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Hahn gives year-end State of the White Sox

GM discusses Abreu, Renteria, prospects and free agency
September 27, 2019

CHICAGO -- General manager Rick Hahn spoke to the media for 25 minutes Friday in his 2019 State of the White Sox season-ending press conference. Here’s a look at some of the points stressed and what those points could mean in the short and long term. Jose Abreu One of

CHICAGO -- General manager Rick Hahn spoke to the media for 25 minutes Friday in his 2019 State of the White Sox season-ending press conference. Here’s a look at some of the points stressed and what those points could mean in the short and long term.

Jose Abreu
One of the wittiest comments made by Hahn focused upon prior comments made by first baseman José Abreu and White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf concerning the free agent-to-be staying with the organization beyond 2019.

“With Jose, we’ve heard his thought that even if we don’t re-sign him he’s going to re-sign himself,” Hahn said. “We’ve heard Jerry’s thoughts about [how Abreu is] always going to wear a White Sox uniform.

“I don’t think they are going to be teaching this in negotiation classes in college any time soon how this one is unfolding. But my takeaway from all that is that there’s a strong desire on both sides to figure out a way to keep Jose in a White Sox uniform beyond this year.”

Hahn mentioned previous free-agent situations involving captain Paul Konerko, including one where Konerko went deep into free agency, but they still ended with Konerko returning.

Takeaway: Abreu returns on a two-year deal, with a possible option for a third. He will finish his career with the White Sox and be part of the prime contention phase of this rebuild.

Rick Renteria did an exceptional job leading the way in the beginning phase of this rebuild. But Renteria always was designed to be with the White Sox beyond that earliest point.

“Obviously, the history and teaching and communicating and holding guys accountable is very important now,” said Hahn of Renteria. “But even at the time we hired him, we felt he had the ability to not only set the right winning culture but to put guys in the best position to win.

“His ability to communicate with all 25 or 26 guys on a daily basis, to know where they're at, to know what they're capable of doing and putting them in the best position makes us fairly confident that once that roster is deep enough and strong enough that he's going to be able to maximize the win potential with that roster when the time comes,” Hahn added.

Hahn mentioned it’s still a little premature on the “everyone is coming back” conversations in regard to Renteria’s coaching staff.

“We need to sit down and finish up with Ricky the evaluation of where we're at,” Hahn said. “Certainly, when we assembled this staff, we wanted it to be filled with guys with roots in player development so that they were able to teach our young players and hold them accountable and set standards.

“And we're certainly very pleased with how that's unfolded. We'll deal with specific staffing issues once the season's over.”

Takeaway: This is an extremely hard-working staff, individually and as a group. But it sounds as if a change or changes are possible.

Robert and Madrigal
Barring something unexpected, Luis Robert should be the White Sox center fielder for the bulk of the 2020 season, and Nick Madrigal should be the team’s second baseman. Hahn termed Robert, the No. 3 prospect overall per MLB Pipeline, “a tick ahead” of Madrigal, the No. 41 prospect overall.

“We'll see how they show up in camp and how that unfolds,” Hahn said. “We can sit here and say that similar to Eloy Jiménez a year ago, we expect Luis Robert to be playing center field for most if not all of the 2020 season.

“Nick Madrigal playing second base? Probably most of the 2020 season. But let's wait and see how he comes to camp and what this offseason holds.”

Takeaway: Both Robert and Madrigal could have found their way at the big league level this season. They should be part of the starting lineup on Opening Day, but certainly shortly thereafter.

With the development of shortstop Tim Anderson, third baseman Yoán Moncada, Jimenez in left, starting pitcher Lucas Giolito and reliever Aaron Bummer, to go along with Abreu and veteran catcher James McCann, the White Sox will have an easier time selling free agents on success coming soon. Hahn stressed improving the team’s on-base percentage as a whole, while also mentioning the need for a right fielder, designated hitter and starting pitching help.

Hahn would prefer to balance the lineup with a left-handed bat or two. He won’t forgo a better right-handed-hitting option, though, to achieve said goal.

“We’ve paid our dues for the last three years,” Hahn said. “These things tend to take longer than three years, so we are not out of the woods yet. But we are ready for that next stage when we get much closer to competitiveness to start ramping up here in the next weeks and months into next season.”

Takeaway: Hahn understandably tempered expectations speaking on Friday, not knowing what the offseason holds. But make no mistake the White Sox are trying to win in 2020 and will conduct themselves accordingly in the offseason.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.