(MCT) CHICAGO — General manager Rick Hahn paints a rosier picture for the White Sox’s future than many observers and fans can see.
Hahn believes the team can be strong because its starting rotation is under contract control through next year and ranks first in the American League in opponents’ batting average (.244) and third in ERA (3.89).
That was before Dylan Axelrod was peppered for seven runs Wednesday night in an 8-5 loss to the American League Central-leading Tigers.
Hahn wouldn’t address questions regarding potential trades leading to the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline before Wednesday night’s game. But from his comments to four beat writers after spending most of the afternoon on his cell phone, it appears the Sox are looking for young hitters in return in any deals that likely would involve relievers Jesse Crain, Matt Lindstrom and Matt Thornton.
Many teams also are interested in right fielder Alex Rios, who command two bona fide prospects.
Hahn has dispatched several of his professional scouts to evaluate prospects from several minor league organizations, including those of the Braves,, Blue Jays, Rangers and Red Sox.
And Hahn emphasized the Sox won’t rush any of their prospects just because a position may become open. The Sox’s 2014 rotation could be comprised of All-Star Chris Sale, John Danks, Jose Quintana, Jake Peavy (who will start Sunday for Double-A Birmingham in a rehab start at Huntsville) and either Hector Santiago (if he’s not dealt) or Triple-A Charlotte standout Erik Johnson (if Axelrod’s struggles continue).
“You are going to compete in this league with pitching, and we feel we have the nucleus that is going to help us compete,” Hahn said. “The bulk of our struggles this year have been on the offensive side. That’s something we are going to have to improve.
“We are not going to rush guys up because there is an opening at position X. We aren’t going to put our best guy in the system in the big leagues because there’s a need. We have to be careful these guys develop at their natural pace. We tend to be aggressive and give guys opportunities as soon as they prove they can handle it.
“But when a guy is going to make that jump is going to be dictated more by their personal development case as opposed to our need.”
Offense is a priority because the Sox entered Wednesday’s game ranked 10th in the AL in batting average despite their 23-hit attack Tuesday and because of the overall struggles of top prospects Carlos Sanchez, Jared Mitchell and Trayce Thompson. On the bright side, Sanchez, 21, was 8-for-19 in his last four games for Charlotte.
“I think he is, correct me if I’m wrong, he’s still literally the youngest player in the International League,” Hahn said. “You have to judge his performance a little bit through that prism.”
The Sox haven’t settled on a permanent position for Sanchez, who can play shortstop and second base.
“We are leaving things open,” Hahn said. “There’s no need to decide yet, so we won’t.”