Hahn pleads for patience as White Sox shift into next phase of rebuild
The White Sox's massive rebuilding job has moved into Phase 2.
General manager Rick Hahn appears to have expertly navigated through Phase 1, trading one veteran after another for premium prospects while receiving full-blown support from a fan base just looking for a new, clear direction.
What is Phase 2?
"A different, perhaps more difficult, stage of this whole process," Hahn said at SoxFest. "We're thrilled with the amount of progress we've made in the last year. At the same time, we know we're only about one year into this process, and we're about to go deeper into the phase where player development is going to be in the forefront. We're going to have to be patient in allowing these players time and latitude to develop, and inevitably fail and recover from that failure.
"We have a great deal of excitement heading into this season, but we also know objectively where we're at in this thing. We've made a lot of progress in the last year-plus, we feel we're much closer than we were when we started this process to being able to field a team that can contend for championships on an annual basis, but we also know there's a fair amount of work ahead of us."
As Hahn and the Sox wait for the next wave of prospects (Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez, Alec Hansen, Zack Collins) to reach the South Side, it's hard to not fast forward to Phase 3 -- adding veteran talent to a young core.
You can use the Milwaukee Brewers as a model.
Rebuilding under general manager David Stearns, the Brewers were 68-94 in 2015 and 73-89 in '16 before going 86-76 last season and just missing the playoffs.
Late last week, Milwaukee traded for Christian Yelich and signed Lorenzo Cain, spending a combined $122 million on the impact outfielders.
The White Sox are going to have plenty of money to spend next off-season and Hahn said he'll do what it takes to get over a potential hump.
"I can certainly assure you that the resources will be available," the Sox's GM said. "Can I assure you we're going to be able to convert on every target? No. Unfortunately it's a going to be a robust and competitive market. I get that question a lot, and I get it, because it would seem to break with our past practice to be aggressive or to be at the top of the market.
"Maybe the last time this organization did it was probably (signing) Albert Belle, well before my time. But I would say over the last 18 months we've sort of busted a lot of the myths about how the White Sox go about their business. There was certainly a lot out there that the Chicago White Sox would never rebuild. Obviously, we did.
"There was a lot written a year ago that we would never make a trade with the Chicago Cubs, even if it made us better. And obviously we did (Jose Quintana for top prospects Jimenez and Dylan Cease). Additionally, people touted that we would never incur a significant tax or penalty in order to sign a player like we did with Luis Robert.
"Each of those steps along the way reinforced this process and put us closer to being in position to win championships. Being competitive in free agency and targeting big-ticket items and hopefully converting on them is going to be the next logical step when the time is right. Anyone who doubts that this organization will break from past perception or past process, I think the evidence is there over the last year that the old standard has fallen apart."
Getting back to Phase 2, patience is going to be required from more than just Sox fans.
"I think when we preach patience at this point, to an extent we're saying it to ourselves," Hahn said. "There's going to be a temptation. All of you that are going be in Glendale (Ariz.) for the first few weeks of spring training are going to see players that are going to get you excited, and people are going to want to see them at the big-league level, just like a year ago when they wanted to see (Yoan) Moncada start at the big-league level, and (Lucas) Giolito and (Reynaldo) Lopez.
"But we have to be patient with their development, there's still some finishing elements that have to happen at the minor-league level and then we'll bring them on when the time is right to the big-league level. That's what it is in terms of asking for patience, to ourselves in the coaching staff and in the front office."
Manager Rick Renteria said he'll have no trouble being patient.
"I can control my patience," he said. "I don't want to contain my excitement. I want everybody to see my excitement because it is real. The players' talents, not everybody is going to make it, not everybody is going to be the guy. But there is a lot here. I can contain my patience knowing that if we do it the right way at the end of the day we're going to have a chance for some successful seasons and have a lot of fun."