GM Rick Hahn plays White Sox’s hand close to vest once again

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BOSTON — The trade deadline is rapidly approaching and Rick Hahn already has his poker face on.

When it comes to his team’s rebuild, the White Sox general manager has no qualms admitting his job isn’t finished — there’s work to be done.

The White Sox, who improved to 43-47 with a 4-0 win over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Monday night, need better pitching, to know which way they’re going at catcher, in left field and at third base in order to become perennial contenders.

The team’s roster also features several players whom Hahn has indicated he’s willing to trade as well as others who are speculated to be on the block. But even with all those variables and rumors circulating about the futures of Dayan Viciedo and Adam Dunn — both of whom homered Monday — as well Gordon Beckham and Alejandro De Aza, Hahn is playing it cool.

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It’s a luxury he’s afforded unlike last season, when it was clear the White Sox needed to find a new direction and fast. So unless Hahn gets what he wants, the White Sox trade activity could be very limited over the next 3 1/2 weeks.

“There’s certainly no urgency to do anything,” Hahn said. “I think most of the players I’ve read about online that are rumored to be out there are all under control beyond this season. There’s no urgency to cash in an asset, so to speak, before it expires.”

The White Sox were an antique train wreck short on patience last July.

Not only were they on their way to 99 losses, the White Sox were built around an aging offensive core of Paul Konerko, Dunn and Alex Rios. If they had any hope of quickly turning things around, Hahn had to maximize the value of Jake Peavy and Rios, both of whom had a year left on their deals and trade appeal.

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Hahn netted outfielder Avisail Garcia and three minor-leaguers in the Peavy deal and then freed up playing time for their young outfielder in the trade of Rios to the Texas Rangers. Both moves gave the White Sox some of the financial flexibility they needed to sign Jose Abreu in the offseason.

In December, Hahn traded closer Addison Reed and Hector Santiago for prospect Matt Davidson and center fielder Adam Eaton. All of a sudden, the White Sox had a new identity in a span of five months.

That paradigm shift gives Hahn and the White Sox less urgency to be active.

Even though three infield prospects at Triple-A are knocking down the door — Micah Johnson is close, Marcus Semien has already produced in the bigs and Carlos Sanchez is back on track — Hahn isn’t forced into a deal because Beckham has a full season before he hits free agency.

Just because Hahn made it clear in December he’d part with either De Aza or Viciedo for the right price, neither is a free agent next season, which means he doesn’t have to just give them away. De Aza has another full season before he’s a free agent and Viciedo isn’t one until 2018.

Hahn isn’t blind to the notion his defense needs improvement and the offense needs more consistency, especially in the lower half. The pitching needs to be much better too and he’s aware of that as well.

Hahn said the White Sox, who entered Monday with 30 fewer runs scored than allowed this season, have earned their current record.

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“We really haven’t had that run of momentum of success that we hoped for,” Hahn said. “We’ve fallen into a couple of ruts along the way that last year was much more difficult for us to dig ourselves out of. We are pleased with that side to be able to stop the negative trends when they have come up on us.

“At the same time, we haven’t gone on that positive run of success that we’ve been waiting for that is going to put us in position to clearly be in the thick of a pennant race.”

He’s hopeful any moves he makes over the next 24 days to six months to next spring can aid in that cause. But he only intends to complete a deal if it fits the plan and giving away controlled contracts for less than fair value doesn’t seem to be part of it.

Hahn could be bluffing, but that doesn’t sound likely.

“We are willing to make a deal at any point where it makes most sense for or long-term interests,” Hahn said. “Whether that happens in the next two weeks or it takes until the offseason or spring training next year, we are not going to force the issue.”

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.