Rick Hahn

10 White Sox trades that made the biggest impact on Rick Hahn's rebuild

10 White Sox trades that made the biggest impact on Rick Hahn's rebuild

Rick Hahn has the White Sox on the precipice of a new winning era.

It’s been more than a decade since there’s been October baseball on the South Side, but the expectation is that the unfortunate streak could soon come to an end thanks to a group of young stars with a very bright future.

A busy round of free agency, some promising draft picks and the notable international signing of Luis Robert have made for a diverse list of how Hahn has constructed the team’s future. But many of biggest names were acquired in rebuild-defining trades.

Hahn’s made a lot of deals during his time as White Sox general manager. Click here to see the 10 trades that have had the greatest impact on the rebuilding process.

 

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How the White Sox plan to stay ready for the baseball season — whenever it starts

How the White Sox plan to stay ready for the baseball season — whenever it starts

It seems like it was a month ago when Michael Kopech electrified White Sox fans by throwing a 1-2-3 inning with a fastball hitting 101 miles per hour in his first start of the spring.

That was Tuesday.

Two days later, Major League Baseball shut down spring training games and delayed the start of the regular season by at least two weeks as the world tries to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. By Friday evening, after an in-person meeting with the MLBPA, the league suspended spring training camps altogether and told players they were allowed to head home, if they'd like.

Earlier Friday, the White Sox were scrambling to come up with a plan, as all 30 Major League Baseball teams face the awkward task of staying ready for the regular season without spring training games.

"Traditionally, I think we've all viewed sports, and certainly from my perspective, baseball, as an important distraction from the real world for people," general manager Rick Hahn said. "Unfortunately, at this point, it's obvious that we're not immune from this ourselves, as an industry."

Hahn said the organization is "very supportive" of the drastic measures taken by the league. Friday morning, Hahn, executive vice president Kenny Williams and manager Rick Renteria met with the players in the team's major league camp.

"We had an open dialogue about what's best for all of us. What's best for our families," Hahn said. "Everyone agreed that being here as a resource for the players over the next couple of days makes the most sense and everyone is on board with doing that."

The plan was to keep their Camelback Ranch facility open to players and staff. Activities over the weekend were deemed "optional" for players and the White Sox had full participation Friday. At the time he spoke Friday morning in Arizona, Hahn said he'd understand if that changes and "remain flexible."

"We're all human beings that have families and understandable discomfort living in an uncertain world right now," Hahn said. "Unfortunately, this is one of the rare occurrences where it's larger than baseball."

The first priority, of course, is making sure everyone stays healthy. Hahn said no players or staff in either major or minor league camp are showing any symptoms of COVID-19.

"We're doing the best we can with the information that we have to educate our players and staff about prevention and good hygiene and awareness of the current situation," Hahn said. "And at the same time, at a more, I don't know, nuanced level, we're also continuing to prepare to the best of our ability for the start of the season, when that comes."

That's the tricky part. No one really knows when the regular season will begin and there are obvious logisitcal issues for players who don't own properties in the Phoenix area. Hotel rooms need to be paid for and leases extended, including Hahn's. That played a role in MLB and MLBPA agreeing to suspend spring training camps Friday.

In the meantime, the White Sox will hit the pause button. Instead of progressing towards opening day, Hahn said the focus will be on maintaining the players' current physical condition. The planned optional activities this weekend included batting cage work, pitchers throwing off the mound and potentially some light drills on the field. Before camps were suspended, Hahn said simulating games on the backfields was a possibility.

"Until there is more direction, we're going to stay on the current plan, which is to essentially push the pause button, but at the same time, continue to provide treatment and opportunities for our players to maintain where they are in their progression towards opening day," Hahn said.

That's easier said than done for starting pitchers, who go through more of a linear process of building up their arms during the spring. 

"That's probably the trickiest part of all this," Hahn said.

For now, the White Sox will do their best to keep their starters where they are currently at in their spring progression, but that will be a challenge with some players headed home.

"Once we have a target in mind, we'll come up with a plan to build them from there," Hahn said.

Basically, as with almost everything in life right now, it's all fluid. The length of the hiatus will determine a lot. White Sox senior vice president of communications Scott Reifert said the hope is to still play 162 games this season, but he added: "Whether that ends up being the reality, we'll see down the road."

And the longer the break, the longer it will take to get the players — especially starting pitchers — ready to go for the regular season.

"If there's only a modest, couple-week delay, let's say, then certainly we've played a decent amount of (spring) games, we've got guys with their legs under them. We've got guys who have built to a certain level with a matter of sort of maintaining that and building off it," Hahn said. "It wouldn't be an extremely long period of (additional spring training) games at that point. Obviously if things change and for whatever reason people return home and we pick up again at a later date, it's really going to be a function of how long of that hiatus is."

Meanwhile, while it's certainly understandable for fans, players and everyone associated with baseball to be sad about the delay of opening day, Hahn is maintaining an impressive perspective as the most anticipated White Sox season in years gets put on hold. 

"We know we'll get through this. We know that there's another side of this at some point. We know that we'll be playing baseball games again and we know it's going to be an exciting era for White Sox baseball in the not too distant future," Hahn said. "If it makes sense for the greater good of society at whole to delay that for a period of time, we understand that. We know where we fit in and we look forward to, when the time is right, bringing a great deal of happiness to people who will certainly be missing this game and in need of something to pick them up, in all probability."

Whenever that is, the White Sox will be ready.

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White Sox know they haven't won anything yet, but they're in perfect position to win a whole lot

White Sox know they haven't won anything yet, but they're in perfect position to win a whole lot

"I think we can objectively sit here today and feel like that we have three of the most exciting young players in the American League under control for at least the next six years.

"And that’s a good feeling."

Yeah, I think you're onto something there, Rick Hahn.

By locking Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and most recently, Yoan Moncada into long-term deals, the White Sox are in the perfect position to contend deep into the decade.

Now, all they need to do is, you know, win some ballgames.

No one is suggesting that the White Sox offseason that never ends is enough to start filing permits for late-October street closures or to start renting a fleet of double-decker buses. You don't get a trophy, a ring or a parade for winning the entirely fictional and completely meaningless offseason championship.

But with seven long-term deals handed out in the last four years — starting with Tim Anderson's extension before the 2017 campaign got underway — the White Sox have assembled their Avengers.

"These are young players that are still evolving. They very likely haven’t reached their ceilings and are going to put us in a strong position for a long time," Hahn told reporters, including Our Chuck Garfien, on Friday afternoon in Arizona. "Now, those are three players on a 26-man roster, so there’s other work to be done around them, but it’s nice to have that base.

"Every team, when you start a rebuild, when you go about this process, you want to find young, core, championship-caliber pieces that you can build around. We feel like we have a number of those, and a good chunk of those we’ve been able to extend, to extend this window through those contracts."

That window hasn't opened yet. That's the next item on the agenda. But it could happen as soon as later this month, when the 2020 campaign gets underway on the South Side.

But more than starting 2020 off on the right foot, Hahn hopes he and his front office have set the White Sox up for success for the better part of the next decade. It's hard to argue they haven't, with a stunning amount of control of the players who broke out in big ways in 2019 and the ones who were brought in this winter.

Not only are all these pieces in place for 2020, but look down the road. Jose Abreu isn't a free agent again until after the 2022 season. Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel and Lucas Giolito are under control until after the 2023 season. Anderson's deal finally runs out after the 2024 season, when Michael Kopech could also become a free agent for the first time. Moncada and Dylan Cease aren't going anywhere until after the 2025 campaign. Jimenez is under team control through 2026, Robert through 2027.

Of course, as exciting as that list of names looks to anyone who's been paying attention to this rebuilding process over the last few years, there's only a small amount of big league success to be found in that group. Abreu, of course, has been one of the best hitters in franchise history in his first six seasons in a White Sox uniform, and newcomers Grandal and Keuchel have their own glowing resumes. But the track records of Giolito, Anderson, Moncada and Jimenez are limited to one season. Cease saw some less than ideal results in his first taste of the bigs. Kopech has pitched in all of four major league games. Robert hasn't seen a major league pitch.

And so, obviously, these contracts are risky. Hahn knows that simply paying guys doesn't turn them into superstars and doesn't turn a team into a champion. Hence why he wants to be asked about his perceived successes "after the parade."

"Everyone around the organization, fans of the organization are excited for what lays ahead," he said. "Internally, I think we probably spend a little more time focused upon not just one season but how it comes together for an extended period of time.

"We’re also very cognizant of the fact that excitement is one thing, but delivering on that excitement over the course of the summer and numerous summers is what’s most important. It’s exciting to have guys that you want to commit to, but at the same time we know we still have a lot of work to do in terms of reaching our goals."

All that caution and realism is nice. It's necessary. But there's also a reason these guys got these contracts.

After striking out 217 times in 2018, Moncada went out and evolved into the team's best all-around hitter in 2019. That's when fans saw what one of the two biggest return pieces in the Chris Sale trade could be. The White Sox recognized it a little earlier.

"He was acquired to be this guy," Hahn said. "Now obviously an important lesson, in terms of his 2018 season, is that these things don’t always, unfortunately, come along linearly or as quickly as you hope at the big league level.

"But in terms of our belief in him potentially being this guy, that was from Day 1, and his character and work ethic along the way reinforced that feeling. And the 2019 season on the field reinforced that, as well.

"If he ends up, going forward, being the same guy he was last year, that’s a pretty darn good player and one that certainly deserves MVP consideration, as he got in 2019."

Hahn's referencing Moncada's one 10th-place tally in last year's MVP vote, in case you were wondering what that was all about. One 10th-place vote doesn't exactly make him Mike Trout. But the White Sox do envision these youngsters as having the potential to be those kinds of players.

Giolito emerged as an All Star and the sixth-place finisher in the AL Cy Young vote last season. Anderson was the big league batting champ. Moncada was talked about as an All-Star snub. And Jimenez hit 31 homers while dealing with growing pains of his own.

Robert is talked up as potentially being the best of the bunch, and he's still neck and neck with Kopech in the preseason discussion over who's going to win the 2020 AL Rookie of the Year.

Nick Madrigal and Andrew Vaughn haven't even been mentioned to this point. The team's last two first-round picks are coming soon to a right side of the infield near you, two core pieces that haven't even hit the majors yet.

It all adds up to exciting times at 35th and Shields. And if these extensions have contributed anything to that, it's that "times" is plural. This contention window, once it opens, seems to be in no danger of closing anytime soon.

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