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Hahn: The art of the trade

General manager Rick Hahn sits down to dish on the inner-workings of the Chris Sale deal
MLB.com @scottmerkin

GLENDALE, Ariz. - The trade sending five-time All-Star Chris Sale to Boston in exchange for Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Victor Diaz and Luis Alexander Basabe was announced on Dec. 6 at the Winter Meetings in National Harbor, Va.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn and Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski each took the dais to present views of their respective return and explain their part of the process. Understand a trade of any magnitude, but especially involving this sort of talent, is a process.

GLENDALE, Ariz. - The trade sending five-time All-Star Chris Sale to Boston in exchange for Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Victor Diaz and Luis Alexander Basabe was announced on Dec. 6 at the Winter Meetings in National Harbor, Va.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn and Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski each took the dais to present views of their respective return and explain their part of the process. Understand a trade of any magnitude, but especially involving this sort of talent, is a process.

Video: Hahn on rebuilding White Sox in 2017

Almost three months later, Hahn sat down with MLB.com to talk about the deal basically announcing the White Sox rebuild.

The blue chips
Although deals often die in the final stage, heading into the weekend before the Winter Meetings, Hahn believed a Sale trade was likely to happen. On Friday, Dombrowski committed to including Moncada in a deal, and the next day he did the same with Kopech, swinging the pendulum in favor of a deal with Boston.

"It wasn't like [Dombrowski] relented," said Hahn, sitting in a golf cart at Camelback Ranch and recounting the deal. "I don't want to give that impression.

"That conversation on Friday night between David and me was, essentially, 'I think this is going to happen next week based on these conversations. We need to know now if you are willing to include a guy like Moncada, and if you are not, we totally get it but you should know we are probably moving on.'

"Once you sort of get down to those brass tacks, David is a seasoned deal maker and he knows," Hahn said. "We have enough history together, he knows when we say we are getting ready to move on something and we need to know an answer, he's prepared to give you an answer."

Winter Meetings
Hahn continued to have conversations with other clubs while they zeroed in on a package with the Red Sox. Teams remained in the mix even when the White Sox basically had all but made the final decision.

"You are still being clear as you can with other clubs what they are going to have to do based on level of return you are expecting," Hahn said. "Again, some of these things die on the vine.

"Some of the times you get an indication that, 'We are willing to do X, Y and Z,' and then after further vetting on their side or ownership involvement, they need to pull back a little bit. As a result, it's important to keep conversations going as much as you can with other clubs while at the same time not misleading them about the likelihood of being able to do a deal."

And when did Hahn know the Red Sox package would be enough to do the deal? That final decision started Monday.

"We met as a group in the afternoon and then went to dinner and then met again after dinner about what was on the table and our comfort level," Hahn said. "Ultimately, we decided we needed to meet again in the morning.

"I had a few more conversations with various clubs late that evening and decided let's meet again in the morning and go through everything again with [White Sox chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] in the room and make a final decision. That was made Tuesday morning."

New direction
MLBPipeline.com rates the White Sox current system as No. 3 in all of baseball. For years, the system had been near the bottom of Major League Baseball clubs, as the organization was going for the postseason every year and dealing away its young players to help get there. The Sale deal was a clear sign of a new direction.

The next day, Adam Eaton was dealt to Washington, with Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning coming to Chicago. In just two days, the White Sox had restocked their system with seven legimate high-end prospects.

Video: Hahn discusses new vibe around White Sox in camp

It unfolded quickly, but it took a lot of work to get there. After making the decision to rebuild, the euphoria of a new direction slowly gave way to the reality of the task ahead. Pro scouts adjusted their focus and scoured other clubs to find the right fits for making trades for commodities such as Sale, Eaton and Jose Quintana, who is yet to be traded.

There was cross-checking to reach consensus throughout the organization about the targeted players, and then things picked up in earnest at the General Managers Meetings. The list of teams was narrowed down to three or four in advance of the Winter Meetings, with the Sox gauging clubs' willingness to surrender particular players.

In the end, it leads to a franchise player in Sale departing, but also the arrival of potential franchise-changing players such as Moncada and Kopech.

"Between both the Sale and the Eaton deals, it was a very fine start in our opinion to this process," Hahn said. "Those two deals alone significantly move the timetable of what we are trying to accomplish.

"That's not entirely fair to say, because you don't want to put too much pressure on those players. But certainly both those deals brought back the type of talent we feel was important to hit on when you are moving high-caliber players like Chris and Adam."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox