Hahn, Sox aiming to build perennial contender

'Top-heavy roster' didn't work out, leading to trades of Sale, Eaton for top prospects

Hahn, Sox aiming to build perennial contender

With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's White Sox squad each day this week. Today's topic: What's the vision?

CHICAGO -- When Rick Hahn discusses the White Sox current rebuild, the team's general manager uses two words in describing his vision.

Critical mass.

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Hahn isn't solely targeting hitters or pitchers, or favoring left-handers over right-handers or vice versa. He's simply determined to assemble as much elite talent as possible in building a strong core throughout the organization aimed at playoff contention for years to come.

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"The last few years we've had a very top-heavy roster and the reason we haven't won had nothing to do with the quality players at the top end of that roster," Hahn said. "When the time comes that we are in a position to contend again, we are going to be approaching that with ideally a much deeper, more thoroughly balanced roster than what we had.

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"It had to do with what was going on with not just one through 25, but one through 35 or 40. So now as we approach this, we have to build that organizational quality depth, not just insurance policies, but real high-caliber depth."

Not every player Hahn acquires during this rebuild will make it to the Majors. Not every player will stay with the team until it reaches contending status.

But a look at the seven players already picked up by Hahn shows upside and versatility. Yoan Moncada, the organization's No. 1 prospect and No. 2 in all of baseball per MLBPipeline.com, is targeted as the team's future second baseman. The switch-hitter also could wind up at third base or even center field.

Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer all have have the repertoires and stuff to be impact starting pitchers. Some could end up as part of the bullpen alongside high-octane arms such as Zack Burdi, a potential closer of the future.

Young White Sox look to shine

Eventually, the White Sox will add veterans to balance and lead the young core. Hahn said the team is prepared to spend, with free agency a likely possibility when the time is right, and some prospects could be used to produce that important final piece or two via trade.

This rebuild is different from other teams following the same path.

With controllable pieces such as Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, the White Sox were able to obtain near Major League-ready talent who can speed up the process. They also aren't making these moves just to shred payroll or because of impending free agencey.

It's a well-considered and well-discussed rebuild hammered out by Hahn, chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and executive vice president Ken Williams. After years of trying to "fill the gaps" in an effort to win with the core of Sale, Eaton, Jose Quintana and Jose Abreu, it was time to admit that it hadn't worked and wasn't going to work.

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They just didn't have the depth required around that core group. So Hahn's vision going into 2017 focuses on developing this critical mass and having them ready for years to come.

"We understand going forward how we will need to approach it differently when we are in the position to win," Hahn said. "But there's a very humbling element to this that none of us relish or enjoy.

"As we talked about at the Winter Meetings, a lot of people are coming up and congratulating us on the returns for Sale and Eaton. It was kind of like you were sheepish in accepting those accolades because not only should we get a good return for talented players like that, but it's disappointing to trade players who are capable of contributing to a championship right now. The moving of them is an admission that we weren't able to get the job done with them."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.