Today was a busy day for Rick Hahn in terms of speaking with fans. In addition to that, he also spoke to bloggers. Needless to say, I was quite excited when I heard there would be a chance to ask him questions now that he is “the man” in charge over at the White Sox.
As you know, I am a season ticket holder and this season the Sox have been having calls with various people on the Sox. Past guests have included pitching coach Don Copper and former GM Ken Williams. These calls have always been interesting because fans get to ask the questions. Sometimes, I think that fans really try to ask the stuff that the media won’t. And other times, they ask some stuff that I am left scratching my head about.
In any event, today’s questions were pretty good and of course touched upon the burning issues that Sox fans have at the moment. Namely, AJ and Kevin Youkilis. Below is a summary of the call with Rick and season ticket holders. For the transcript of his call with us bloggers, be sure to visit South Side Sox. There is some really good stuff in here including the advice that Ken has given to Rick. And thanks so much to U-God for doing the transcription, saving us a ton of work!
First off, Rick is looking forward to talking to everyone and begin fresh dialogue. This is already happening and will of course continue this weekend when organizational meetings begin. I personally am looking forward to seeing how Rick at the helm will be different from what KW has done at the helm.
On the moves already made: It was good to bring Jake back to help solidify the rotation. To Jake’s credit, he was a man of his word. All season long, Jake had been saying he wanted to stay in Chicago and even though he stood an excellent chance of getting more years and money on the free agent market, he chose to stay in Chicago. Rick said Jake is a good rotation guy and clubhouse fit. As far as Gavin is concerned, despite this past season, Gavin in the past five years have given close to or more than 180-190 innings each season. He could have easily commanded more money as well on the free agent market if the Sox chose to decline his option.
Renee from Montana asked about the rotation and off season plans. Rick said the number one priority is positioning the team to win and that is by run prevention first and scoring second. They will be exploring options on getting better in both of those areas, including with the bullpen. Yes, there are questions at third base and with AJ that need to be solved, but the first move was to shore up the rotation.
Frank asked about AJ: Sure, there could be a big hole if he does not come back. However, Rick discussed this in terms of not trying to handicap the odds of AJ coming back. When AJ was previously a free agent, Rick thought the odds of him coming back were low, but he’d have been wrong since AJ did resign at the 11th hour. Rick does have a good relationship with his agent and will see how it all unfolds. However, there does come a point in negotiations when committing to a player just doesn’t make sense in the long run. He does believe that if AJ does not come back, Tyler Flowers is able to show he is ready to handle the role. He has shown it on defense and he thinks that offensively he will show it as well. His average may not be as high as AJ’s, but he does think he can provide some pop in his bat as well as getting on base.
On the timeline with free agents: This week has been option week where teams have an exclusive window to talk with their own free agents. They have also been able to informally talk to other team’s free agents to express interest, but nothing substantive. Saturday is the day when all talks can open up.
Robert asked about the approach to offense, home run hitters versus guys that can score runs in other ways. Rick said ideally you want a mix of power hitters and guys that can bunt, steal bases, etc. However, he will not shy away from power, especially when you play at US Cellular Field. The environment where a majority of games are played is a factor that just cannot be ignored. But, he will never turn down home runs.
John asked about the leadoff hitter, closing the gap in finishing the season and the rotation. Rik said they expect for John Danks to be ready to be back in the rotation next season. The team will also have the added benefit of Chris Sale and Jose Quintana being a year older and also having increased stamina. As for leadoff, he felt that Alejandro De Aza did a really nice job this past season. No, he is not what you consider as a prototypical leadoff guy, but he did get on base and had good at-bats to work the count. Overall, they were pleased with him. As for closing the gap, it is definitely something that will be discussed in terms of a potential element missing. Was it because there were too many rookies on the pitching staff? Was it just an ill-time slump? A May 15-30 slump looks less bad than one that occurs from September 15-30th. Or maybe it is an intrinsic thing that needs to be addressed in terms of preparation.
Carl asked about whether the team would consider Alex Rodriguez. Rick gave a two-part answer to this. First he said he really couldn’t give a straight answer due to tampering rules. Then he said that the Sox will look at any opportunity to get better. But, if they bring a guy in, they have to look at making sure he can help in 2013 but at the same time not hamper what needs to happen in the future.
A ton of people wanted to know who is going to be the third baseman and what is the status of Brent Morel. Right now, there really isn’t a guy that Rick would name. As for Brent, when he came off the disabled list, he still struggled with his back at times at Charlotte. A year ago, they felt really good about him, but the injury derailed him. Now, it is a matter of him getting healthy and it will be a matter of getting through spring training to know and hope there is an option with him. With that being said, the team will look at other options, perhaps via trade, free agency or someone in the system.
Thomas asked about Hector Santiago as a starter. Right now, Rick said it is a wait and see with Hector and how the off season unfolds. He has nice flexibility (reliever or starter.) If all the other starters are healthy, then Hector most likely is competing with Jose Quintana for that fifth spot.
Tom asked about what to do with third base open (sense a pressing concern for Sox fans???) Rick said the Sox are not alone in having a positional need as there are 29 other clubs with a pressing hole as well. Overall, it will be a wait and see what happens and fans may see the Sox in different places talking to fill those needs, such as free agency and trades.
Rick was also asked about whether he felt the same sense of Kevin Youkilis coming back as he did with Jake Peavy. For Youk, he is a free agent for the first time. Additionally, his family (wife and new baby boy) are on the West Coast, so he will have a lot to consider. There is a good relationship with his agent and there has been some productive and dialogue. I think again, it is a wait and see what happens.
Finally, he was asked if he was enjoying the job and whether it was what he was expecting. Rick said he is enjoying things one week officially into it and so far it has been good. And he has not asked for the receipt yet.
It was really good to hear him talk to today for nearly an hour. Thanks to the White Sox for arranging the call with season ticket holders and Marty Maloney for arranging the call with the bloggers.