So, Rick Hahn likes the White Sox starter depth…


If asked to give a comment on the record, Rick Hahn could probably squeeze out something nice to say about:

Every player and every position situation is fine and not in desperate need of work. Until he shows it, Rick Hahn is not keen on weakening his negotiating position in the interest of sharing information.

But as an experiment, let’s contemplate something he said:

‘‘We like how we match up against anybody one through five,’’ Hahn said.

‘‘We’ve been fairly popular [in trade discussions] because of our [pitching] depth, but we’re not
inclined to move any of that strength,’’ Hahn said during a conference call Monday to discuss the signing of free-agent infielder Jeff Keppinger.

‘‘We’ll continue to listen and explore options, and should there be something that we feel is so strong that we cannot pass up, we’ll do it. But at this point, we like our pitching staff, we like our rotation.’’

The Royals’ big leap forward to make their rotation half-decent was predicated on their offense being ready to compete. Despite the potential present across the diamong, this is quite a lot to ask of the 12th-ranked offense in the American League. While the White Sox are also a thoroughly flawed team that many will pick to finish behind Kansas City, the rotation they have on hand is more readily capable of being the above-average unit that supports a contending team. If it’s left alone and allowed to be, that is.

After finishing in the top 2 in FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement every year from 2008-11, the Sox rotation slipped to fifth in 2012 due to the John Danks‘ injury and Gavin Floyd‘s struggles. A healthy season replete with career-average performances–think a 5 WAR season from Chris Sale, 4 from Jake Peavy, 3 from Danks and Floyd, and 1 from Jose Quintana–would easily vault the Sox into the top 3 in the league. Which is to say nothing of the depth offered by having Hector Santiago as a 6th starter.

It’s not a world-beating group, but it’s a route to pick up the slack for a team that figures to take a step back when the offense ages and A.J. Pierzynski‘s superlative 2012 campaign fails to be repeated by Tyler Flowers, or Pierzynski himself. Moreover, until the starting pitching market dries all the way up to where Gavin Floyd can bring back an above-average bat for a corner spot, there might be more security in, yes, trusting once more in Danks and Floyd to produce than playing the market.

Jeff Keppinger’s arrival helps by allowing for the White Sox to have competence even if they cannot make a move to add a full-time 3rd basemen, and the ability to move his capable bat around if they do.  Yet early rumors of shopping Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo threaten to pick at an outfield depth that is formidable in the future, but undeveloped at the moment, with neither Trayce Thompson nor Jared Mitchell ready to step in.

Any trade Hahn engineers to revamp the White Sox is somewhat unforeseeable in nature, but from the outside, the only area of depth to deal from–unless Tyler Flowers suddenly becomes expendable–is the starting rotation. That brings the question of whether  a package overwhelmingly likely to be built around Gavin Floyd can bring more value than a rotation that stays loaded as is.

If I had my druthers, I would push for Floyd to be part of a drive to see how far the starting rotation could carry the 2013 Sox, but after all these years, it would be hard to question any internal cynicism from the White Sox brass about what they can accomplish with this same group. Not that they have ever shown any before.

 

Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan

 

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