In it for long term

Hahn dis­closes Ren­te­ria ex­ten­sion be­yond ’19 sea­son

Daily Southtown - - SCOREBOARD - By Paul Sul­li­van psul­li­van@chicagotri­bune.com

CARLS­BAD, Calif. — Un­like his Cubs coun­ter­part, Rick Ren­te­ria of the White Sox doesn’t have to worry about go­ing into the sea­son as a lame-duck man­ager.

That’s be­cause, sur­pris­ingly, he’s not one.

Ren­te­ria re­port­edly signed to man­age the Sox for three years be­fore the 2017 sea­son, but gen­eral man­ager Rick Hahn said Tues­day that Ren­te­ria’s con­tract has been ex­tended be­yond the end of that deal in 2019.

“There’s no need to talk at this time,” Hahn said at the gen­eral man­ager meet­ings. “He signed an ex­ten­sion a while back.”

Hahn didn’t re­veal how long the ex­ten­sion was, only say­ing he was “ex­tended into the fu­ture.”

So how did we all miss that big news?

“It wasn’t an­nounced,” he said. “We don’t tend to ad­ver­tise these things. We never even an­nounced (it was) a three-year deal.”

The Sox ap­pear to be pleased with the job Ren­te­ria has done, even with the team los­ing 95 and 100 games in his two sea­sons. The re­build at this point is all about de­vel­op­ing young tal­ent, and the Sox be­lieve he’s done ex­actly what they’ve asked him to do.

Some feel Ren­te­ria’s han­dling of the bullpen has been his big­gest weak­ness, but in fair­ness he hasn’t had much to work with there, a prob­lem that also plagued his pre­de­ces­sor, Robin Ven­tura.

Ei­ther way, Ren­te­ria’s signed through at least 2020.

“I know it has been a story in the lo­cal mar­ket re­cently,” Hahn said, re­fer­ring to Joe Mad­don’s sta­tus with the Cubs. Mad­don, who re­placed Ren­te­ria on the North Side af­ter the 2014 sea­son, is en­ter­ing the last year of his five-year deal with­out an ex­ten­sion.

“But from my stand­point, the length of con­tracts for pro sports ex­ec­u­tives or man­agers isn’t re­ally that rel­e­vant. Even­tu­ally you are re­tained if we feel you’re the right guy or that own­er­ship feels the front of­fice has the right peo­ple to win. Or they make a change.

“It’s been my ex­pe­ri­ence the length of re­main­ing con­tract has never played a role in a de­ci­sion whether to make a change or not.”

Talk­ing Eloy: The Sox have money to spend this win­ter af­ter their 25-man pay­roll ranked 29th of 30 teams at the end of Au­gust, be­fore ros­ters ex­panded.

But even with­out ex­pected ad­di­tions to the ro­ta­tion, bullpen and out­field, Hahn ex­pects improve­ment in 2019. He cited the avail­abil­ity of pitcher Car­los Rodon and catcher Wel­ing­ton Castillo for the en­tire sea­son and the like­li­hood of top prospect Eloy Jimenez spend­ing “the bulk of the sea­son, if not all of the sea­son” in a Sox uni­form.

Few be­lieve Jimenez will be with the Sox “all of the sea­son.” He is ex­pected to stay in Triple-A for at least a few weeks to start the sea­son to en­sure he’ll be un­der team con­trol for seven years in­stead of six, the way many top prospects are now han­dled.

“I would not say that,” Hahn said.

But af­ter de­clin­ing to bring up Jimenez and start his ser­vice time clock in Septem­ber, what sense would it make to start it on open­ing day?

“Let’s see how he looks when he gets to camp and we’ll go from there,” Hahn replied. “We’ll have this con­ver­sa­tion eight more times in Fe­bru­ary and March. Noth­ing has changed since Sept. 1.”

Jimenez’s agents crit­i­cized Hahn’s de­ci­sion to end Jimenez’s stel­lar sea­son with­out a call-up to the ma­jors. Based on his num­bers, it would’ve been a no-brainer. Jimenez hit .355 in 55 games at Triple-A Char­lotte af­ter his pro­mo­tion from Dou­ble-A Birm­ing­ham, and last Au­gust, Jimenez him­self wrote in The Play­ers Tri­bune: “I’m be­yond ready.”

Hahn chuck­led. “Eloy has been say­ing since A-ball that he’s ready, which is won­der­ful,” Hahn said. “It’s ex­actly where I want him to be. Again, we’d much rather try to rein a guy back than try to (rush) him, and Eloy’s level of con­fi­dence and en­thu­si­asm for be­ing in the big leagues is won­der­ful.”

Hahn had din­ner with Jimenez last month in the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic af­ter the Sox signed his younger brother, 17-year-old Enoy. Hahn said Eloy is “is in very good spir­its” and is work­ing on im­prov­ing his nu­tri­tion.

“And I know he’s plan­ning to come to camp and ea­ger to show ev­ery­one what he’s ca­pa­ble of do­ing,” Hahn said.

There’s no doubt about that. But whether Jimenez will be be on the open­ing day ros­ter March 28 in Kansas City is a ques­tion Hahn will have to keep an­swer­ing.

Shields’ re­turn pos­si­ble: The Sox de­clined to ex­er­cise James Shields’ $16 mil­lion op­tion last week, though Hahn said they “haven’t closed the door” on bring­ing back the vet­eran pitcher at a lower salary. Ei­ther way, the Sox will try to sign a vet­eran starter.

“But if some­thing ap­peal­ing via a trade presents it­self that fits with the long-term fore­cast of what we’re try­ing to do, that’s go­ing to trump things.” Hahn said, be­fore laugh­ing. “That’s go­ing to be a bad word to­day.”

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