CHICAGO – For as long as Rick Hahn dreamed of becoming a general manager in the majors, let alone for his hometown White Sox, it still has not sunk in yet.
But the honeymoon is already over for Hahn, who was named the Sox’s GM and senior vice president Friday as Ken Williams was promoted to executive vice president. While the move only just became official, Hahn had been working the past few weeks as the club’s GM.
Hahn said one reason he wanted to become a GM was to play an impactful role in helping deliver a World Series title to an organization. He won’t have to wait long to put his mark on the organization. With the World Series under way, players become free agents immediately after the series ends and teams can begin signing other teams’ free agents six days later.
“We expect to compete for a playoff spot next year,” Hahn said. “Now obviously there are some holes as we sit here today.”
Hahn takes on the day-to-day duties and believes he’s ready to handle even more responsibility, prepared by the 12 years he has spent with the Sox and working alongside Williams.
“I want to be able to carry over some of Kenny’s aggressiveness and creativity that he’s exhibited over the last 12 years,” Hahn said. “I think where we’ve made our mark over the last decade was capitalizing on some undervalued guys and being able to bring out their best.”
The first and most important decisions Hahn faces is prioritizing and potentially working out deals for free agents Jake Peavy, A.J. Pierzynski and Kevin Youkilis. Peavy ($22 million) and Youkilis ($13 million) each have options, which will likely be declined with the Sox paying the buyouts. Organizational meetings begin Nov. 3 in Phoenix where these issues will be discussed, including the possibility of having four left-handed pitchers in next year’s rotation.
Although Hahn did not sound optimistic all three players would return, he refused the handicap the probability of Pierzynski and Peavy re-signing without knowing the market. However, he admitted the Sox are keeping an eye on Detroit during the offseason.
“It doesn’t drive the specific decision, but you have to be cognizant of what you are competing against and the level that we need to aspire to in terms of projected wins for next year,” Hahn said. “It’s influenced by the other guys in the division what they do.”
Hahn said the Sox have reached out and talked to their impending free agents and representatives so both sides understand what each is looking for. The Sox’s payroll for next season, which has not been finalized, is expected to be close to the 2012 payroll of approximately $98 million.
“Given the sort of, shallowness, of this year’s free agent market and the fact that there are some clubs with money to spend, I’m not overly optimistic for any huge players in free agency,” Hahn said. “At the same time, we’re going to be out there looking for values and certainly continue talking to our guys and see if we can’t fit them in for next year, too.”