In it for long term
Hahn discloses Renteria extension beyond ’19 season
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.”