Rick Hahn

What Rick Hahn and the White Sox are thinking as avalanche of rumors links them to Manny Machado

What Rick Hahn and the White Sox are thinking as avalanche of rumors links them to Manny Machado

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Rick Hahn is not commenting on the avalanche of trade rumors linking the White Sox to Manny Machado, the flurry of reports that have thrown the final day of the Winter Meetings into complete madness.

Supposedly a bunch of teams have contacted the Baltimore Orioles about their superstar third baseman, but according to a report from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, no team’s offer has been as good as the White Sox.

Hahn, speaking in his final media session of the Meetings, refused to comment on the reports — and he should not have been expected to. But what the White Sox general manager did do was repeat his team’s dedication to its rebuilding effort, one that’s come a long way in just a year thanks to a massive influx of minor league talent.

“Obviously you guys know me, know us well enough to know I’m not going to comment on any individual trade rumors or anything specific to conversations that we may or may not be having,” Hahn said. “However you also know us well enough to know everything we have done over the last year-plus has been aimed at putting us in the best position for the long term. Nothing has changed in terms of what we are trying to accomplish.

“We are not looking to make any sort of move that’s aimed at simply jumping up and perhaps contending for a wild card or maybe even the division for one year. The focus remains on the long term.

“Now we may take some calculated risks along the way. We repeatedly said we are going to be opportunistic in this market and explore opportunities to make us better. However the goal again remains putting us in the best position for the long term. Nothing in the last few days or the last year-plus has been done with the intention of deviating from that long-term vision.

“We’re very interested in adding premium young talent to what we’ve already built, but at the same time we’re not going to rob Peter to pay Paul, if that makes sense,” Hahn said later in the session. “We know that we are in a position right now and are headed towards a bright future, and we want to make moves that are going to enhance that, not necessarily take away from it.”

Now that sounds like a pretty forceful denunciation of the high-risk notion of trading multiple of those highly touted prospects for Machado, who has just one year left on his contract before becoming a headlining member of the bonkers 2019 free-agent class. According to reports, there will be no negotiating window in any potential trade, meaning Machado will be just a one-year player for whichever team acquires him as he plans on hitting the market next winter.

The names of big-time pitching prospects Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito were mentioned in a report from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, and it's been reported the Orioles are seeking two young, controllable pitchers. To see the White Sox deal away either of those arms — plus any other members of the “championship team of the future” that would be needed to create a return package — for a player who would not be guaranteed to be under contract past the 2018 season would be to see the White Sox pull an about face in their stated goals: to methodically build a team that contends far into the future.

But the lure of a proven player like Machado is understandably strong. At the young age of 25, he’s already made three All-Star teams, won a pair of Gold Gloves and finished in the top 10 in American League MVP voting three times. He’s a slick defender — who reportedly wants to move to shortstop — and has a great bat, with a combined 105 home runs in the past three seasons.

If the White Sox were somehow able to convince Machado to sign a contract extension rather than search for a monstrous deal on the open market, that would be quite the player to build a team around.

And, while Hahn keeps saying he wants to acquire as much young talent as possible — a descriptor, by the way, that does not exclude Machado — having so many highly rated players in the system allows Hahn’s front office to make some decisions based on that depth, especially when some of it is still a few years from making an impact at the big league level.

“We are every interested in premium young talent that can be here for the long term,” Hahn said. “That hasn’t changed. Whether that’s prospect-level talent you’ve seen us accumulate over the last year, or young players that are already in the big leagues, but again the focus remains on putting ourselves in the best position for the long term. Nothing has changed in that regard.”

Hahn also said that flexibility extends not just to trades but to free-agent spending. If the White Sox truly covet Machado as much as their fan base does, they could wait 2018 out and make a run at him next offseason — no matter how expensive that might be.

“Certainly if a high percentage of the players we have internally are able to contribute to a championship club in Chicago,” he said, “it should be fairly cost effective from a payroll standpoint which would allow us some freedom to be more aggressive on spending either on higher-price players via trade or in free agency.”

A problem, though, with committing resources — both in prospect capital and actual money — to a player like Machado is the fact that there is still to development that needs to happen for some of those minor leaguers that have fans so excited for the future. Without knowing exactly where the holes will be a few years down the road, it’s perhaps difficult to make such an impactful decision with one player.

“That’s exactly what the balancing act is at this time,” Hahn said. “I think as time passes that will become a little bit easier once we know a little bit more about the pace and the likelihood of hitting the ceiling of many of our young players. At this point there’s a still a bit of projection on guys who are in A-ball. As they advance up the ladder, we’ll know more. As for how do we balance that at this time, that's a risk-reward analysis. And again, we’re going to be opportunistic, we’re going to take some calculated risks along the way in order to further this thing, but every move we make along those lines is going to be aimed at the long term.”

And so in the end, Hahn did what any baseball executive should be doing at this time of year: He left all the doors open. At first he painted a picture of a team waiting on its prospects to develop, a team whole-heartedly dedicated to its long-term vision of a homegrown champion. But he made it clear that there were ways the White Sox could surprise without deviating from that plan. As much as trading away these recently acquired minor leaguers seems to be counterintuitive to that vision, Machado’s age and proven capabilities have the potential not to weaken the rebuild but to strengthen it.

You can call it dancing around a question or talking out of both sides of your mouth, but the White Sox have made themselves flexible over the past year. That was a theme of the Jose Abreu trade speculation at the beginning of this week’s activities, and it remains a theme of the most recent barrage of Machado-related craziness.

The White Sox are dedicated to long-term success. As for how they get there, though, well the options are open.

“I think the moves over the past year-plus reinforced our words and have put us in a position to have a very bright future,” Hahn said. “When it comes time to add to what we’ve accumulated or continue this process it’s going to be with the vision of putting ourselves in the position to contend for multiple championships. In the end that’s what’s going to be more important: the ability to win championships.”

Breaking down the cases for and against the White Sox trading for Manny Machado

Breaking down the cases for and against the White Sox trading for Manny Machado

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The White Sox are reportedly pursuing a trade that would bring Manny Machado to the South Side.

That ground-shaking news coming in the middle of the night after a third straight day of inactivity by the White Sox at this week's Winter Meetings. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal said the White Sox are making the strongest push of any team to land the Baltimore Orioles' star third baseman, with other reports from USA Today's Bob Nightengale and The Score's Bruce Levine adding that the White Sox have made the best of a dozen offers and that they're among the lead teams in this suddenly crowded derby.

The news brought joy to White Sox Twitter but plenty of head-scratching, as well, as general manager Rick Hahn has spent the week talking about how it's time for the team to sit back and let all its minor league talent develop as the carefully crafted rebuild moves forward.

While a deal might still seem to make little sense, even after all these reports, there are arguments to be made that the White Sox should both make and stay away from such a trade. Here's a breakdown.

The case for a Machado trade

It's Manny Machado.

This is one of baseball's best young players, a 25-year-old who in six major league seasons has been named to three All-Star teams, won a pair of Gold Gloves and finished in the top 10 in American League MVP voting three times. He hit 105 home runs and missed only 11 regular-season games in the last three years. Last season, he managed to come one run shy of matching his career high in RBIs while playing for a last-place Orioles team that was 12 games under .500.

There's no doubt that Machado is a special talent, and obviously the White Sox would be an improved team with him.

The big hang up is the fact that Machado is slated to become a free agent after the 2018 season, making a trade for him a risky move to say the least. But Hahn talked Wednesday of the possibility of being able to extend someone fitting Machado's description,

"Sometimes you need to be creative. Sometimes you need to perhaps take a risk," Hahn said. "I think it’s probably slightly easier after a player has been part of this organization, understand what we’re about, to extend him as opposed to meeting him cold free agent and trying to sell him on the organization. We’ve had success with both, so we’re not afraid to do either, but perhaps there is a little advantage from time to time to have a guy already be on campus when you’re talking about extending him into the future.

"You guys have heard from a many of players how much they enjoy being with us, how they want to stay here, they want to be part of this rebuild. That’s in part due to the type of guys we’ve brought in and in part due to the culture and direction we’ve created."

Acquiring Machado — and successfully extending him — wouldn't hurt the rebuild. It would strengthen it. Machado would be a proven centerpiece of the White Sox future, and he'd be playing alongside what would still be an immense amount of young talent. While it would take a couple members of the team's stockpile of minor league talent to land Machado in the first place, there'd still be plenty of future stars in the system to join Machado on a championship-contending team of the future. And Machado would be right in the heart of that lineup.

The case against a Machado trade

Trading for Manny Machado is an extremely risky move that could jeopardize the planned future of the franchise.

It's obvious that Machado is a great player, no one is arguing that fact. But the White Sox have spent a year impressively building a minor league system that is the envy of the baseball world. And one of those future stars, Michael Kopech, is being reported as a potential centerpiece of the package that would head back to Baltimore. Kopech is arguably the top pitching prospect in the game after dominating at the Double-A level last season. Legendary writer Peter Gammons said this week on the White Sox Talk Podcast that there are baseball folks out there who believe Kopech will one day win a Cy Young Award.

But the cost for Machado won't stop at Kopech. There would surely be other pieces of a return package that would be difficult to see depart the organization. After months of acquiring talent in franchise-altering trades that sent Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana away from the South Side, for Hahn to reverse course and blow up his rebuilding effort seems completely illogical.

And it's all because there's no guarantee that a Machado trade would mean Machado in a White Sox uniform past the 2018 season. Machado is slated to hit the free-agent market a year from now, and he's expected to be able to earn a massive payday. While the White Sox would potentially have a leg up on the competition if Machado spent a year with the organization, it's no sure thing that they'd be the most appealing bidder or that they'd be able to offer Machado the biggest contract.

With the cost in prospects and the uncertainty about his future with the team, trading for Machado would seem to make little sense, a wild change of direction one year after Hahn so clearly declared which way this team is going.

"We’re not looking at stopgaps, we’re not looking to jump up and contend for one wild card and then regress back," Hahn said Tuesday. "We’re trying to build something that’s going to last, and extended control is part of that."

'Aggressive' White Sox among reported 'lead teams' for Manny Machado, making deal seem something more than just 'conceivable'

'Aggressive' White Sox among reported 'lead teams' for Manny Machado, making deal seem something more than just 'conceivable'

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — It looks like the notion of the White Sox trading for Manny Machado is a little more than just "conceivable."

That's the word White Sox general manager Rick Hahn used Wednesday at the Winter Meetings when proposed with the idea that his rebuilding organization would try to pursue a player with just one year of control who could potentially be convinced to sign a lengthy contract extension. While the creatively worded question required some verbal gymnastics to avoid saying the word "Machado," that's exactly the player that was being discussed.

And now it looks like the White Sox are doing a little more than just discussing a trade with the Baltimore Orioles. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported that the White Sox are making an aggressive push — the most aggressive push of any team — to acquire the Orioles' star third baseman, one of the headliners of next offseason's monster free-agent class. USA Today's Bob Nightengale followed that up with his own report that the White Sox have made the best offer of a dozen teams to propose trades for Machado. And The Score's Bruce Levine added Thursday morning that the White Sox are indeed among the lead teams in this suddenly hot derby.

A quiet Winter Meetings for the South Siders just got cranked up to 11.

White Sox fans are sure to be ecstatic that the team is pursuing a player they've long coveted. With all the highly touted minor league talent the White Sox have built up over the past year, none of those players play third base, and Machado's pending free agency lines up with the rapidly advancing rebuild, which Hahn described Wednesday as ahead of schedule.

A move still seems shocking, though, considering the rebuilding White Sox have carefully laid plans for the future involving the likes of Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jimenez, Reynaldo Lopez, Luis Robert, Alec Hansen, Micker Adolfo and Dane Dunning. It would figure that the Orioles would expect a sizable return package for Machado, and Rosenthal's report mentioned a package built around either Kopech or Giolito.

Machado, though, is only under team control for the 2018 season. The idea of giving up either of those two highly regarded pitching prospects for just one guaranteed year of Machado seems extremely risky, and it was Hahn who said this week the White Sox are "not looking to jump up and contend for one wild card and then regress back." The White Sox, even with Machado, wouldn't figure to be a championship club in 2018. Without a guarantee that Machado would sign a contract extension with the White Sox, a trade would seem to put the much-discussed rebuild in a precarious position.

The flip side, obviously, is that Machado could be a long-term piece, a centerpiece of the White Sox future, bringing many of these prospects along with him. Hahn talked Wednesday about the benefits of having a player with the team as opposed to being a "cold" free agent when he talked about hypothetical extensions.

"Sometimes you need to be creative. Sometimes you need to perhaps take a risk," Hahn said. "I think it’s probably slightly easier after a player has been part of this organization, understand what we’re about, to extend him as opposed to meeting him cold free agent and trying to sell him on the organization. We’ve had success with both, so we’re not afraid to do either, but perhaps there is a little advantage from time to time to have a guy already be on campus when you’re talking about extending him into the future.

"You guys have heard from a many of players how much they enjoy being with us, how they want to stay here, they want to be part of this rebuild. That’s in part due to the type of guys we’ve brought in and in part due to the culture and direction we’ve created."

Machado, of course, is one of baseball's best players. The 25-year-old is already a three-time All Star. In 2017, he slashed .259/.310/.471 with 33 home runs and 95 RBIs for a last-place Orioles team that was 12 games under .500. He's extremely durable, playing in every regular-season game save 11 over the last three seasons. He's a slick fielder with a pair of Gold Gloves to his name, and he's already finished in the top 10 in American League MVP voting in just six major league seasons.

Interestingly, a report earlier this week from Rosenthal said Machado wants to play shortstop moving forward. Should the White Sox acquire Machado, it will be interesting to see what happens with Tim Anderson, who has been touted as the team's shortstop of the future. Though you figure any team would make room for a player the caliber of Machado.

Hahn will address the media one more time in Florida following the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning. Of course, any deal could still take time to play out.

Buckle up. The White Sox are officially on the hot stove.