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Hahn understands fan reaction to A.J.'s departure

CHICAGO -- Rick Hahn wasn't very happy with Wilber Marshall's free-agent departure from the Bears to the Redskins in 1988 or when Horace Grant left the Bulls for the Magic before the 1994-95 season.

Hahn may be the general manager of the White Sox, but he also is a fan in his own right. So he understands fans' disappointment over A.J. Pierzynski's eight-year run on the South Side of Chicago coming to an end when his one-year deal with the Rangers became official on Wednesday.

"Oh, absolutely. I understand fans' perspective and frustration," Hahn told during a phone interview on Wednesday. "I've been there myself, and I'll be there again.

"At the same time, it's incumbent upon us to act in the best long-term interest of the organization as opposed to making the short-term, easier decision. It's not fun saying goodbye to someone who has played a significant role in our organization's success like A.J. It was not fun saying goodbye with Mark [Buehrle] last year. We have to evolve and move forward and develop young players."

Hahn praised Pierzynski's work over the past eight years, speaking to his durability, his productiveness, his ability to come ready to play every day and how he will be missed in the clubhouse. He then explained the twofold reason for moving on from the veteran, who was an essential part of the 2005 World Series champion squad.

Tyler Flowers stands as reason No. 1, with the White Sox strongly believing in his ability. Hahn doesn't feel the White Sox will lose anything in regard to defense or calling a game, and Flowers' work with the staff already has been outstanding. Offensively, Hahn likes Flowers' power potential and ability to get on base.

"We feel it's time to determine whether [Flowers] can be a long-term solution like A.J. was behind the plate for many years," said Hahn.

That second factor dealt with the White Sox allocating portions of their projected $109 million payroll to address other more pressing priorities than catcher, thanks to that faith in Flowers. Those included bringing back Jake Peavy to solidify the rotation and finding another infielder capable of playing third base, which ended up in a three-year, $12 million deal for free agent Jeff Keppinger.

And the offseason is not over yet for Hahn and the White Sox. A left-handed bat to balance the lineup remains a focus in talks with other teams, as well as with potential free agents, to a lesser extent. Hahn stressed that the White Sox won't add a left-handed bat just because he hits from the left side.

This particular player would have to be a decided improvement over what the White Sox already have and fit into the roster. Hahn also won't be forced into making an immediate splashy move to counteract Kansas City's acquisition of James Shields, Cleveland's signing of Nick Swisher, or Detroit's signing of Torii Hunter and Anibal Sanchez.

"Nobody cares midsummer or early fall when we acquired a player. They care how the record is," Hahn said. "Nothing is going to stop because it's Jan. 1 or the start of Spring Training or Opening Day.

"Player X might be in a position Opening Day, and then we decide June 1 or July 1 to find somebody else. It never stops. It's nice to do something in the wintertime and get the fans going and excited about baseball, but it's much more important to me to put together the most competitive roster, even if it means going with internal options as opposed to a splashy move."

Though the door never was closed on Pierzynski's return, ultimately, the "honest and productive dialogue" between the two sides ended with Pierzynski moving to Texas.

"A.J. Pierzynski played a major role in many of the greatest moments in recent Chicago White Sox history," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement released by the team on Wednesday about Pierzynski signing with Texas. "From reaching first base in Game 2 of the 2005 American League Championship Series, to his double in Game 3 of the World Series in Houston, to his performance behind the plate during the 2008 'Blackout Game' division-winning 1-0 victory, A.J. was a key contributor, often in his own very unique way.

"Every White Sox fan appreciates and celebrates what A.J. meant to this organization during his time in Chicago. A.J. epitomized Chicago's South Side through his toughness, his attitude, his flair for the dramatic and his passion for the game. He came to compete -- and to win -- every day.

"A.J. will forever be appreciated and remembered by White Sox fans as a very special member of this franchise. He earned that spot in our hearts. I personally wish A.J. the very best with the Rangers and with the rest of his career. I suspect U.S. Cellular Field will be one ballpark where A.J. Pierzynski will never be booed. He's earned our cheers."

Chicago White Sox