It’s Hahn’s Time to Shine

Rick Hahn is going to have the first shot to put his mark on the White Sox organization very soon.  As the Sox continue to struggle and fall farther and farther out of contention the coming fire sale seems more and more inevitable.

The hope for this season was that the team could perform similarly to last year, relying on pitching and defense and an offense powered mostly by home runs and the occasional clutch hit to stay close to the Tigers atop the AL Central and maybe get lucky and sneak into the postseason if thing fell the right way.

They have not fallen the right way, in fact things couldn’t possibly be falling more the wrong way for the White Sox this year. 

The offense has been a disaster.  Paul Konerko’s age seems to have finally caught up with him and the player we saw in the second half of last season seems to be all that is left.

Adam Dunn has reverted back to 2011 form.  Tyler Flowers seems to be what we thought he was, Dayan Viciedo has not gotten any better and Jeff Keppinger has been a tremendous disappointment. As a result, the White Sox rank near the bottom of the American League in nearly every offensive category including dead last in hits, runs and OPS. 

It appears that the organizations attempt to squeeze one more run out of this group has failed and it is time to look to the future.  Rick Hahn will be tasked with rebuilding the White Sox starting right now.  It has been a long time since the White Sox went into total rebuild mode.

You need to go back to 1997 and the infamous “White Flag Trade.”  Much maligned at the time it was the first step in a rebuild process between the mid-90’s teams and the teams in the early to mid-2000’s that won two divisions and a World Series.  Even though the Sox were only 3.5 games out at the time the organization realized that it was time to move on, as it is now.

Where do the Sox and Rick Hahn go from here?  Well the first place you look is at your own farm system, which I am sorry to say is not very good.  Kenny Williams’ “rebuild on the fly” philosophy has left the cupboard pretty bare for his successor.

The Sox have failed to develop talent during the Williams Era and that is what makes things so difficult now.  With the exception of the oft called for Josh Phegley, the Sox don’t have any other position players in the minors who look ready to contribute at the Major League level.  Jared Mitchell, the Sox 1st round pick in 2009 was demoted from AAA to AA this year and is hitting .152 for Birmingham.  He is joined by Keenyn Walker, 1st rounder in 2011, who is hitting .213 in Birmingham.  These two were supposed to make up two-thirds of the White Sox outfield of the future.

Trayce Thompson, another outfield prospect is doing a little better at AA, hitting .264/.373/.426 but still seems to be at least a year away.  Like I said, there isn’t much there. 

The Sox will need to rebuild the minor league system.  Part of this is done through the draft, which Rick Hahn had his first crack at last week. Hahn’s first number one pick was shortstop Tim Anderson, who was drafted to be the heir apparent to Alexei Ramirez.

Players drafted this year are projects though and not ready to contribute now.  For a more immediate solution the Sox will need to acquire some prospects via trades.  This will be the where Hahn needs to come through.  The Sox will have at least a few tradable commodities as the deadline nears.

Jesse Crain is having a spectacular season leading the AL in holds and reliever ERA and he’s in the final year of his deal.  The market for relievers looks to be very thin this year so Crain should fetch a good return.  Alex Rios and Jake Peavy each have one year left after this year on their contracts but have both performed well this year and could fetch a good return to the right team, especially if the Sox are willing to pick up some of their salary.  Even Paul Konerko, in the final year of his deal, could be worth something to the right team if he starts hitting a little more.  The key will be for Hahn to get the biggest return for these players.

The Sox are in need of Major League ready talent, or players that will be ready within the next couple years, these are the prospects Hahn should be targeting. 

This will not be a quick fix. The Sox need help in a number of different spots. They lack run producers on their team and in their farm system.  This will be a several year project and Rick Hahn will have to utilize the draft, trades and free agency to get the Sox back to being competitive.

If you make the right moves, you can turn things around in a couple years, if you miss on your trades and draft poorly you can be the Royals or the Pirates.  Rick Hahn will have the chance to put his stamp on this team starting now and how well he does will shape the look of this franchise for the next five to ten years.

Stay tuned on, as we'll soon take a look into exactly what the White Sox can expect to get this trade season.