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posted: 5/18/2013 2:22 PM

Baseball Time the only time that matters

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  • Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn knows it's not in the team's best interest to tip his hand as to whether the Sox will be sellers or buyers before the trade deadline.

      Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn knows it's not in the team's best interest to tip his hand as to whether the Sox will be sellers or buyers before the trade deadline.
    Associated Press/file

 
 

The quest for clarity is not a simple one.

Every general manager in baseball wants it -- at least by the in-season trade deadline.

"Is my team good enough to contend for the division or wild card, right now? If so, then let's stand pat with our potentially tradable assets. In fact, perhaps we'll buy.

"But maybe my team isn't going to get there this season. Maybe I can boldly say that my team, as currently constructed, won't win next year either. So let's sell what we can, restock the farm system, and rebuild."

White Sox GM Rick Hahn is facing these questions absurdly early, around 40 games into the season. He faced them this week on "The McNeil and Spiegel Show". Hahn assured us that if he does indeed decide by July that a full-scale rebuild is what he thinks is necessary, he'd have the support of his bosses to do it.

It's easy to think that ought to be the plan. But it's too early to concede and roll over.

As a 20-year-old, I once sat in the office of Red Sox manager Joe Morgan in 1990 as he talked about a slumping player. He hammered away at the phrase "baseball time."

There's fan time. There's media time. But "baseball time" is the framework by which a manager and his bosses need to live. The game demands a preternatural level of patience, as seasons wax and wane, as hitters thrive and struggle, as teams win and lose.

No matter how bad it looks, how awful the fundamentals, how woeful the offense, baseball men won't declare the White Sox completely dead in the water after 40 games. There's too much potential power in the lineup, too many good arms in the bullpen, and one of the best 1-2 starting pitcher combos in the game.

Chris Sale and Jake Peavy are both top 10 in WAR among pitchers in the AL. The only other team with 2 is the Mariners, with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.

Hahn may decide to cut bait and sell what he can eventually. Matt Thornton would bring something. If Peavy continues as he has, that's the most interesting option. Trading him would signify a larger-scale project.

But it's not time yet. And as Hahn said to us this week, "whether we're buyers or sellers, you're not going to hear me saying 'this is the plan.' We'll explain it after we do it, but to signal our intentions early isn't in our interest."

Garza watch:

The Cubs' intentions with Matt Garza, and most everyone else, have been signaled pretty clearly.

Garza will make his first big league start of the season soon.

Can he be healthy and productive enough by late July to bring real value? It's going to be a challenge.

If not, the Cubs may have to entertain giving Garza a qualifying offer at season's end. That would be a one-year deal at $13.3 million, and would force a team that signs him to give the Cubs their first-round draft pick as compensation. Teams in the top 10 would give up their second-best pick.

Free-agents-to-be hate that idea. The Cubs could conceivably use Garza's unhappiness to leverage a more affordable long-term contract to keep him,

But would you want to sign him to a multi-year deal? The durability that helped make Garza such an appetizing pitcher is now seriously in question. And, the man is a bit of a flake.

The best option is still the most transparent one -- get what you can for him from a big-money team in need of a starter. Los Angeles has two hugely disappointing teams.

If Garza's rolling, there will be takers. And on him, the front office has clarity.

• Matt Spiegel co-hosts "The McNeil & Spiegel Show" 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670

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