The White Sox will soon promote their top two front office people, Ken Williams and Rick Hahn, sources confirmed, and the new GM Hahn has some big tasks immediately ahead.
Williams will become the new team president under the new arrangement with the well-regarded Hahn ascending to become the team's general manager. In the new set-up, according to people familiar with the situation Hahn will not just be the GM in title but will in fact be the main baseball decisionmaker.
Williams is a very strong personality so he'll surely have his say in baseball matters, but people familiar wikth the arrangement say the plan was for Hahn, who has degrees from the University of Michigan, Harvard and Northwestern, to do a little more scouting this year to add to his well-rounded baseball resume. Hahn is already an experienced administrator and negotiator from years as Williams' top assistant. The change has been anticipated for years.
Williams and Hahn have declined to confirm the coming change, except for Williams to tell the Chicago Tribune this week that nothing would happen this week as he wanted time to "clear my head.''
Judging by some issues that lie ahead, Hahn's the one who needs the time. The White Sox's $96-million payroll may rise a bit this year after it was pared last year with the move of Mark Buehrle to the Marlins (though a playoff berth would have just about ensured an increase), but Hahn will have some very tough calls.
Three prominent players who have a chance to become free agents are surely near the top of the new GM's agenda. And the White Sox will try to keep all three: catcher A.J. Pierzynski, pitcher Jake Peavy and third baseman Kevin Youkilis. Here's a rundown of these decisions ...
1. Pierzynski. He returned at an incredible bargain last time ($8 million, two years) but he likely stands to receive a contract that's double that this time after having his best power season in 2012: maybe $16 million for two years. The Dodgers actually bid higher than the White Sox last time, and it's not harder to imagine someone outbidding them again considering the paucity of quality catching around the majors. One advantage is that Pierzynski loves being a White Sox, and he and team owner Jerry Reinsdorf are very close.
2. Peavy. The White Sox have understandably decided not to pick up his $22-million option for 2013 after Peavy's excellent season, so they'll owe him the $4-million buyout. They'l hope to fold that into a new deal, presumably on a deal of about two years. But with half the teams in baseball seeking a frontline starter, they will have a lot of competition. Peavy likes new manager Robin Ventura (no way he'd have stayed if Ozzie Guillen was still the manager), his teammates and Chicago. But he also liked the West Coast very much. He's moved back home from San Diego to Alabama, but friends wouldn't be shocked if he went back to the West Coast, perhaps to the Dodgers, who have money and a pitching need. The guess here is, if the White sox can compete financially, he stays. But that's a big question.
3. Youkilis. The White Sox plan not to pick up his $13-million option, either, and instead buy him out for $1 million. But they absolutely loved how Youkilis fit into their lineup, and especially their clubhouse. The guess is, they try to keep him on a two-year deal at a lower rate, pehaps something along the lines of the Pierzynski guess, $15 million for two years. The Phillies or one of a few other times would fit Youkilis, as well. But the guess here is, he stays.