The quote of the White Sox offseason came back in November, when Rick Hahn was asked what kind of signings fans can expect during the winter.
Despite the internal plan of being uber aggressive in the marketplace, Hahn chose to divert attention away from the large bump that had developed in the White Sox midsection.
"People aren’t too interested in hearing about the labor," he said during the GM meetings. "They want to see the baby."
Little did anyone know that Hahn would soon turn himself into a baseball midwife, delivering baby after baby to the South Side all winter long.
“We wound up having more than we expected. We had quintuplets in the end, didn’t we?” Hahn said in an interview on the White Sox Talk Podcast.
Roughly nine hours after the Washington Nationals beat the Houston Astros to win the 2019 World Series, Hahn and the White Sox were open for business.
And it all started with a text.
Hahn checked the time. It was 9 a.m. Eastern the morning after the final out of the World Series, which under Major League Baseball rules meant it was go time for every general manager in the game. Teams were now allowed to reach out to free agents.
Almost immediately, Hahn would make contact with several of their targets, including one player in particular who would be the first to sign and would set the tone for the White Sox robust winter: Yasmani Grandal.
Hahn didn’t offer him a contract right away. Another team did, though. More on that in a moment. But Hahn did deliver a clear message to Grandal's agent that the White Sox would be serious bidders for the coveted All-Star catcher.
“(The text) was something to the effect of, ‘Look, once things are quieter on your side and you want to sit down and chat, we have sincere interest in Yasmani. We think he’s a great fit and look forward to explaining to you and him why,’” Hahn explained. “We were pretty aggressive early making it clear what our intentions were.”
Following the Manny Machado debacle last winter, the White Sox were not about to go down that road again, one where the whole baseball world knew they were pursuing a big-name free agent. When Machado signed with the San Diego Padres, the White Sox were left battered and bruised by the negative PR hit.
Hahn learned a lesson that he took into this offseason.
"We spent so long going into spring training with the drama of (Bryce) Harper and Machado. Both were very worthy pursuits and ones that were necessary for this organization, even though they didn’t obviously yield the player in the end," Hahn said. "But I think after that experience, all of us here came out of that thinking, 'We’ll be delivering players, and we’ll talk about it afterwards.
"'You’re not going to want to hear about this meeting or that video presentation or this phone call. We’ll let you know when we have something to announce.' And it was actually kind of nice that the Grandal deal was the first one we did and it was not rumored before that. So it truly was, 'Here’s a baby, it’s been delivered.'"
And now that the Hot Stove season is in the rearview mirror and spring training starts Wednesday in Arizona, Hahn was open to talking more about those new White Sox babies, revealing many details about this much ballyhooed offseason and how it all came together.
A few of the most interesting nuggets:
Another team offered Grandal a four-year deal, but he chose the White Sox
“We found out after the fact that we were one of two teams that reached out right away. There wound up being four or five in the mix, and he met with several of them. As proud as we may have been about reaching out early and expressing interest first, another team made him a four-year offer like right out of the gate as soon as that was permissible. We like to think we’re being aggressive and at the forefront, but there are teams out there with us.”
The White Sox were interested in a few of Scott Boras clients, not just Dallas Keuchel
“Keuchel was one of the guys who the day after the World Series, I texted Scott and one of the names on the list was Keuchel. That was in the works from the start, as well.”
The White Sox spoke internally about pursuing Boras clients Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg but decided against it
"Mentally, yes, I went down the road. We talked about it internally, but look, we’re trying to build something sustainable. We’re trying to build a well-rounded roster.
"Throughout this whole process we’ve been mindful trying to not only build a deep and productive roster, but also maintain flexibility to augment it as we get ready to win. So regardless of which player at the top of the market it is, yeah, we created some flexibility where, yes, you can entertain those ideas, but is it the right investment given where the market is at a given time based on what other options are out there and what you’re trying to accomplish over the next few years? Those factors weigh in as well.”
Jerry Reinsdorf didn’t agree to an extension for Luis Robert right away
“We previewed it to (Reinsdorf) by saying, 'There may be a chance that we come to you on a player who has never played in the big leagues yet and we want to do an extension.' He didn’t say yes in the first conversation, but I’m still looking for the room that Jerry Reinsdorf walks into and he’s not the smartest guy in it.
"He got it. He understood why. He understood the risk involved, and there is risk involved, but he also understood the real, meaningful reward of the extended control and cost certainty.
"There are times, even throughout the Luis Robert conversations, where (Reinsdorf) will say, ‘You know the amount money we have in this guy and he hasn’t even played in a big league game yet?’ Which is sort of stunning when you hear that, but he’s also smart enough to know the benefit of what we got and, if this player is even close to what we think he’s capable of doing, how good of a position we’re going to be in going forward.”
The White Sox were negotiating between a two- and three-year deal with Jose Abreu
“It’s a little more art than science, especially when you’re dealing with players as they enter their mid-30s. Traditionally, you see some level of decline. Also, traditionally with a right-handed power hitter, you sort of see a certain path where productivity decreases as you enter the mid-30s.
"You have to augment that a little bit by knowing Jose the person and his work ethic and his approach and the pride he takes in his preparation and performance that makes you feel a little better about the potential to avoid that traditional decline curve, and you also need to understand the impact he has in the clubhouse and what he means to this organization.
"I think both of those things, in the end, had a rest on a three-year fit. Certainly we knew that one was too short, and it felt like four was too long, so it was really a matter of figuring out two or three in the end to make it work.”
Hahn also spoke at length about how the Edwin Encarnacion deal came together, how close the White Sox were to signing Zack Wheeler, the team's relationship with Boras, if Robert has the most upside of any player in the organization and much more on the latest edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast. Take a listen!