As the Chicago White Sox start building off last season’s playoff appearance, GM Rick Hahn says anything short of a World Series title ‘would be a disappointment’

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LaMond Pope, Chicago Tribune
·4 min read
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The Chicago White Sox got a taste of the postseason in 2020.

They want more. A lot more.

“As we sit here today, the goal is to win a World Series championship,” general manager Rick Hahn said Wednesday. “So if we fall short of that, it would be a disappointment.

“We’re obviously living in a unique world right now, and if we were to fall short of that (championship) goal, we’d certainly want to look back and try to figure out why, what factors influenced us falling short. But of all days, especially on the first day of camp — not to mention what we’ve all been through for the last several years preparing to get to this point — I think having championship aspirations is to be expected and, to a man, what people want.”

Pitchers and catchers reported to camp Wednesday in Glendale, Ariz. It’s Tony La Russa’s first spring training as a manager since 2011, when he led the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series title.

But La Russa’s arrival isn’t the only reason for the lofty expectations.

“Going back to when we traded Chris Sale (in December 2016), the goal was to put us in a position within a few years of winning championships over this time period,” Hahn said. “Tony, not dissimilar from (closer) Liam Hendriks or adding (catcher) Yasmani (Grandal) or (starter Dallas) Keuchel a year ago, it’s all aimed toward maximizing our chances to win championships over the course of this upcoming window.”

Most of the lineup returns from last season, when the Sox made the playoffs for the first time since 2008. They will have a new designated hitter, and 2019 first-round draft pick Andrew Vaughn is one of the top options.

Vaughn hasn’t played above Class A because minor-league baseball was canceled last year due to the pandemic. He had a strong spring training and summer camp in 2020 and continued his development at the team’s alternate site in Schaumburg.

“Andrew Vaughn is very much in the mix to make this club,” Hahn said. “I know that may strike some people as a little non-traditional, given that he has not had (at-bats) over the course of his career just yet. A lot of things would have been different had there been a minor-league season last year, but one of the most prominent things is ... I don’t think there would have been any question in anyone’s mind that Andrew Vaughn was prepared to contribute at the big-league level over the course of the 2021 season.

“So based on what we’ve seen and know of the kid, he’s very much in this mix and we’ll see what the next six weeks hold. But everyone here who knows Andrew and knows what he’s capable of doing is taking his bid for this club seriously.”

Another top prospect, pitcher Michael Kopech, was scheduled to throw a bullpen session Wednesday. Kopech missed all of 2019 while recovering from Tommy John surgery and opted out in 2020 for personal reasons.

“He’s physically and mentally in a really good spot right now,” Hahn said. “We still view Michael as having the potential to be a premium starter long term. But we’ve got to be cognizant of a couple of things.

“One, obviously having not faced hitters in the last two years, he does not have an innings base underneath him right now ... to build off of. And the second thing we need to be aware of is — as a team with fairly lofty expectations — we want him strong and contributing through October.

“So we have to be a little bit creative about how we’re going to use him in order to get him helping us in Chicago and continuing his development and finishing the year strong and able to contribute, ideally, to a World Series championship.”

Injury updates

Reliever Jace Fry will start the season on the injured list after undergoing a microdiscectomy in his back in January. Hahn said Fry is slated to be out until around May 1.

Second baseman Nick Madrigal, who had his left shoulder repaired in October, is “like one week away from being fully complete with his rehabilitation,” Hahn said.