When the Chicago White Sox promoted Rick Hahn to the general manager’s seat, they tasked him with a tall order. Hahn needs to build a winner, step out of the shadow of Kenny Williams and put his fingerprints on the White Sox.
So far, so good. After less than three weeks on the job, Hahn's already made an impact on the White Sox.
Forget picking up the $9.5 million option on Gavin Floyd or signing Jake Peavy to a two-year, $29 million contract extension, Hahn’s most important decision to this point has been the promotion of Buddy Bell to executive vice president/assistant general manager.
The importance of Bell’s promotion cannot be overstated.
See, Williams seemed to be his own worst enemy for 13 seasons when it came to evaluating a players' value. Worse yet, as the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers wrote last week, Williams’ “focus seemed to go beyond the 25-man roster only when he needed prospects he could trade for veterans.”
There was simply too much power in the hands of one man. That had to contribute to the low ranking the White Sox minor league system often received. Baseball Prospectus, as an example, had the Sox dead last prior to the 2012 season.
By placing Bell in the AGM seat, Hahn has ensured that player development will always be in his ear as he works out the financial matters.
Sometimes, good general managers play to their weaknesses—and scouting is Hahn's.
The Tribune’s Mark Gonzales, for example, noted upon Hahn’s promotion that the new White Sox GM had only recently been exposed to scouting as a process. Dave van Dyck, also from the Tribune, called player development a “perceived shortcoming” for the contract negotiator.
On Saturday, Doug Laumann, director of amateur scouting for the club, told Chris Rongey on WSCR’s White Sox Weekly that, while nothing has changed “philosophically,” the processes have.
Laumann told Rongey that Hahn and Bell brought everyone together last week for the first time since 2007. The reason: to make sure that scouting and development strategies were clear.
Hahn is simply not a personnel guy, and he knows it. So he put someone in place who can assume that role. The new pairing in the front office promises to be a departure from the status quo.
Rogers summed up the expected nature of their relationship in his article from last week. “Under Hahn and Bell,” he wrote, “the patience level of the organization is sure to go up while the impulsiveness goes down.”
For his part, Bell was quoted in the Tribune saying "the only change I see (in duties) is that I probably will be more involved in decision-making."
It could be a perfect system. A major league contract guy (Hahn) working with a minor league baseball man (Bell) in an effort to build a winner.
To be sure, it is too early in the Hahn regime to make a final assessment, and many things can still go wrong. He is taking a different path, though.
And while the future for the White Sox is unknown, Hahn has wasted no time putting his fingerprints on the franchise.