Now that Friday's press conference and barrage of questions are in the past, Rick Hahn can officially get to work as White Sox general manager.
Hahn actually made the transition when the up-and-down 2012 season wrapped up on Oct. 3.
When the Sox meet up in Arizona next week for organizational meetings, Hahn is going to be giving -- and receiving -- advice on potential holes in the starting rotation, catcher and third base.
The White Sox are not going to pick up Jake Peavy's $22 million option for 2013, so the 31-year-old starter is hitting the free-agent market for the first time in his career.
Considering Peavy stayed healthy this season while putting up impressive numbers (11-12, 3.37 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, .234 batting average against), outside interest is going to be heavy.
"There aren't a lot of free-agent pitchers out there," Hahn said. "There is a fair amount of money perhaps to be spent by other clubs out there. So that one's going to be a challenge.
"Pitchers get paid a significant amount and Jake, given his track record and especially his 2012 season where he answered questions about his health, is going to be a pretty popular guy. But we've had good talks back and forth already, honest conversations."
Despite a string of injuries and poor offensive support this season, Peavy has enjoyed his stay with the White Sox. He's also tight with Adam Dunn, but teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels figure to extend Peavy offers in the four-year, $70 million range.
"I know Jake's preference, which he hasn't been shy about, is to be back here in Chicago and that's always a good place to start," Hahn said. "But there does come a point where there are certain opportunities elsewhere that don't make sense for us to try to chase."
A.J. Pierzynski is also headed for free agency, and the veteran catcher picked a good season to establish career highs with 27 home runs and 77 RBI (also done in 2004).
Pierzynski, who turns 36 on Dec. 30, recently had lunch with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and could return on one more two-year contract.
"We've had A.J. here for eight years and he's been a fantastic member of the White Sox organization for every minute of it," Hahn said. "We've signed him to three multiyear deals over the course of that eight years and two years ago at this time, I think there probably was a thick level of pessimism about him coming back.
"I talked to Steve Hilliard, his agent, last week. It was a good dialogue, an open dialogue. Until he gets out there and sees what his market is and we get out there and sort of explore alternatives and other ways to spend our money, it's impossible to handicap."
Tyler Flowers is the logical choice to replace Pierzynski, and the 26-year-old backup was seriously considering playing winter ball after appearing in just 52 games this season and batting .213 with 7 home runs and 13 RBI.
But Flowers fractured his left hand when he was hit by a Chris Perez pitch at Cleveland on Oct. 2 and won't be able to resume baseball activities until mid-November.
"Based on the history we have with him, I think he'll be a quality everyday catcher in the big leagues, yes," Hahn said of Flowers. "I think it's tough for a kid, especially for a young kid, to have sporadic playing time as he did this past year and continue that development.
"Defensively, he can certainly handle the position. I think he's going to get on base some and he's going to have some power. He can be a valuable and viable every day catcher in the big leagues."
Kevin Youkilis has a $13 million option for next season, and the White Sox are not picking that up. They could offer Youkilis a multiyear contract for $5 million-6 million per season, but he figures to get a better deal on the open market.
Gavin Floyd is also headed for free agency, and the Sox' could have four left-handers (Chris Sale, John Danks, Jose Quintana, Hector Santiago) in the rotation next season, even if the right-handed starter returns.
"That's something we're going to spend a lot of time on in Arizona, the notion of how having four lefties potentially in the rotation, what does that mean in terms of what you have to do defensively, particularly on the left side, and how does it match up versus our division?" Hahn said. "It's certainly something that could well happen.
"We want to study it a little more before we commit to that and look at some alternatives."Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.