Rick Hahn saw a common reaction in regard to new Chicago White Sox manager Pedro Grifol while walking around the MLB general manager meetings this week at Conrad Las Vegas at Resorts World.
“I’ve heard from more people who had no dog in the fight coming up to me about what a great hire he was and how happy they are for him,” the Sox GM said Tuesday. “Former players who are here and a couple of agents had said something about how their players had mentioned him, a few people in the commissioner’s office.
“It’s nothing we’re seeking out at this point, but just across the board there’s happiness for him and people rooting for his success.”
The Sox filled their most immediate offseason hole last week by hiring Grifol. It’s just one area that needed addressing for a team that looks to bounce back after missing the postseason with an 81-81 record.
Hahn anticipates officially announcing the remainder of the coaching staff before Thanksgiving.
“Really looking to try to build an extremely strong and diverse staff around Pedro, and if that takes an extra week or two, so be it,” Hahn said.
“We want this to be a collaborative effort with Pedro — and when we start adding staff members, including their opinions on people who could be candidates. In the end, it’s Pedro’s staff so we want him to be comfortable with each and every individual on it.”
As for the roster Grifol and the staff will be working with, the Sox face decisions at second base and the corner outfield spots.
The Sox are set in center field with Luis Robert. But just how often Eloy Jiménez plays left field and how many times he’s slotted in as the designated hitter remains to be seen.
“Obviously had a few physical ailments last year,” Hahn said. “Let’s get him into camp healthy, get him into camp in shape and ready to go and then make an assessment versus what else we’ve added to the mix before locking him into 60 or 80 games in the outfield or primary DH.”
There’s a chance prospect Oscar Colás could be in the mix in right field.
Colás, 24, had a combined .314/.371/.524 slash line with 23 home runs and 79 RBIs in 117 games with Class A Winston-Salem (59 games), Double-A Birmingham (51 games) and Triple-A Charlotte (seven games). It was his first season with the organization after the Sox and Colás came to terms on a $2.7 million deal announced in January during the international signing period.
“We think a lot of Oscar Colás,” Hahn said. “Don’t lose sight of that. Doesn’t mean there won’t be external outfield additions but I don’t want him to get lost in your offseason analyses of where we are.”
The Sox will be on the lookout for outfield depth after AJ Pollock declined a player option Tuesday to become a free agent.
And they will likely have a different opening-day second baseman after the team announced Monday it had declined Josh Harrison’s club option.
“Second base, we have internal options of Romy (Gonzalez), Leury (García), (Danny) Mendick, (Lenyn) Sosa, but it is an area we feel … we’ll spend some time this offseason if there is a way to get better,” Hahn said.
With José Abreu a free agent, Andrew Vaughn could be in line to move to his natural position at first base. Vaughn has spent much of his first two big-league seasons in the outfield.
While Hahn guessed the team is more likely to add via trade than free agency, he added it “doesn’t mean we’re closing off any avenues and we’ll look at things, but we’re committed to a handful of guys based on the contracts we’ve given out. Doesn’t mean they’re all going to be here opening day, but there is a reason we gave these guys the money we did and it’s because we believe in their upside, and getting them back to the level they performed at in the past is a priority for next year.”
Third baseman Yoán Moncada and catcher Yasmani Grandal are among the position players aiming to rebound. The two are switch-hitters in a lineup that largely has been right-handed.
“Lineup balances would be a benefit for us,” Hahn said. “Fundamentally doing more damage against right-handed pitching is a priority. Traditionally, that comes from left-handed-hitting bats.”
Hahn noted that every big-league team is always in the market for pitching. The Sox have a rotation opening with Johnny Cueto a free agent.
“Even if Cueto was still under control hypothetically for next year and we had Davis Martin, still — in the back of our heads —more pitching is not going to hurt us,” Hahn said.
Whether it’s via trade, free agency or healthy players returning to form, the Sox know as a whole adjustments need to be made.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in the room who’s pounding the table for ‘let’s stand pat, run it back with these guys,’ ” Hahn said. “We know there’s areas we can improve with these guys.
“We certainly believe that things evening out will be in our favor next year in terms of guys getting closer to their traditional levels of health and playing and performance, but we still know we’ve got work to do.”