One of Rick Hahn's first duties as new general manager of the White Sox will be addressing free agency - in particular the status of catcher A.J. Pierzynski and right-hander Jake Peavy, and the expensive options on third baseman Kevin Youkilis and right-handers Brett Myers and Gavin Floyd.
"You have to prioritize,'' Hahn said after being introduced as Ken Williams replacement at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday. "You have to look at not only the cost on the option to bring them back but also get a sense of trades or free agent options of what's the marginal cost of replacing this guy. You'd prefer the option was at a reasonable price and it's good value but it's not the case in all of these.''
Peavy has a $22 million option that won't be picked up. Youkilis' is $13 million, Myers' is $10 million and Floyd's $9.5. All but Floyd have buyouts.
Hahn expects the club payroll to be in the neighborhood of where it was at the beginning of 2011 - around $97 million. He expects Peavy to get a big offer elsewhere, which could price him out of the Sox plans.
"Look, there aren't a lot of free agent pitchers out there,'' Hahn said. "There is a fair amount of money perhaps to be spent by other clubs so that one's [Peavy] going to be a challenge.''
Asked if Pierzynski, who turns 36 after his best offensive season, has a good chance of staying, Hahn said he wouldn't get into trying to handicap the odds.
"We've had A.J. here for eight years and he's been a fantastic member of the organization for every minute of it,'' Hahn said. "We've signed him to three multiyear deals and two years ago at this time there was a thick level of pessimism about him coming back. I talked to [Pierzynski agent] Steve Hilliard last week and it was a good dialogue. We'll stay in touch. Until he gets out there and sees what his market is and we explore alternatives and other ways to spend our money it's impossible to handicap.''
Hahn compared the possibility of parting ways with Pierzynski to Mark Buehrle leaving last year.
"It's hard. ... there's a sentimental side.
Hahn said he views backup Tyler Flowers as a viable everyday option to Pierzynski.
"We're meeting next week as an organization and that's one of the topics,'' Hahn said. "Based on the history we've had with him he'll be a quality everyday catcher in the big leagues, yes. It's tough for a young kid to have sporadic playing time and continue that development. But defensively he certainly can handle the position. He can get on base some and he's going to have some power. I think he will be a valuable and viable catcher in the big leagues.''
Flowers suffered a hairline fracture near a knuckle on his left hand in September, preventing him from playing winter ball. Hahn said Flowers will be ready for the start of spring training.
Peavy proved himself to be healthy throughout 2012, which bodes well for his bank book.
"Pitchers get paid a significant amount and Jake given his track record, and him answering questions about his health he is going to be a popular guy, so that one is going to be a challenge. We've had good talks already, honest conversations. Jake's preference is to be back in Chicago but there comes opportunities elsewhere where it doesn't make sense for us to chase.''
Hahn's move to the GM position, with Williams becoming Executive Vice President, has been in serious planning stages since last November. The impending move of Williams getting a new title was reported in September.
While Hahn will sign off with Williams and Reinsdorf on major decisions, he will be making the day-to-day GM decisions. He needed to be clear on that before accepting the promotion
"That was important,'' Hahn said. "One of them was making sure it wasn't just an escalation in titles and business as usual. Kenny made that clear from the start and we had to talk things through and go through different scenarios. It took a few months of going back and forth.''