Rick Hahn sets the stage for free agency


Newly-minted White Sox GM Rick Hahn had a pretty busy Thursday lunch hour.  At noon, he sat down for a live chat with White Sox season-ticket holders, and at 12:30pm, he was submitted to 20 minutes of questions from the bloggerati.

Mark Primiano of South Side Sox has the full transcript (which I put on The Hub earlier), and it includes good stuff about the way he and Kenny Williams interact in their decision process, his interpretation of the Sox organizational approach, and frank talk about Jake Peavy taking a hometown discount.

The most topical element of discussion–with the White Sox organizational meetings coming this weekend along with open free agency–was Hahn laying out the position areas of focus.  Let us parse through it.

"“Third base is obviously going to be a priority as there is no clear answer for that on the roster right now.”"

Certainly this excerpt deserves the top spot on the bulletin board with the other press clippings tracking organizational confidence in Brent Morel.

"“We’ll look at the bullpen, trying complement what we have with some different types of relievers. We obviously need to figure out what we’re going to do with the backup infield and backup outfield positions.”"

A relief improvement seems highly plausible since it’s an avenue where the White Sox could improve from last year’s taxi squad of rookies, and do so without completely blowing away Hahn’s previously stated budget goals. Mike Adams stands out as a once-elite reliever coming off a down and injury-hampered season.  Bobby Jenks, Jose Contreras, and Jason Grilli are former White Sox free agent relievers, and Grilli might even pitch again in life! There also many others, since these are relievers we’re talking about.

"“If A.J. were not back, if Youkilis were back at third, we may be a little too right-handed and we need to look out for that. There are some moving pieces involved. Third base is probably the one getting the most attention as the positional need to be most addressed.”"

This is probably not meant to imply that Youkilis and Pierzynski are in a ‘both or neither’ sort of relationship, because it’s hard to conceptualize either one.

Both returning would represent the White Sox very clearly departing from what they have indicated they would like to spend to throw their hat into the 2013 AL Central ring (in which case, why stop there?). Returning neither–assuring Tyler Flowers a job and prioritizing a lefty third-sacker–puts them in the market for the Eric Chavez and Maicer Itzuris-type of crowd, and other situations where it’d be hard to even hope for anything besides average.

Hahn acknowledged that quandary Friday to ESPN 1000 AM while stating his desire to pursue Youkilis. Jim Margalus posited that Flowers could be traded to fix other problems should Pierzynski returns.  The soon-to-be 27 year-old is more cost-controlled (and therefore more appealing) than trade candidates like Matt Thornton and Gavin Floyd.

So far, Hahn’s in on both marquee outgoing players, and into making improvements everywhere besides the rotation he’s already fortified and the pre-installed veteran offensive cogs. That makes sense to even just for the sake of going through the motions, since the conclusions reached organizational meetings and the reality of what will be affordable in free agency have yet to calcify.

Until then, off-season vision is hazy, try again next week.

Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan