedro and his staff are going to prioritize it,” Hahn said. “And certainly when it comes to putting this roster together, there’s certain things that we can do to improve that area.”

Part of that solution could come from Andrew Vaughn moving to first base if the Sox let José Abreu walk as a free agent.

Vaughn and Gavin Sheets played out of position in the outfield in 2022 to accommodate a roster crowded with first basemen and designated hitters.

The Sox need a roster full of frontline talent to play up to its capabilities after a disappointing season. They also should look outside the organization for reinforcements.

“We certainly believe that things evening out will be in our favor next year, in terms of guys getting closer to their traditional levels of health and playing and performance,” Hahn said. “But we still know we have work to do.”

Contributing from Las Vegas: Gordon Wittenmyer

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Source: Yahoo Sports


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