The general managers meetings in Palm Springs, Calif., this week are a first for Rick Hahn, but it’s not the new White Sox GM’s first rodeo.
As assistant GM to Ken Williams for 12 years, Hahn earned his spurs at gatherings like these and was deemed ready to wear a bigger hat years ago. He showed that three days into the job when he stabilized the Sox’ rotation for 2013 by signing Jake Peavy before Peavy could even hit the free-agent market for more years and dollars elsewhere. Hahn also picked up the option on right-hander Gavin Floyd.
Armed with six starting pitchers, assuming 2012 Opening Day starter John Danks is ready, Hahn won’t be in over his head. He’ll be the envy of a peer group that knows you can never have enough pitching.
Having Peavy, Floyd and lefties Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Hector Santiago to work with for next year’s rotation would allow the Sox to make sure Danks — who is slightly ahead of schedule with his offseason throwing program — is good and ready after having surgery in August to repair a capsular tear and remove minor debris around his rotator cuff and biceps.
“It’s nice to be able to insulate and not rush that,” Hahn said. “We always prefer to have more depth than less with pitching.’’
With more, it also gives Hahn pieces such as Floyd, Quintana and Santiago to dangle as trade bait for potential needs (third base or catcher).
“Having very good depth allows us to explore other opportunities,’’ he said.
While trades do get made at the GM meetings, they are generally more useful for laying groundwork for the winter meetings that come a month later (Dec. 2-6 in Nashville, Tenn.). The GM meetings begin Monday, immediately after Sox organizational meetings this weekend in which scenarios for free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski and free-agent third baseman Kevin Youkilis and their possible alternatives will be discussed.
If the Sox have three or four lefties in their rotation, they’ll want to be strong defensively at third base. If Pierzynski is gone, they’ll want some offense at third to pick up the slack.
Hahn has been talking to agents for both players, but he won’t panic if his pieces aren’t in place by Thanksgiving. Or even Christmas.
“We’ll take whatever time that matters,’’ Hahn said. “But if it takes until December or January, as it did in the ’04 winter when we signed [Tadahito] Iguchi and Pierzynski, so be it.”
A lot depends on what the market would bear for Pierzynski, who will be 36 next season, and Youkilis, who will be 34.
“This is the first time Kevin has had a chance to be out on the open market,’’ Hahn said last week, “and he wants to explore what’s out there. But he knows there is no confusion in his mind about our desire to bring him back. So we’re going to stay on that, stay in communication. It’s not a great time to be a club in the free-agent market looking for a third baseman — the player pool is not real deep — so I expect Kevin will be popular, but we’re going to be in on that until the end, I think.”