The 2016 Chicago White Sox offseason has been written about ad nausem. The particulars entail the acquisitions of Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, Mat Latos and Jimmy Rollins. The other elephant in the room is the fact that a seemingly obvious need (adequate Rightfielder) went unaddressed this offseason. This has been an area of scorn for many White Sox fans that want to get heated about their team not doing enough in the offseason, especially as they sit in the background of the biggest story in MLB (the Chicago Cubs).
The problem is this, Avisail Garcia is a replacement level or below replacement level player through 1,100 plate appearances. The White Sox, after making the acquisitions noted above, project to win 80-84 games this season, which is the sweet spot for adding additional wins (when I say “wins”, I mean projected Wins and when I reference player wins, I mean Wins Above Replacement). Several free agents would have provided some additional wins, but the White Sox also would have had to forego a 1st round compensation pick that they have received when Jeff Samardzija signed with San Francisco. I have read various places that the 1st round comp pick has a value between $10M & $20M (in expectation and additional bonus pool capacity). While all of this information goes into the decision, my take is that none of it really ends up mattering, that’s not the GM Rick Hahn wants to be.
Rick Hahn GM
Although, I haven’t read it elsewhere, it seems to me that Rick Hahn GM’s like an Advantage Player, looking for edges, wherever they may be and pulling the trigger on those moves. Sometimes Rick Hahn’s moves fit obvious needs, like Todd Frazier, sometimes they are used to acquire Mat Latos, a non-obvious need, but just taking advantage of an edge to be had (injured, poor performing pitcher that has been under priced by the market). These types of moves don’t always work (Matt lolololol Davidson), but they consistently take the form of trying to garner an edge. It seems like Hahn would like to continue to GM this way and have it eventually become the hallmark of a team that won’t spend with the Yankees, but will be a perennial contender. It’s apparent that Avisail Garcia playing RF (at least to start 2016) fits this mold.
The Compensation Pick
The White Sox have spent the entire Rick Hahn GM tenure rebuilding their farm system to get them back in position to contend over a long period of time. Punting this pick and the associate bonus pool money takes away talent from the teams in 2019, 2020 and so on……..it seems Rick Hahn would like to be a couple of savvy moves (Advantage Plays) away in those seasons, so he can work the way he has so far and put the White Sox in position those years.
It’s been detailed everywhere that the White Sox haven’t developed a position player of note since Magglio Ordonez. There is a lot at stake trying to turn Avisail Garcia into an average major league right fielder. It would be a huge success of the player development arm of the club. I am not exactly sure what percentage chance it has of success, but it seems like the club wants to get more reps at trying to develop players in this vain.
Making Avisail Garcia into an average player saves them the free agent money they didn’t spend this offseason, as well as the pick and the bonus pool money they get to keep. This Advantage Play has a huge potential payoff, and is likely the genesis of not landing any big free agent. It is also essential for Rick Hahn’s form of GMing to work in the real world. The development staff has to be able to turn prospects into professionals, even boring average professionals. This is not to say the White Sox weren’t in on any of the major free agents this offseason (various reports confirm they were), but please revisit my paragraph on how Rick Hahn likes to GM…..edges folks, edges.
Ultimately, a wise man once wrote “variance swamps everything” (Joe Sheehan, $1). Based on the projections out on the interwebs, the White Sox are slated to win between 80-84 games. This sort of win total has a standard deviation of about 9 games, so that puts the White Sox between low 90’s and low 70’s wins about 2/3rds of the time. In other words, as sure as we’d like for our team to be a contender, they are in the band of teams that are basically contenders. This is all done while allowing the White Sox much optionality for 2017 and beyond.
So we either trust Rick Hahn GM or we don’t, but Hahn’s method of GMing seems to be clear, make moves/plays with a perceived edge and lay off of those that don’t have one.