Rozner: Ahead of schedule, Chicago White Sox won't rush rebuild

Updated 10/3/2017 7:46 PM
  • Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn talks with reporters before the baseball team's last home game Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, against the Los Angeles Angels in Chicago.

    Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn talks with reporters before the baseball team's last home game Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, against the Los Angeles Angels in Chicago.

Yes, Chicago White Sox fans, seven remains more than six.

Get used to that idea as it applies to Michael Kopech, or any of the potential superstars the South Siders might be adding to the big-league roster over the next two or three years.

As was the case for Theo Epstein and the Cubs, Sox GM Rick Hahn has an obligation to the rebuilding process, to the organization and to the fans to make certain that they don't lose a year of control or get to arbitration faster than necessary.

But Hahn also need not rush -- or start the clock on -- any player when the Sox are years away from competing.

"We have to remember that these kids need to be given the time they require to answer every question they have at the minor-league level," Hahn told us on "Hit and Run" Sunday morning. "We did it with (Lucas) Giolito and (Reynaldo) Lopez and (Yoan) Moncada.

"And we're going to continue to be diligent in not bringing guys to Chicago because there's a need in Chicago, but bringing guys to Chicago only when they've answered every question we have for them.

"So it will require some patience, not just from White Sox fans, but from us internally, and not get overly excited by what we see from Michael Kopech in spring training and ignore some of the developmental milestones that he's yet to reach at the minor-league level.

"We need him to accomplish that so he can maximize his talent and the impact he's going to have when he gets to Chicago for good."

So regardless of what Kopech does in spring training, think more along the lines of June 1 for Kopech to reach Chicago.

"We're going to have realistic developmental goals for Michael Kopech next year," Hahn said, "but it's not going to shock me if he's able to change our time horizon on those things given the talent that he has."

There's no hurry, just as there's no hurry to decide on what to do with Jose Abreu and Avy Garcia, both two years from free agency and with considerable trade value this winter.

The closer they get to free agency the more they lose value, but Abreu will be 31 in January and Garcia is 26, putting them in very different spots.

"Even if you accept the most optimistic projections for when we'll be able to contend for a championship, the bulk of that window occurs in 2020 and beyond," Hahn said. "Does it make more sense to extend the control, or are we better served going down the path we had to go with some other premium talent?"

At the same time, Abreu carries huge influence within the clubhouse and is a big part of helping young Latin players in a new environment.

It is no small matter for a team that is so heavily invested internationally.

"Jose is extremely important to our clubhouse and seemingly only getting better as a player," Hahn said. "We have to be very sensitive in terms of the disruption it could potentially cause in what we're trying to create in terms of our culture and from a baseball standpoint.

"We don't have to make that decision right now, in terms of an extension. But we aren't doing our jobs if we don't understand, via the trade market, the value of all of our players."

The really good news here is that only 10 months into a rebuild fans are wondering if the Sox can contend in 2018.

While fun to consider, the reality is a bottom-to-top rebuild usually takes at least four or five years, and Hahn will have to guard against moving up his timetable based on the excitement.

"It's a real challenge," he said. "We are pleased that people are having that conversation, that they're already thinking that this club could contend.

"I think we probably are, at this point, a little ahead of where you could have reasonably projected us to be, and certainly ahead of where you would project a 'normal' rebuild.

"But the player development side of this is important, and that's going to be at the forefront during the next phase of this process.

"We're optimistic about a lot of our guys, but at the same time we're realistic in knowing they're not all going to hit their ceilings.

"Ultimately, in all probability we'll have to look outside the organization to plug the final holes once our guys' development is complete.

"We're in the hardest phase in this process. We have to be patient and allow these guys the chance to develop."

So far, so very good.

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

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