Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News arrow-downArrow Down icon Arrow Up icon

Hahn: 'We either win championship or we don't'

White Sox GM says offseason will be graded by on-field results
@scottmerkin
February 27, 2020

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Rick Hahn and the White Sox front office had a busy offseason with five free-agent signings, José Abreu returning, Luis Robert being extended and the trade for Nomar Mazara, helping turn the organization from rebuild into hopeful playoff contender. But even with the general manager surveying results

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Rick Hahn and the White Sox front office had a busy offseason with five free-agent signings, José Abreu returning, Luis Robert being extended and the trade for Nomar Mazara, helping turn the organization from rebuild into hopeful playoff contender.

But even with the general manager surveying results from the hard work in action over the last two and a half weeks of Spring Training, he won’t give himself or anyone else a grade for what they accomplished. As Hahn has said many times, they have yet to truly accomplish anything.

“We’ve won a number of offseason championships and they are equally meaningless,” Hahn told MLB.com during a recent wide-ranging interview. “Here’s honestly how I view it, I view it two ways.

“I’m glad the offseason resonates with people. I’m glad people appreciate what we added. I’m glad it looks good on paper. And I’m glad that people get excited over it. I much, much would prefer that over skepticism or doubt or not understanding what we did or why."

As for the alternative view?

“It’s a positive,” Hahn continued. “But truly it means nothing if it doesn’t, in the end, yield a championship. I don’t mean to be glib or dismissive of this offseason praise or grades or belts or all the other things we’ve won, but it really is binary: We either win a championship or we don’t.”

Hahn still was willing to highlight a few key moments from those important winter months.

The plan’s beginning
Supplementing the core

The White Sox offseason plan for 2019-20 took root shortly after the '19 Trade Deadline. It was then locked in somewhere around the middle of October.

“We try to have a multiyear view, too,” Hahn said. “We know who is available not just this coming offseason, but in subsequent offseasons, and we have our own internal projections about how some potential roster voids may be filled, and alternatives that may be available in free agency and trade if we aren’t able to have that internal growth.”

There was no doubt catcher Yasmani Grandal was their No. 1 position-player target.

Pursuing Grandal
Four years, $73 million

Grandal was one of the players contacted by the White Sox “once the bell tolled on free agency starting,” per Hahn. The front office was pleased by its aggressiveness, but Hahn found out another team had reached out and made a four-year offer to Grandal at the point the White Sox made initial contact with Adam Katz, Grandal’s agent.

“We were proud of ourselves to sit down with a player at the GM meetings and soon thereafter make a strong offer and close it before Thanksgiving, which as you know, is a great pace for free agency,” Hahn said. “But there were others right there on our heels. Some even ahead of us, initially.”

A fair amount of homework was done on Grandal and what the White Sox thought made him tick. He’s a preparationaholic and likes his information, so the White Sox handed Grandal an advanced report as if he was an opponent, focused on how they would approach him and the resources used to do it.

“He went through it for a few minutes while we were sort of doing our spiel and then he handed it back to [assistant general manager] Jeremy [Haber], who was sitting there, and he said ‘That’s good, but do you guys have X, Y, Z,’ and listed off three other analytical tools he likes to use,” Hahn said. “That led to sort of going down a rabbit hole of advanced scouting and really a sort of nuts-and-bolts conversation about game prep.

“You could see his passion. You could see the seriousness, and quite frankly, we walked out of there pretty excited about what this guy could bring, not only on the field but also in the clubhouse.”

The one that got away
Zack Wheeler

Wheeler ultimately signed a five-year, $118 million deal with the Phillies, although the White Sox offered the right-hander more at $125 million over five years. There was no time for the White Sox to feel sorry for themselves.

“Obviously, when any of these guys, for whatever reason, choose to go somewhere else, you feel the sting of it, but you don’t have too long to mope around,” Hahn said. “We have other priorities and other quality options out there. It was fairly quickly on to the next one.

“We tend to be pretty candid about what we are trying to do and why they specifically fit, so that resonates with guys and they understand. Obviously, the Wheeler pursuit was fairly public and certainly guys we talked to after Wheeler knew what was up, but they got it and they understood why they were specifically targeted as well.”

Surprise, surprise?
Dallas Keuchel

Keuchel, the left-handed starter who agreed to a three-year, $55.5 million deal with a club option for 2023, was one player Hahn wasn’t certain would come to fruition.

“When Scott [Boras] and I got substantive initially on Dallas, I wasn’t very optimistic we were going to be able to get a deal done,” Hahn said. “But it actually came together fairly quickly once we started getting substantive with each other about what it was going to take.

“Initially, I was fairly pessimistic. But within four or five days, it got to the point where it was, ‘This could work and make sense for everybody.’”

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.