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updated: 1/25/2014 7:43 PM

Hahn, Sox make big progress in little time

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  • White Sox general manager Rick Hahn speaks during this weekend's SoxFest.

      White Sox general manager Rick Hahn speaks during this weekend's SoxFest.
    Associated Press

 
 

With two months and two days left in the 2013 baseball season, things could not have been much worse for the White Sox.

At 23 games under .500, 18 games out and firmly in last place, they were old, bad and expensive, without much hope that major changes could be made until contracts ran out and youngsters could be added.

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And then GM Rick Hahn found inspiration and creativity in a three-team deal that sent Jake Peavy to Boston, Jose Iglesias to Detroit from Boston and brought 22-year-old Avisail Garcia to Chicago, while saving the South Siders $20 million in the process.

Less than two weeks later, Alex Rios went to Texas in a deal that netted 22-year-old Leury Garcia, saving $16 million in the transaction.

In mid-October, using some of that cash, the Sox signed 26-year-old Cuban slugger Jose Abreu for six years and $68 million.

In December, they turned Hector Santiago into 25-year-old center fielder/leadoff man Adam Eaton, and flipped Addison Reed for 22-year-old third baseman Matt Davidson.

Suddenly, the White Sox weren't so old and expensive anymore, doing more in less time than anyone could have expected.

"As I sat down before the Garcia-Peavy trade, looking at a list of targets, if I was being reasonable and given the time afforded me by Jerry (Reinsdorf) and Kenny (Williams) to accomplish what we wanted to accomplish, I probably would have felt that we wouldn't have been able to get done in six months what we got done." Hahn said.

"Still, I don't sleep certain nights thinking about holes that need to be filled. It's been about four weeks since we made a move to make the core better, and I'm starting to get a little itchy."

Speaking as SoxFest opened Friday night, Hahn appeared more relaxed than at any time last season, his first as the GM. Though hardly satisfied, he knows he has made a significant dent in rebuilding a team that last made the playoffs in 2008.

"We are, candidly, very pleased with where we are right now, but at the same time we also know we have a lot of work to do and haven't accomplished all we want to accomplish," Hahn said. "Not all of our targets have changed teams yet. Some targets chose to go elsewhere.

"As I look back over the last six months, we do take some pride in being able to convert on a high percentage of what we wanted to do. We're not satisfied. We have issues. Hopefully some of our internal guys provide long-term answers for us. In the meantime, we will continue to look for long-term solutions."

It's not difficult to look at the roster and see players who probably won't be here when the season ends, like Adam Dunn, Alexei Ramirez and perhaps even Gordon Beckham, to name just a few. Hahn obviously won't name names, but he is not nearly finished remaking the club.

"There are things we want to do. They might be done during spring training or maybe during the season," Hahn said. "Taking a longer-term view, this is an extended process.

"We've made a fair amount of progress. At times, the roster is going to look a little bit odd, with a little too much in the middle infield or too many DH/first basemen types. The key is having the right guys around who are going to be part of the core and having them grow. I'm not concerned about what the roster looks like in late January."

In the meantime, Hahn continues the very difficult process of rebuilding the club on the fly at the major-league level, while also attempting to put a team on the field that fans will pay to watch. It's tricky, but Hahn doesn't have the luxury of blowing it up and starting over.

"I do think there's something intrinsic to the organization that we have to do it this way," Hahn explained. "It's not just external pressure, fan preference, attendance or revenue streams that we may or may not have as compared to others.

"It's Jerry's own predilection to win again and win quickly. Kenny proved in this chair for 12 years that he wants to win the next title as soon as possible, and that's similar to my own personality.

"For all those reasons, internal and external, we weren't going to go through a process where we tore this down to the brass tacks and had an extended period of losing."

A complete rebuild is easier to do and from a deep recession is supposed to be a bigger bounce to the upside. Of course, it also means some horrific seasons, and there's no guarantee it will work.

"It's arguably easier to do, mechanically, but I couldn't -- in good conscience -- go to Jerry Reinsdorf and recommend spending the next four years being lousy at the big-league level, accumulating top 3 or 4 picks every year and building this thing back up the quote, unquote, right way," Hahn said. "It's not a question of right or wrong. That works for some teams and they do it well.

"We could have gone that route. Other clubs go that route. I just don't think it's the personality of ownership, management or White Sox fans to be comfortable with an extended period like that.

"Instead, we tried to do this somewhat on the fly."

Oh, it is completely on the fly, and so far -- judging by gains made while dealing assets -- it is working for Hahn and the White Sox.

Painful as it may be at times.

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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