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Locked Up

As you look across the baseball landscape it's clear to see that the easiest way to go about achieving that long-term, sustained success is by having a core group of 5-7 above-average to star players.
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We all know it's been a pretty active off-season for our White Sox as they have looked to reshape this team to enter it's contention phase here in 2020. If we get in the DeLorean and head back to December of 2016 when Chris Sale was traded signaling the beginning of a rebuilding process, we were told the goal was long-term, sustained success. As you look across the baseball landscape it's clear to see that the easiest way to go about achieving that long-term, sustained success is by having a core group of 5-7 above-average to star players.

As we look at the 2020 White Sox we see the foundation of such a core group with the likes of: Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Tim Anderson, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, an Dylan Cease. Add in there recent draft picks Nick Madrigal, Andrew Vaughn, the 11th pick in the 2020 draft (in what is hailed as a loaded class) and you can see the Sox have built a stable of potentially high end performers. This was an integral aspect of the process that began in December 2016. By all indications, the Sox have succeeded in this phase (much to the chagrin of Twitter prognosticators).

Once the core group of talent is identified and in place, the next key phase is ensuring that said core has an opportunity for a 4-6 year window of success. This can be a challenge for many clubs due to players arriving to the big leagues at different times, so the necessity of managing contract lengths is paramount to long-term viability for a franchise. The Kansas City Royals are a perfect example of this. The Royals finally broke over the .500 plateau in the 2013 season finishing 86-76 after 9 consecutive losing seasons and 17 sub .500 seasons in an 18 year stretch. The Royals "window" culminated, sadly, with a World Series victory in 2015. Concluding three consecutive winning seasons that saw two pennants and one championship. They haven't had a winning season since and don't look to have one into the foreseeable future.

The issue the Royals and other teams have faced is an inability to secure their rising talent through a competitive window. That brings us to White Sox General Manager, Rick Hahn. Hahn's tenure as GM of our beloved White Sox can't be defined as a success to this point. I fall somewhere in the middle of the Twitter war on the GM as I'm neither a "Hahnbot" nor a person that blames him for all the teams issues in recent years. I feel I give him credit when warranted, and blame when deserved.

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The one thing I can say with an absolute level of certainty that Rick Hahn excels at, is finding a way to secure the White Sox rising talent under team control. We saw this with below-market deals for Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Adam Eaton, and Tim Anderson during Rebuild I. Now in Rebuild II, Hahn has successfully ensured that Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, and Aaron Bummer (while of lesser value overall, still very important) will all be with this club through at least the 2025, and Anderson through 2024 potentially.

Rick Hahn White Sox

Photo: Brian Hill/Daily Herald

Having three potential superstars locked down with cost certainty for at least the next 6 seasons is fairly significant, and I don't think that can be overstated. While these deals are somewhat different than the well below market-value deals we saw in Rebuild I, the avoidance of the arbitration process and cost certainty for players with the extreme upside potential that they possess should position the Sox well into the coming decade. Mixing in another deal with the likes of Lucas Giolito or Dylan Cease will only strengthen the Sox position in the coming years.

As a fan base, we are sadly accustomed to disappointment in the free agent market. Maintaining contract control for players the ilk of Moncada, Robert, and Jimenez ensures this team will have these high upside talents through the best years, conceivably, of their careers. This should serve as a driving force to ensuring competitiveness as we begin a new decade of play in a few weeks. This cost certainty with these uber talents should provide the team the "flexibility" to be active in addressing remaining needs externally in the open market. I'm not even going to suggest this frees up the Sox to make a run at the right fielder that was traded to Los Angeles a few weeks ago, and you shouldn't either. As long as the current ownership is in place, it's simply not happening. However, the Sox will be well positioned to get solid player like a George Springer, Joc Pederson in the open market or take on a contract of reasonable size via trade.

For all the things Hahn has done wrong in his tenure, I believe he should be commended for his ability to secure his young, rising talent. This has been a growing trend across the game in recent years, but Hahn has been able to stay ahead of the curve. The recent deals for Jimenez, Robert, Bummer, and now Moncada have not been the extreme team-friendly deals we saw with the likes of Sale, Quintana, and Anderson. Rather they have been closer to being fair market value for the expected performance of the players. Now, with the likes of Moncada, Robert, and Jimenez they all have the potential to outplay their contracts costing them money in the end, but they all still have relatively limited experience to where there is still risk involved to the team.

We're dangerously close to Opening Day at 35th/Shields and it is an exciting time to be a Sox fan. We should all share in the excitement of knowing we have the opportunity to watch a young, budding core of talent on a daily basis for at least half of the next decade. This is something that this organization hasn't seen since the late '80s/early '90s when they had a core group of: Frank Thomas, Robin Ventura, Jack McDowell, Alex Fernandez, and Wilson Alvarez. Let's hope fate is on our side a little more this time.