December 5, 2022

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White Sox GM Hahn talks LH bat in outfield, Rodón decision

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This story was excerpted from Scott Merkin’s White Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Welcome to a new segment now known as “White Sox issues to discuss with Rick Hahn.”

Ok, I’m still working on a better name, but the White Sox general manager took time at the start of the Yankees series to answer more than a few questions I posed to him, which you have posed to me at various times since the start of Spring Training. Hahn’s in-depth answers will be split into this week and next week’s Newsletters, which we in the business call a tease or a promo.

So, let’s tackle Part 1 of this conversation.

Left-handed-hitting outfielder

I first mentioned left-handed hitting in general, bringing up Gavin Sheets, after which Hahn also mentioned switch-hitters such as Yoán Moncada and Yasmani Grandal. Eventually I arrived at the need for a left-handed-hitting outfielder to further balance the lineup.

“We certainly were in the market in various conversations to guys who would fit that profile,” Hahn said. “When you say left-handed right fielder, you are saying you wanted us to get more lineup balance to do damage against right-handed pitching. And in the end, you add AJ Pollock to this club, we added someone who does damage against right-handed pitching, not only in 2021, but throughout his career.

“Not perhaps the prototype you had in mind at the start of the offseason when you say we need a left-handed bat. But in terms of the actual offensive production, AJ has a track record of being more productive than perhaps some of the left-handed-hitting options we could have plugged in there.”

“I will always have respect for fan opinions and ideas,” Hahn said. “The bare minimum I would ask is an understanding that not only are team executives looking to do everything in their power to make the team better and want to do so as much as any individual fan does, but also more often than not, they are privy to information that is not readily available publicly.

“One very popular free agent from this offseason wound up not signing for reasons that were known to clubs well before they were known publicly. Again, that influences your decision-making process.”

Rodón allowed eight runs over 3 2/3 innings in a 15-6 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday, during a game in which future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols pitched. But the southpaw, who was a 2021 All-Star for the White Sox, had been dominant for the Giants up until that point. The White Sox did not bring back Rodón or offer the free agent a qualifying offer, which Hahn explained.

“Based on all the information we had at the time, we felt it was more prudent to continue to maintain the financial flexibility into the offseason, even if it was going to cost us the 80th pick in the Draft,” Hahn said. “Didn’t preclude us from revisiting signing Carlos from a different type of deal at some point.

“But at that point in time, given the potential economic commitment it was going to require, we preferred to maintain our flexibility, even though obviously we were forsaking a chance to get roughly the 80th pick in the Draft. Nothing to do with not wanting Draft picks or not appreciating the value of Draft picks. It was just a part of the decision-making calculus at the time where flexibility was more important than the pick.”

Hahn is happy for Rodón’s success, including his breakout campaign with the White Sox in ’21.

“It’s wonderful. He’s a kid who has been through so much,” Hahn said. “I was thrilled last year he got to show White Sox fans what he’s capable of doing when he’s fully healthy and everything is right. It’s a testament to Carlos and his family.

“Selfishly, it’s also a testament to our scouts, who fought for him out of North Carolina State, our training staff who helped him navigate through all the setbacks he had the first part of his career, and the fact that the first half of this season looks a lot like the first half of last season is wonderful. Very happy for him.”

Here’s a hint for next week’s Hahn installment: Trade Deadline action and social media.

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