The big trades that shaped '21 White Sox

April 22nd, 2021

CHICAGO -- Trading Chris Sale, arguably one of the top pitchers in White Sox history and a player who wanted to win a championship in Chicago, was a tough decision to make for general manager Rick Hahn.

It also was the right decision at the 2016 Winter Meetings. The Sale deal with Boston began the White Sox rebuild and brought third baseman and right-handed hurler , who are two key cogs in the team’s present push toward a 2021 World Series title.

Moving right-handed prospect Dane Dunning to the Rangers this past offseason was just as difficult for Hahn. It also served as further evidence of the White Sox move to full contention as the club acquired -- one of the game’s most dependable starters over the past three seasons -- to form a strong starting trio with Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel, albeit for potentially one year.

During a Spring Training conversation with, Hahn spoke of both trades being very difficult but for very different reasons.

“Chris Sale obviously is a premium talent or sort of rare, rare guy to acquire and someone every team wants on their roster. He’s not someone you take any pleasure in trading,” Hahn said. “It’s very difficult, but it’s obviously at the time a realization that the current makeup of the organization isn’t championship-caliber. That hurts because you don’t want to move Chris. It hurts because you know you are going to have to go through some hardship in the coming years to get the organization to where we all want it to be.

“At the same time, [executive vice president] Kenny [Williams] and I talked about this some last summer, leading into the Trade Deadline, that as you move into this next phase -- which should be the most enjoyable phase for your contending for a postseason berth -- we are going to have to move some of the guys that we’ve grown quite fond of. I think every organization in baseball becomes very attached to our own guys.”

The White Sox could have made Trade Deadline moves to enhance last year’s first postseason appearance since 2008. But ultimately the White Sox hung onto players who not only would be part of the current core but part of what Hahn and the White Sox hope are many playoff-bound years to come.

It’s a tough balance to maintain.

“Not surprisingly, some of our younger players were attractive in trade talks,” said Hahn of the past Trade Deadline. “But ultimately we made the assessment in certain cases that the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze, so to speak. There are players who you project to play significant roles on several White Sox clubs going forward and while they are not untouchable, they are difficult to move unless you are getting similar impact coming back the other way.

“Obviously, you can’t cling to every prospect you have and refuse to part with any of them. Otherwise you won’t be very active in trade talks or very successful in adding quality veteran pieces to your group. But at the same time you have to be judicious when you do it and assess, know your guys well. Know who is reasonable to project as vital pieces going forward and what other ones, while important, you would be willing to put in the right deal.”

Dunning, 26, enters Friday’s start at Guaranteed Rate Field with a 1-0 record, 0.60 ERA and 16 strikeouts against two walks over 15 innings covering three starts for Texas. Sale won a World Series championship with Boston, as did right fielder Adam Eaton with the Nationals -- that Eaton trade, following Sale’s Winter Meeting move, brought Dunning, Giolito and Reynaldo López to the White Sox.

They were the right deals at the time for both sides, and the Dunning-Lynn trade falls in that same category.

“We are all accused of overvaluing our own players,” Hahn said. “It’s difficult to part with someone who you acquire and develop and envisioned as part of the future core. It’s difficult to move those guys as well because of affection for them and time put into them and the projected success that you envisioned having with them.

“You much prefer to be dealing the younger players. You would rather be in the position because you are arguably doing that for pieces to help you win in the near future.”