CHICAGO -- Rick Hahn and the White Sox front office are trying to put together a World Series championship squad.
This championship equation is being solved for the 2021 season, as well as for what they hope is many years to come. But this overall puzzle also is being put together to win one or two big games over a 162-game season as much as it is put together to win 95-plus games every season.
Take the abbreviated 2020 campaign as an example. The White Sox were the first American League squad to clinch a postseason spot, but they ended as the seventh seed by virtue of a 2-8 finish, including four straight losses in Cleveland.
If the White Sox escape with just one of those four, they enter the opening Wild Card Series with all three first-round games at Guaranteed Rate Field instead of in Oakland.
“Part of being where we’re at in terms of our successful cycle so to speak is that marginal wins matter,” Hahn said. “Every little win when you’re getting to a point of contending for postseason spots or winning a division, one improvement carries a lot of impact.
“So we might not be able to say precisely where we’re going to get that last one or two wins come the end of the offseason, but we’re going to be exploring a lot of avenues to make that happen.”
The White Sox added right-handed starter Lance Lynn via trade with the Rangers and agreed to a one-year deal with a 2022 club option with right fielder Adam Eaton during this week’s virtual Winter Meetings. Lynn provides another stabilizing starting rotation force, often working in the realm of excellence, behind Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. Eaton, in his second run with the White Sox, increases their firepower against right-handed pitching, and at the very least, provides a solid platoon with right-handed-hitting Adam Engel.
Both players hit offseason needs laid out by Hahn for a solid team already in place across the roster. Those additions might have been free agents Trevor Bauer and George Springer, with no offense to the talented players acquired, if White Sox fans had their choice.
But every team, every business, operates within a budget, and a budget currently influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing uncertainty related to the 2021 season. Remember that championship puzzle Hahn was trying to finish? The additions of Lynn and Eaton allow Hahn greater flexibility to complete his work.
“It’s only natural to evaluate each and every move in isolation at the time they are announced. We completely get that,” Hahn said. “But really, we need to look at the entirety of what we are able to accomplish. If we spend the entirety of what we have to spend on one position, obviously other needs aren’t addressed.
“Adam not only addresses a lot of what we were trying to do with upgrading our production in right field, we believe, but also allows us the flexibility as I mentioned to continue to add over the course of the offseason. In that regard, it’s not entirely different from the Lynn acquisition.
“Yes, we perhaps could have gone straight to the top of the free-agent market,” Hahn added. “However, if we had done that, we would have wound up perhaps not being able to do other things important to rounding out a championship roster.”
Where do the White Sox go from here?
Further moves could include an All-Star closer such as free agent Liam Hendriks, another veteran starter and/or some sort of option at designated hitter. Hahn quickly and stridently added these moves could come from within, with a plethora of young relief options at manager Tony La Russa’s disposal for late-inning, high-leverage work. Not to mention Andrew Vaughn, the team’s No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, Zack Collins, Yermín Mercedes and Leury García as designated hitter options.
Thursday’s Zoom session ended with an admittedly cliche question about how much work the White Sox general manager still had to do this offseason. Hahn answered with a wry smile but kept his offseason poker face intact.
“Stay tuned,” Hahn said. “We’ll see.”