Hahn: Sox 'open-minded' to 'blockbuster or roster-shaking' moves

Chicago eyeing bounceback after disappointing 2022 season

December 6th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- What a difference a year makes. In this particular instance for the White Sox, it’s not a change for the positive.

At this point in 2021, even without Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings taking place due to the lockout, the White Sox were making plans to tweak a loaded team coming off a 93-69 season and an American League Central title. On paper, they looked to be one of the AL’s prime World Series contenders.

Now, as general manager Rick Hahn met the media on Day 1 of the ’22 Winter Meetings at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, the White Sox aren’t ruling out a more significant trade possibly reshaping that same highly regarded roster. After one of the more disappointing campaigns in recent memory finishing at 81-81, nothing is out of the question.

"A year ago, we're coming off a division championship, we're wildly prognosticated to win the division going away,” Hahn said. “So, a blockbuster or roster-shaking move was probably a little less on the agenda. This year, I think we have to be open-minded given the way we performed in '22. Does it mean that's what's going to happen? Not necessarily, but we at least have to be open-minded to something like that.

“We have all sorts of ideas floating around. Some that we volunteer to other clubs, and some that come through the door from someone else's brainchild. It's been important to us to look at how we do things with fresh eyes. Everything from our pregame prep to our hitting program to our sports performance side of things to how we make decisions in the front office. Based on how things went last year, we need fresh eyes.”

The ’22 White Sox literally were mired in mediocrity, never getting more than five above .500 or falling deeper than five below. Reasons for those struggles ranged from countless injuries to key players to underperformance from key players to manager Tony La Russa dealing with health issues and the team adjusting in his absence.

Fresh eyes have been added via manager Pedro Grifol, and a staff Hahn referred to as “fantastic” as he heaped praise upon Grifol Monday. Grifol already has started building face-to-face relationships with White Sox players, according to Hahn, which only will get stronger over the next several months.

So, the White Sox could give Grifol and his staff a chance to turn things around with this same basic talented crew.

“We had a lot go the wrong way last year, and that’s not on any one individual or the coaching staff’s doorstep by any stretch,” Hahn said. “One of the areas we think we've got an opportunity to be better is by having a fresh group in there [with] fresh perspectives. We think that’s going to serve us well over the long term.”

MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand tweeted Monday about All-Star closer Liam Hendriks coming up in trade talks, per a source. The right-hander has a limited no-trade clause allowing him to veto a deal to five clubs.

Hendriks is owed $14 million in 2023 and has a $15 million club option for 2024 that becomes a guaranteed year if he’s traded. The veteran right-hander has been one of the game’s top closers over the past four seasons, with 114 of his career 115 saves coming during that time. He’s an outspoken, philanthropic leader in the clubhouse, and his presence would be missed, but the White Sox also have Kendall Graveman, Aaron Bummer, and Reynaldo López as closing options.

High-end outfielders such as Luis Robert or Eloy Jiménez hypothetically would garner significant returns if the White Sox decided to move them, as an example of more startling roster-changing moves. Then again, this team has aims at winning it all in 2023, so any moves being made would have to be carried out with that in mind, rather than being changes just for changes' sake. 

“You try to get to a more rational spot when you're making those decisions,” Hahn said. “A more objective evaluation of where things sit as an organization.

“Again, it doesn't mean that we aren't open to significant change," Hahn added. "But at the same time, there's pretty firm belief in a lot of the young talent that we have on this club and what they're capable of doing when they're right and when we clean up some things surrounding their performance.”