Rick Hahn doesn’t like to discuss his team’s pursuits of specific free-agent players.
But what happens when one of those players is a little more revealing than the general manager?
Free-agent starting pitcher Cole Hamels told Our Chuck Garfien on the latest edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast that the South Siders have been in contact and are interested in talking with Hamels about a potential signing – though it might have to wait until after some other business gets done.
“They have reached out,” Hamels said. “That was great to be able to hear. I know with the few guys that they’ve signed, I think that was kind of their focus. When they did talk to my agent, it was, ‘Hey, we’re putting something together. We have a few guys that we want to try to get first,’ which I think that’s what they’ve been doing, ‘but we really have some good interest and would like to talk further down the line.’ And I think that’s always really good to see.
“And then you see that they’re actually making moves, and that’s when you pay attention a little bit more, just because you have to see where you might actually fit into the situation.”
Hamels’ description meshes with what the White Sox have done and are rumored to be doing. They made signing free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal a top offseason priority and crossed that off their to-do list by giving him the richest contract in team history. They guaranteed Jose Abreu will wear a White Sox uniform for another three seasons with a contract extension. And they are rumored to be in hot pursuit of free-agent starting pitcher Zack Wheeler, one of the biggest names in that portion of the market.
Bringing Hamels aboard would also go right along with what Hahn has been talking about while discussing his front office’s offseason plans. The White Sox are in search of a pair of arms to add to the starting rotation. Wheeler or someone like him would slot in next to Lucas Giolito at the top of that starting staff. Hamels could be a perfect option to put elsewhere in the rotation, provide some depth and install as a mentor to the rest of a young staff that features Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez.
Hamels would bring not only a veteran presence but a winning history. He was the World Series MVP when the Philadelphia Phillies won it all in 2008.
“I was the same as them,” Hamels said. “And I was lucky enough to get Jamie Moyer to come right over. And all of a sudden I had Pedro Martinez and Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee and (Roy) Oswalt. I had those guys to learn from. I had some of the best in the game to learn from, to teach me how to minimize mistakes, how to, really, when you’re in the pressed, most difficult situation, how to get out of it, limit damage. Because sometimes you’re just flying by the seat of your pants and you don’t recognize what you’re doing so you can remember to not repeat it. So that’s what a good veteran does.
“And I was able to watch, and I feel like that’s what I’ve been able to now actually apply. And that’s how you teach the young guys is how to minimize, damage control.
“That’s what you have to teach the young pitchers. I think Grandal will probably help with that, too. But you have to be able to have that in the dugout all the time while the game’s going on.”
It sounds like there will be competition for Hamels’ services, the four-time All Star saying that more than half the teams in baseball have reached out and expressed some level of interest.
But the words of Hahn and super-agent Scott Boras might be ringing true. Hahn has long said he feels players can see what the White Sox are building and want to be a part of it. Boras said last month at the GM meetings that players are looking at the White Sox much differently than they have in years past. Hamels raved about what the White Sox can be in the future and talked about how attractive it is to be a part of a team ready to make a jump into contention.
“They’re a team that’s making some serious strides,” he said. “I’ve pitched against them the past couple years, and you can see the young talent that they have and now how they’re actually learning the game and how they’re playing well together. At first, I was beating them a lot, and then the past couple seasons they really came out hard and they beat up on me. It’s good to see.
“I love the city of Chicago, had a blast being there for about a year and a half (with the Cubs). It’s one of my favorite cities to travel to, and to actually be there in the summertime and for a season, I loved it. The fan base there, from both sides (of town), for both teams, is absolutely amazing.
“Just to know that you can actually make a difference and seeing that you could be on a team that’s trying to go for those winning ways, that’s all I really ask for. I just want the opportunity.”
Hamels might not be the same pitcher who finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting four times during his 10-year tenure in Philadelphia, but he was quite good on the North Side the last season and a half, posting a 3.30 ERA and striking out 217 batters in 39 starts for the Cubs. That kind of production would certainly aid the White Sox in their quest to transition from rebuilders to contenders.
Giolito said at season’s end that White Sox players’ goal will be to make the postseason in 2020, going as far to say that “if we don’t, then I don’t think we’ve come close to what we should be doing.” Already the White Sox have helped in that goal, by adding Grandal and bringing Abreu back. They seem intent on that being just the beginning of their offseason.
Hamels could be part of that. It sounds like he wants to be, at least.
“When I was with the Phillies, I came up at just the right time where all those guys in the lineup had been there a few years and had just gotten beat down. But they never lost their confidence and they finally felt like it was their time, and they believed it and they went out and proved it,” he said. “And I was able to go out and do my thing and build off their success, which instilled a lot of confidence in me.
“I think that’s where it is in (the White Sox) lineup. They’re finally feeling ready, they’re now ready to take care of business, and everybody will be able to feed off that. And that’s the fun part of how you build a team and see what the guys can really do and how they can prove it to themselves.
“As players, we start to see that and sense that from teams, and those are the teams you want to go jump on board with.”