The Chicago White Sox are facing some tough decisions this off-season. Trouble is, those decisions have very little to do with their players. Due to the daily drama that surrounds this team — specifically between Manager Ozzie Guillen and General Manager Kenny Williams — rumors have surfaced that the White Sox front office might look drastically different come the start of the 2012 season. On top of potentially losing Williams and Guillen, Assistant General Manager Rick Hahn is thought to be one of the leading GM candidates this off-season. There’s no doubt that Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf faces some tough decisions this off-season — and that’s before he even begins to think about his 25-man roster.
The issues between Williams and Guillen are well documented at this point. It seems every year, for the past 2-3 seasons, there have been rumors that the two could no longer work with each other. Their arguments have ranged from issues over current players playing time to issues involving their own family members. While they have been able to work through these issues in the past, it looks as if things are about to change on the South Side.
Though Guillen is technically under contract through next season, he’s already indicated that he won’t manage unless he receives a contract extension from the team. Should Reinsdorf decide against extending Guillen, he could choose to trade him to the Florida Marlins. Manager-for-player trades aren’t typical, but it has been done before — the most recent featuring Lou Piniella for Randy Winn. If Guillen truly is done in Chicago, this would be the ideal outcome for Reinsdorf. Not only would he be able to rid himself of another drama-filled season, but he might actually be able to benefit his team by acquiring a useful player.
Getting rid of Williams would be somewhat more difficult for Reinsdorf, but the scenario still exists. Williams has received the brunt of the criticism from fans and writers for his recent failures as GM. While his gambles have worked out in the past — like trading Carlos Lee for Scott Podsednik or getting Gavin Floyd and John Danks for next to nothing — his most recent attempts have put the White Sox in a terrible position moving forward. Not only is payroll at an all-time high on the South Side, but the troublesome contracts that have contributed to that payroll (Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Jake Peavy) aren’t set to expire any time soon. Reinsdorf could probably fire Williams based on those decisions alone, but there’s another interesting solution to this potential problem.
Although Rick Hahn initially looked like a strong candidate for the many GM vacancies around the league, there’s actually a chance he could stay in Chicago. Some Chicago reporters have suggested a scenario in which Williams is promoted to a higher position in the front office — leaving the vacant GM role for Hahn. This gives Reinsdorf a chance to retain Williams while effectively removing him from his current role.
In any case, Reinsdorf faces some interesting decisions this off-season. With the organization in turmoil, the best option might be the last*. The Guillen/Williams combination has experienced an immense amount of success, but they seem to have run their course on the South Side. Promoting Hahn to the GM role allows Reinsdorf to inject someone different into an important role, while retaining Williams — if that’s something Reinsdorf desires. In this scenario, Reinsdorf can choose to keep Guillen — who would work primarily with Hahn — or choose to deal him to the Marlins for the right price. While things look bleak on the South Side, there are definitely ways to move forward, while keeping everyone relatively happy. Either way, you probably don’t want to be in Jerry Reinsdorf’s shoes this off-season.
*Side note: I want to make it clear that while Rick Hahn was been friendly with FanGraphs in the past, this is my personal opinion. I was unable to make the trip to Spring Training last year, and did not meet Hahn, so I don’t want to receive any claims of personal bias.
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