White Sox head to Vegas in mix for Harper

But interest in star slugger won't impact other potential moves

December 6th, 2018
Chicago White Sox senior vice-president and general manager Rick Hahn responds to a question during the team's baseball convention Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

LAS VEGAS -- White Sox general manager Rick Hahn is engaged in a bit of a waiting game as his front-office crew makes its way to Las Vegas for this year's Winter Meetings.

That wait centers on outfielder , the 26-year-old top attraction of the free-agent market. The White Sox reportedly have serious interest in bringing Harper to the South Side, although they have not spoken directly of said interest, with a meeting between the two sides already taking place involving Jim Thome, among others. But in Hahn's mind, with the focus staying on the rebuild and achieving sustained success, the waiting really isn't the hardest part when a generational talent is involved.

"It's a bit of a balancing act," said Hahn, speaking in broader terms of the process. "At the same time, we know what our priorities are. And we aren't simply going to shift to a secondary priority because the first one isn't necessarily ready to move if it is a unique fit.

"What I'm trying to say is, yes, there's areas where you have to move, yes, there's areas where there's depth and there's opportunities that have to be taken if they arise. For certain unique elements within the trade or free-agent market, we have the luxury of allowing it to play out on its natural pace."

The White Sox already have added late-inning reliever Alex Colome via trade. So, while waiting on the big decision, they aren't standing still in enhancing this team.

Club needs

Even with the Colome acquisition, Hahn mentioned that more bullpen help remains a priority. With rehabbing his way back following Tommy John surgery and sidelined for the 2019 campaign, the team also needs to add to the rotation core of , and . Backup catcher was moved to Seattle for Colome, and with the White Sox refusing to rush catching prospects Zack Collins and , a veteran backstop will be on that list. For the most part, the White Sox won't be deviating from their rebuild plan and make any stopgap additions. The biggest move for them could be Harper's ultimate choice.

Whom might they trade?

Rodon and shortstop hold high value among the veterans, but both are integral parts of the rebuild and will be staying put. First baseman could draw interest from teams looking for a middle-of-the-order presence, but he only has one year of contractual control, and he is highly regarded within the organization. It will be up to Hahn and executive vice president Ken Williams to decide if they are ready to trade from the plethora of young talent they've amassed, and then decide who would be available while looking for controllable players in return.

Prospects to know

The arrival of outfielder , who is the top-rated White Sox prospect and No. 3-ranked overall per MLB Pipeline, should come no later than mid-April, and he looks to be a player who will make an immediate and sizeable impact. Right-handed pitcher , the 2018 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, per MLB Pipeline, seems to be on the same Major League path as Lopez and Kopech from the previous two seasons, and Collins could hit the White Sox in '19 with a combined look at catcher, first base and designated hitter.

Rule 5 Draft

The 40-man roster currently resides at 37, so there's a chance for the team to add. Right-handed pitcher Zach Thompson, 25, who posted a 1.55 ERA and 76 strikeouts over 75 1/3 innings between Class A Advanced Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham in 2018, was left unprotected and holds the greatest possibility of being lost by the White Sox. Right-hander Spencer Adams also was left off the 40-man, leaving him as a potential loss.

Payroll summary

There's plenty of room for the White Sox to spend, even if they were to add Harper. Per Sportrac, the White Sox have just under $16 million committed to 2019 before arbitration, and that total stays below $18 million as presently constructed over the four following seasons. The White Sox are in a perfect position to take the next major step in the rebuild.