A desire for a younger roster, with players who will be around for the long term, will frame the Chicago White Sox’s decisions this offseason.
General manager Rick Hahn confirmed the White Sox’s desires at this week’s general managers meetings in Boca Raton, Florida. The plan suggests that trades will take priority over free-agent signings.
“We haven’t closed off any options in terms of building this team going forward,” Hahn told a group of reporters. “I think ideally we’re going to be adding pieces, though, that are younger and more controllable for an extended period of time. That’s the ideal plan, but we have not closed off any avenues: free agency, trade, waiver, and whatever else you can come up with.”
The White Sox added a number of veterans last winter via free agency, including Adam LaRoche, David Robertson, Melky Cabrera and Zach Duke. Yet for all their spending, the club was just three games better in 2015 than they were the previous year.
Adding younger players, under team control, would bring more cost certainty moving forward, but could alter their ability to contend in 2016. It’s a sacrifice they would be willing to make, though, to have a more well-rounded and competitive roster at some point in the near future.
It would be a continued departure from the club’s previous strategy of filling holes with proven talent -- something that led to their 2005 championship, but has provided only marginal returns, and one playoff appearance, in the decade since.
It isn’t necessarily a new concept, since the White Sox have gone the young, under-control route with trades for players like Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia, while drafting pitchers like Carlos Rodon and Carson Fulmer.
After declining a one-year, $10 million contract on Alexei Ramirez, the White Sox could get younger at shortstop. But they haven’t closed the door on keeping things as they were at that position.
“Essentially the decision that was made that day was that we weren’t going to pay Alexei $10 million for 2016,” Hahn said. “We haven’t closed the door on potentially bringing Alexei back. He’s served us extremely well for eight years in a White Sox uniform and obviously middle infield is a position of interest for us going into this offseason. So we’ll be talking to his (agent) and nothing has been shut for the future just yet.”
The White Sox’s wish, obviously, would be to pay Ramirez less per season. If Ramirez was open to that, it would likely be for multiple years to lock in more guaranteed money. But Hahn admitted that middle infielders are desired around the game and Ramirez’s “market will be strong.”
On the club's horizon at shortstop is the arrival of top prospect Tim Anderson, a midseason and postseason All-Star at Double-A Birmingham this past season. Anderson, though, probably won't be ready to be an everyday player for at least two more years.
“I don’t think we can cut off any avenues of getting better right now and catcher is certainly not immune to that,” Hahn said. “As we have said time and again, (Flowers) has done an excellent job of sticking with the gameplan and calling good games and our pitchers like throwing to him. If you buy into the framing metrics he has turned himself into one of the top three or four in terms of framing.
“So there is certainly value there. But we entered this offseason looking to get better in any spot. We don’t feel we are in position to say we’re too good, or set at any individual spot, and that includes catcher.”
-- ESPN.com’s Jesse Rogers contributed to this report