Kenny Williams was one of the most unique general managers in baseball.
He hardly ran a front office that was known for statistical analysis, yet statheads generally had some level of respect for him. He brought in more big names than probably any non-Yankees GM during his 12-year tenure; some worked out, and some most definitely did not. The Sox ended an 88-year championship drought during his tenure and went 1,014-931 overall, but they made the playoffs just twice.
Williams' tenure officially ended in a manner which had long been rumored today, with him being promoted to executive vice president and Rick Hahn, who worked under Williams during the entire 12 years, taking his place. I am for the most part a Williams fan, feeling that his relatively high number of plusses outweighed his relatively high number of minuses. But I feel this is a good thing for the White Sox, on a number of levels.
The biggest benefit is that they don't lose Hahn. He's been considered a GM-in-waiting for a number of years. According to the Chicago Tribune, he "interviewed for several GM positions" with other clubs prior to this promotion. He seems like a loyal guy, but had the Sox not given him this opportunity soon, it seems likely they'd have lost him. He's widely respected in baseball circles, and by most accounts, losing him would have been a major blow to the front office.
And given where the White Sox are directionally, I think the timing is right. Williams had mentioned the phrase "rebuilding" last offseason, and then he quickly backtracked and didn't really tear down the foundation. The team responded by surprising many pundits, myself included, and spending the majority of the season in first place before fizzling late. But with an aging core and a lowly-regarded minor-league system, I believe the Sox are eventually going to have to undergo some level of a rebuild.
Rebuilding is something the Sox have never really done under Williams. They've always had enough going for them at the big-league level to avoid such projects. And frankly, I don't think Williams — the guy who is perhaps best known for surprising, splashy in-season trades to bolster his team — has the patience or the skillset to make a team younger and cheaper in an efficient, optimal manner. From everything I've heard about him, that seems like the kind of project that suits Hahn well.
With the front office restructuring, the Sox are better equipped to undergo the kind of rebuilding they may not need right away but probably will within another year or two — and they don't have to lose Williams. Hahn will have the final say in personnel matters, but Williams is still around to offer a voice. Sounds like a win-win, and sounds like something that can lead to lots of winning in the long term for the White Sox.