TCS Morning 5: Robbing Peter to pay Paul

1. "You don't want to rob Peter to pay Paul," has become a recognizable Rick Hahn phrase during his three-year reign, and it's not my favorite one to hear, since it's deployed as an explanation on why he's hesitant to do something. GMs are always more fun when they're making moves, even if they're doomed to fail. 

But here Hahn is revealing the fatal wound in the White Sox thrifty offseason plan that seems to be leaning away from any aggressive spending: To fill the gaps in the offense they appear primed to cut into their pitching strength with trades, and as Hahn himself worries, they risk undercutting a lot of their offensive progress by sapping pieces from a pitching staff that's good, but doesn't have much depth to step in and eat innings like Erik Johnson is expected to, let alone replace a Jose Quintana; the type of guy who might actually bring a meaningful offensive upgrade in return.

Dan Hayes doesn't have quotes of Hahn directly saying the Sox having a tight spending cap in free agency, or won't be aggressive on big-ticket guys, but between his account and the other beats, the indications that the Sox can't be expected to seek more than a few veterans to patch some holes in the infield from free agency is becoming clear. Hayes even suggests that right field--a position flush with more free agent talent than will be present for the next three years, and is currently occupied by the rapidly busting Avisail Garcia and the promising but deeply flawed Trayce Thompson--is going to be left alone, which is only half as gnarly as the possible wait the Sox would have as Carson Fulmer, Tyler Danish, Spencer Adams,  or even Jordan Guerrero (Hayes' mention of him is the first time I've heard of him discussed as a prospect) work their way up the chain and into the starting rotation.

2. This could be sold as the wisdom of avoiding free agency pitfalls, but this rings hollow after the Sox refused to eat contracts during their 2013 rebuild to get better prospects than Avisail Garcia (currently busting) and Leury Garica (who I'm not sure if the Sox themselves ever thought was any good).

Hahn is a good GM, but building a winner this offseason might be calling on him to be wizard; a top 3 guy in the game. Most GMs would simply have their worth tested by executing major trades to fill out their lineup. Without significant free agent outlay, Hahn will have to do that, then replace the holes in his pitching staff with raw prospects or cheap reclamation projects, and make it look like he didn't just carve up the best part of his roster.

The Sox have natural advantages in pitching development and injury avoidance, but we've seen the limits of how far that alone can take them the past several years, so unless all their lottery tickets hit again (Man, 2005 was fun, right?), and they're relying on trades to fill their gaps, their advantage over the competition has to be Hahn, which just isn't fair to ask.

3. Especially if he's going to stick with this:

 Scott Merkin

Scott Merkin

Shouts to everyone who tried to convince me that the Sox would purge the relatively stability of Alexei Ramirez at the risk of being stuck with the obviously unqualified Tyler Saladino. It's a long way to go, but they're in the lead right now, what with Ramirez at the GM meetings without a contract, and Sox media pondering Saladino for next year. Being benched for Mike Olt and going directly to Opening Day shortstop would be a hell of a career progression.

4. Jeff Samardzija's last act associated with the White Sox likely came Friday when he declined his qualifying offer. While he was only one of a slew of offseason moves that completely flopped, Samardzija was largest, most aggressive push toward competing in 2015 the Sox took. His total failure, and his role in completely demolishing the Sox playoff role with a horrible August, taxied the Sox far away from the playoff race,  helped drag them 10 games under .500, and out of the territory where the Sox apparently needed to be to justify to their owner that they needed more immediate spending to push this cheap, talented core over the top.

So yeah, I had some reasons other than just his 2016 projections for wanting him gone.

5. Hmmm...something positive. Gotta end with something positive....

Adam Engel is still the best hitter in the Arizona Fall League for some reason, and is clocking in .397/.524/.651 through 18 games with 16 walks and 10 strikeouts. There's a long list of reasons why this doesn't mean much but it's better to see Engel being the Fall League MVP than OPS'ing .400.

The White Sox re-upped their contract with the Birmingham Barons for two more years and through 2020. So...yeah, ok. Stability is good.

Chris Beck is recovering nicely from surgery to repair his ulnar nerve in his right elbow and is expected to return to activity in December. He might need to come into play in 2016 for reasons complained about above.