The first big event of the 2017 offseason kicks off on Monday in Orlando, Florida. The general manager meetings are a preamble to the Winter Meetings in Dec. but there is plenty of reason to keep an eye peeled for movement.
Rick Hahn was active last winter in rebooting the White Sox roster and this offseason stands to be more subdued. There is scant value hidden among the leftovers on the big-league roster besides Jose Abreu and there is nary a scent of interest in other White Sox players. But the GM meetings are the place to stoke the coals and create markets for players.
Feel out the free agent market
Given the White Sox’ activity last offseason and leading up to the trade deadline, teams aren’t certain to kick the tires on many south-side assets. The White Sox farm system has been restocked and there is little pressure to cut deals that “serve two masters” as Rick Hahn likes to call it.
Teams will take the next few days to check in on free agents and talk to player-agents to gauge what players are looking for while Hahn is sure to chum the waters searching for bullpen help. Hahn doesn’t have much to offer out of the bullpen and most of his value is shelved recovering from injuries, but it never hurts to ask. In fact, Hahn might be more active in free-agent reliever discussions than actively seeking buyers.
Although the South Siders aren’t ready to make a splash in free agency they need to sign a starting pitcher and look for value from available relievers. Signing Derek Holland didn’t pan out the way White Sox brass expected it to, but they will eye similar bargains this offseason.
Relievers are always a tough market to follow. Given the uncertainty with Nate Jones after having nerve repositioning surgery, Jake Petricka undergoing a similar procedure in Oct. and Zack Putnam returning from Tommy John surgery, the bullpen is in flux to say the least. There are plenty of quality relievers aiming to revive their careers that could pique Hahn’s interest – Huston Street might be the top target.
I don’t think Garcia will be traded this offseason. Too many unanswered questions swirl in his orbit. Evan after a strong 2017 campaign, teams will undoubtedly want to see if Garcia can pile up consecutive productive seasons. Still, Hahn will certainly throw his name out in conversations to see what the market expects from the 26-year-old slugger.
Lots can happen between now and Winter Meetings in Dec. but the White Sox don’t have the same talent to sell that they did last year. If no one overbids for Garcia this offseason White Sox brass will allow Garcia to set the tone next season. There is no promise of a return but if Garcia can erupt early in the season and demonstrate the kind of power and consistency teams want to see from his frame he could be a sought-after trade target by mid July.
Here is a question few prognosticators have addressed: Where does Matt Davidson fit into the future with the White Sox? While many have focused on Abreu and Garcia’s future, Davidson has quietly receded out of the conversation.
Davidson had a good rookie campaign. He ranked among rookie-leaders in home runs but never stood a chance against Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger. Both will run away with Rookie of the Year awards but there is no denying Davidson’s power-stroke.
But Davidson might be a one-trick pony. He batted a low .220 with an ugly 37.2 percent strikeout-rate. Yolmer Sanchez can easily handle the defensive duties at third base while offering flexibility in the line-up. Whether Hahn is willing to jettison Davidson after one season is difficult to pin down, but if another team is willing to make a fair swap Davidson could be dealt.
And if there is a question about who can help out at D.H. Nicky Delmonico might be able to shoulder some of that burden.
Hahn certainly won’t be a passive observer in Orlando this week, but he probably won’t hold court like he did last year.