LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There is no such thing as an untouchable in the world of White Sox general manager Rick Hahn.
Not when he's trying to reshape a team that lost 99 games in 2013.
"I've said from the start, no one's untouchable. I don't believe in the concept of untouchable," Hahn said Monday during the first day of the Winter Meetings at Walt Disney World's Swan & Dolphin Resort. "I certainly believe in the concept of extraordinarily difficult to acquire and having a very high asking price."
Such is the temporary resolution regarding fast-growing rumors surrounding White Sox ace Chris Sale.
Not only is Sale at the top of the White Sox rotation but also one of the top pitchers in baseball. Throw in possible team control through 2019 with club options, and it's easy to see why any other team would covet the affable southpaw.
But the White Sox already have what other teams are willing to pay top dollar for or trade away an oversized package of top-notch young talent. For the White Sox to even consider a Sale move, which is highly unlikely, Hahn might have to be knocked over by the offer.
Hahn rarely if ever addresses trade speculation involving his team. If he answers one rumor, he basically has to answer them all. In the case of arguably the most important and marketable player on the current roster, Hahn took a step away from protocol prior to his interview session with a statement concerning Sale.
"We know how important this guy is to our club and to our future success," said Hahn of the 24-year-old Sale, who fanned 226 over 214 1/3 innings last year and produced a 3.07 ERA to go with four complete games among his 30 starts. "You are talking about what we see as a perennial Cy Young candidate. Someone who can be a Game 1 starter for you in the postseason.
"Someone who the club controls for the next six seasons, a window in which we surely expect to be having our own Game 1 of a playoff series. I'm not doing my job, this room isn't doing what we are here to do, if we don't at least listen when people have ideas and evaluate ideas. At the same time, we know the value of what we have here and the importance to us going forward. You can take that for what it's worth."
A few general managers sent Hahn humorous texts asking about Sale's availability Monday, but it would be a fairly significant surprise if Sale wasn't making his second straight Opening Day start when the White Sox take on the Twins at home on March 31 to begin the 2014 campaign. The same can be said for Jose Quintana, whom the White Sox characterize as an emerging No. 2 starter as not just for them but on any rotation in the American League.
They like having that combination at the top, not to mention starting depth such as John Danks, Hector Santiago, Erik Johnson, Andre Rienzo and now Felipe Paulino, signed to a one-year deal on Monday, behind them.
As Hahn said, no move stands as completely out of the question and the asking price for Sale would be considerably higher than Quintana and so on down the line. Hahn followed the lead of his boss, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who earlier Monday recalled only one player from his more than three decades of sports ownership considered an untouchable.
"He wore No. 23, and No. 45 when he played baseball," said Reinsdorf of Michael Jordan. "I've never had another player who couldn't be traded. I can't tell you that when I see Rick and [White Sox executive vice president] Kenny [Williams] today they will tell me they want to trade him, but I would be very surprised."
"Once a generation you probably get someone like that, but I don't see any need to put us in a box and say a guy is untouchable," Hahn said. "I'm not doing my job if out of a 25-man roster, I don't exploit ways to get us as good as we can be for as long as we can be. And if that's moving one guy for a substantial return, we at least have to consider it."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin.