Rick Hahn’s GM speak is battle-ready


I admit myself a bit embarrassed.

Wednesday night, a tweet claiming that the White Sox were considering Dayan Viciedo and Carlos Sanchez for the 3rd base slot rolled across my timeline. It was getting late, so I went ahead and critiqued the fairly troublesome proposal at face value.

This was not necessarily wrong to do, but it neglected the basic principle that now more than ever, the incentive for GM’s to be completely honest and forthright to the media and public is essentially nil. It gives up leverage and offers nothing in return.

That’s not to say that Rick Hahn has been lying, or even being particularly dishonest. But this little hint he dropped about the 3rd base situation is one of many possible scenarios let loose in the past few days.  They have all been presented absent of any weighting for probability, so that our minds can automatically assume them to be equal, and we can be even less sure about what his plans are than we would be if he had said nothing at all.

To get more at what I mean, imagine the utility of having this:

…floating around at the same time that this is happening:

Or the purpose of making a statement like this:

"“If it came to the point where Tyler was the guy, the primary catcher come 2013 for whatever reason, we have absolute confidence in his ability,” Hahn told The Mully and Hanley Show."

…at the same that this is making the rounds:

"White Sox backup Tyler Flowers is of some interest to the Mets, according to a source."

…and this is still looming:

"Rick Hahn said the club is in constant contact with all of its free agents and has said he’d like all — third baseman Kevin Youkilis and pitcher Brett Myers are also available — to return. But Hahn understands Pierzynski and agent Steve Hilliard would like to explore their options."

But the most recent hubbub from CSN’s Dan Hayes comes directly from the GM meetings, and from some crowdsourcing work by Hayes with the other executives in attendance.  The general takeaway is that the White Sox are open for business and even more open to discussion, but four players were identified by, coincidentally, four rival executives as being particularly available.

  • Gavin Floyd (of course)
  • Gordon Beckham (makes sense, since his replacement is rising through the system)
  • Dayan Viciedo
  • Alejandro De Aza

The last two entries seem to emanate from a place of “You have to spend something to get something”. The White Sox still have a terribly meager collection of positional prospects, but their concentration is somewhat skewed toward the outfield. That, and a passable supply of free agent outfielders might make it easier to move on from the idea of Dayan Viciedo as a building block.  De Aza is effective at the top of the order, has great defensive utility, and remains very inexpensive. That affords him a far better chance of pulling in something actually exciting in return, even if this question…

…is painfully fair.

Coincidentally, these anonymous executives also rightly identify Alex Rios as the best trade chip on the roster, but get the impression that he isn’t available. Losing De Aza may wound the 2013 club, but there’s not viable case to be made that the Sox are even competing for the 2013 AL Central if they flip Rios.

Not that the other four guys should start packing their bags. Hahn’s description of the trade talks makes it sound more like a reconnoissance mission than an actual negotiation. A training exercise to see what trade scenarios can be crafted with those four players rather than an earnest attempt to shop them.

"“[Trade talks will lead nowhere or maybe will lead to some three-way deals in the coming weeks, but at the very least we’ve got a real good sense of what’s out there and how our guys fit.”"

If there’s a benefit to the White Sox permanently having snagged their jeans on the fence separating competing from rebuilding, it’s being able to avoid ever being situationally obligated in any direction. To hear them tell it, they don’t need to fill the 3rd base hole, they could always just go with youngsters, but they also don’t need to trade Floyd, they could just have him bring up the rear on a great rotation.

That kind of business makes for a perplexing off-season with plenty of aimless stretches, but Hahn knows better than to cede that advantage for our edification.

Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan