CHICAGO – With the start of the annual winter meetings less than three weeks away, the Chicago White Sox are still not fixed on a plan for altering the roster in advance of the 2016 season.
Everything from a traditional rebuild to a souped-up roster with the addition of free agents are all on the table, with general manager Rick Hahn set to base his decision according to what types of players are available through ongoing talks with player agents and fellow general managers.
“Since the end of the season, Rick has had a number of conversations with [chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] and I and we have bandied about a number of scenarios: Plan A, Plan B, Plan C,” executive vice president Kenny Williams said. “A lot of it depends on what’s available to you.
“For instance, if you put a wish list together and you head down a certain path and you see what the alternatives are, well if you like them, maybe you continue down that path and now it gives you clarity on direction. If you don’t, then perhaps that path is an unrealistic path to take so you shift gears and you go another (way).”
Williams cautioned against the thinking that it is extremely late in the game to still be considering a clear-cut plan for how to retool a roster that was disappointing from the outset this past season.
“I’ve been there so I certainly understand,” Williams said about his time as GM from 2001-12. “That’s why, I think, in past years we may have confused you guys sometimes: ‘Are they buying, or are they selling, or whatever because they asked about this particular free agent but this trade rumor keeps coming up?’ ‘Are they looking for players, and why did they ask about this veteran if they are doing that?’ So a lot of things are in play right now. I know it can be confusing but it’s completely understandable, from my perspective, that this is what you do before you decide on the definitive plan.”
The White Sox pushed payroll toward the $113 million mark last season despite years of declining attendance. And even though their average attendance of 21,677 was 13th among the 15 American League teams, Williams said that adding to the payroll for next year has not been ruled out.
“We have to see what the potential possibilities are and how they fit and if you add money on your right, can you subtract money on your left to make it work? Or can you simply just add money?” Williams said. “And money doesn’t cure all your ills so is it best to not go that route and to go the trade route, or to rely on your own players from your system? There are just so many things to factor in.”
When the winter meetings start in Nashville on Dec. 7 the White Sox’s direction is expected to be clear. It was at last year’s winter meetings in San Diego when they made a splash by trading for Jeff Samardzija and signing David Robertson. Those moves were lauded then, but failed to make a difference. Samardzija struggled, but the defense and some bad first-half offense didn’t help.
The club’s strength is pitching, but the White Sox cold end up sacrificing some of that strength, possibly by trading Jose Quintana, to help in other areas of their game.
“Well, it wasn’t because we didn’t have good pitching last year that we didn’t win,” Williams said. “It was spotty at times but it was also a lot of very stressful innings, especially early on when we didn’t score and we played poor defense. So I think those are the things you first look at.
“How can you shore up some of those areas with all the A, B and C plan that I talked about? And you might see a blend. We’ve done it before where we had to go young at a spot in order to be able to go with the veteran at another spot. A lot goes into it. I guess the best term is ebb and flow.”
Williams assures a direction is coming soon. It just isn’t available at the present time.
“There aren’t a whole lot of answers,” Williams said. “Rick is having conversation on a daily basis. I have a number of conversations with him on a daily basis with regard to how things are evolving. But as far as a plan of attack right now, if I went to him and said ‘OK, I want your definitive plan heading into the winter meetings,’ he couldn’t give it to me.”