TCS Morning 5: Rick Hahn saying the right things

1. The White Sox didn't actually get anything done on Thursday, but the buzz of acquiring average (or better!) infielder for spare minor league arms has them talking like, well, the way they probably should have been talking the entire time.

From Doug Padilla:

It’s a bit of a balancing act. You don’t want to set yourself back for the long term. At the same time, we have the prime [years] of certain players on our roster under control and want to maximize our chances to win while we have the benefit of such special talent.
— Rick Hahn

This quote is kind of contradictory in the first place, you can't really maximize the competitive window while also being concerned about the long view. If the Sox are really about maximizing the next two years, they should be fencing Tim Anderson for the best stud they can get. But the fanbase doesn't really want the Sox to operate like that anymore, of which I'm sure there aware

Second, and more importantly, until the Sox actually do something than extreme bargain shopping for infielders and catching platoons, claims that they're maximizing their chances to win, rather than just trying to fill out competent depth on a tight budget and hoping 60th percentile or above results from their Sale-Abreu-Quintana-Rodon-Eaton core can drag the rest of the roster to the playoffs, are unfounded.

A pie-in-the-sky vision for this offseason is that the intention behind the catching platoon, trading for Lawrie, and the rumored pursuit of Todd Frazier--valuable but not costly--is to plug the many holes on the diamond at low prices and allow for a pursuit of a big ticket corner outfielder or other bat without adding much beyond $30 million to the current payroll. One splurge in exchange for a whole slate of miraculous wheeling and dealing. But even that, given that Jose Abreu is the richest contract in franchise history, is probably an unlikely outcome all things considered.

So it's a positive that Hahn is openly stating that winning in the primes of Sale, Abreu & Co. is the goal and the driving principle, something less than that is clearly happening.

2. On the topic of clearing budget room, what a sad, Sisyphean effort this has quickly become.

With the Mariners adding Adam Lind and the Pirates not even interested in a $5 million flier for LaRoche, this is looking like the Sox are stuck for now. Jim Margalus posited that the Sox have crossed the threshold where they'd save the same amount money just playing LaRoche for a month or two to see if he is completely done, and then cutting the cord.

The only objection I would have to this is that if the Sox do add a bat, it's going to be very hard to give him at-bats along with Avisail Garcia, Trayce Thompson, Melky Cabrera, Jose Abreu and Justin Upton or someone like him who would conceivably be playing everyday.

3. In a minor move that may not be that insignificant, the White Sox acquired left-handed hurler Will Lamb from the Rangers in exchange for Myles Jaye. Lamb, who spent last year in Triple-A, and has been working out of the bullpen for the last three seasons, is 25-years-old, and apparently built like Chris Sale (6'6", 180 lbs). 

Less like Chris Sale, he throws high 80s-to-low 90s with average breaking stuff and a fringey change, and has been mired in control problems throughout his career. Jaye is not some sort of stud by any means, but had a good step forward in his second season as a starter in Double-A this past season as a 23-year-old. Out of some hometown bias, I would imagine he's a better sorta-prospect than Lamb, but left-handed relief has been a tiny category where the Sox have been nearly completely unable to find solutions or reasonable minor league depth. This deal, however small and light on hope, is actually needed.

4. The White Sox also lost 28-year-old right-hander Blake Smith to the Padres in the Rule 5 draft. Smith, a converted outfielder formerly of the Dodgers system, recorded 42 strikeouts and 15 walks in 30 innings for a 3.30 ERA at Triple-A Charlotte in his only year in the Sox organization.

The Padres could certainly be bad enough to stash Smith through his struggles if they were uniquely motivated, but this seems like quite the stretch for him to last on an MLB roster for an entire year.

5. The Twins signed South Korean first baseman Byung-ho Park for a song, and traded for catcher John Ryan Murphy, and the Tigers signed Jordan Zimmerman, and have been active in seeking bullpen help, but it's been a relatively quiet offseason in the AL Central thus far. At least in the sense that no team has radically changed their station or established themselves as favorites based on offseason moves. The Indians are, if anything, clearly working on an even tighter budget than the Sox, since their offseason targets have included Steve Pearce, Shane Victorino and Pedro Alvarez.

More importantly, the Royals, after winning the division by a mile last season, have lost Ben Zobrist, are not even in the conversation to retain Johnny Cueto, appear outgunned to re-sign Alex Gordon, and have been talking about things like making Jarrod Dyson a full-time player when discussing how to fill their positional holes. They have brought back Joakim Soria, and their bullpen should be a hellish gauntlet again, but there's been nothing to drive away the sense that the time is now for the Sox to strike with their current core.