As expected, major-league baseball’s hot stove has been slow to warm this off-season.
Instead of committing millions of dollars to free agents or swinging trades involving big-name players, most general managers are stuck in neutral.
“I think teams are waiting on clarity in certain areas, and I think that’s slowed things up, kind of rightfully so,” the Cubs’ Jed Hoyer said. “As we get clarity on a bunch of these issues, the rules, COVID, vaccines, all those different things, I think those things will start to open things up.”
The conditions for making roster additions have never been more challenging, but White Sox GM Rick Hahn was able to make two significant moves last week.
On Tuesday, he acquired veteran starter Lance Lynn in a trade with the Texas Rangers.
Two days later, Hahn signed free-agent outfielder Adam Eaton to a one-year, $7 million contract. The deal also includes an $8.5 million option for 2021 with a $1 million buyout.
Making roster moves without knowing if fans will be allowed back in ballparks next season is one of the difficult endeavors Hahn is navigating.
“You’re not going to hear me complain at all about any of the issues that may be presented by the pandemic,” he said. “There are people dealing with a lot worse than what I’m dealing with from an economic standpoint out there. I’m happy that we get this opportunity.”
Getting Lynn for two young pitchers — Dane Dunning and prospect Avery Weems — is a huge move for the Sox.
At worst, he is the No. 3 starter behind Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel, giving the White Sox as good of a top of the rotation as there is in baseball.
Eaton fills the hole in right field left by Nomar Mazara, who was a bust in his one season in a Sox uniform.
Hahn might add a left-handed bat that can platoon with Andrew Vaughn at designated hitter. If the price is right, Kyle Schwarber would be an intriguing fit after being non-tendered by the Cubs on Dec. 2.
Deciding what to do at the back of the bullpen is likely Hahn’s top priority.
Alex Colome tied for fourth in the American League with 12 saves last season before becoming a free agent. The reliable right-hander also tied for fourth with 30 saves in 2019.
Liam Hendriks, Brad Hand, Kirby Yates and Roberto Osuna are among the proven closers available as free agents, but Hahn might fill the key relief role from within with Aaron Bummer or possibly rocket-armed rookie Garrett Crochet.
“You certainly do see a lot of back-end types available over the course of the season, obviously closer to the (trade) deadline,” Hahn said. “If, for whatever reason, we wind up going with mostly kids that we have on hand here and for whatever reason it doesn’t work or we feel like there’s a void, then there will be an opportunity, we believe, midway through the season to address that void.
“That said, if there’s a way to upgrade over the course of the next several weeks or months, we’re going to continue to explore it. And the fact of the matter is, the way this game works, we can go out and make that potential veteran add here prior to the season and still at the deadline feel like we need to go out and get more relief pitching.
“That tends to be a pretty common path for teams.”