Despite the worst White Sox in-season collapse in more than three decades, Rick Hahn’s got plenty of leverage and plenty of positives.
The first-year general manager, who did an explanatory conference call merely 40 minutes after the non-waiver trade deadline Wednesday afternoon, possessed two of the most tradable commodities on the market: young lefties Jose Quintana and Hector Santiago.
Hahn literally has an embarrassment in riches in four rotation southpaws, with ace Chris Sale and John Danks – improving and year away from shoulder surgery – rounding out the quartet.
Hahn already landed a prime position-player prospect in outfielder Avisail Garcia from the Tigers via the three-team deal that dispatched Jake Peavy to Boston late Tuesday. But he needs at least a handful more to re-stock the broken Sox lineup and a position-player-poor farm system.
Top outfield draftees Jared Mitchell, Keenyn Walker and Trayce Thompson are barely registering at the bottom of the stats lists. The surest way to snare more kids, including big-league ready players, is to make a Quintana or Santiago available.
Teams generally are hoarding their good young position players, a fact Sox notables ranging from Hahn to captain Paul Konerko have acknowledged. But a Quintana or Santiago would have broken the ice with at least two teams craving for talented, affordable young lefties.
You’d rather keep both Quintana and Santiago. Yet desperate times call for desperate measures. The Sox would still have three rotation lefties – more than plenty by any standard – without one. More starting pitching is filtering up through the Sox system. Andre Rienzo impressed in his big-league debut Tuesday, and Erik Johnson is nearly ready for the Sox.
Hahn declined to reveal whether he had fielded specific offers for the kid lefties – but it’s obvious he heard the names Quintana and Santiago, maybe even Sale, on the other end of his phone chats.
“It’s safe to assume young, quality, controllable starting pitching is a very popular element in trade inquiries,” Hahn said. At the same time, he stopped short of painting the four lefties as the core of his rotation for 2014.
One fast comer is Garcia. Hahn said the Sox instructors will work with him in center field at Triple-A Charlotte. Consider Alejandro De Aza, along with his baserunning blunders and stated preference to move from center to left, put on notice as the start of the roster cleanup commences.
“He’s been playing center field in (Triple-A) Toledo,” Hahn said. “We want to get him in our system … Get regular at-bats (at Charlotte) for a little while and then slowly integrate him into what we perceive to be an everyday role for a long time here in Chicago.”
Hahn refused to rule out Garcia or other minor-leaguers arriving prior to the Sept. 1 roster expansion date. First baseman Andy Wilkins and middle infielders Carlos Sanchez and Marcus Semien seem likely candidates.
We’ll always wonder whether a last-minute proposed deal Wednesday that piqued Hahn’s interest – and prompted him to notify Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf – involved right fielder Alex Rios. But expect Hahn to aggressively explore moving Rios after the season.
The changes Hahn is making can’t happen fast enough.