If it was ever possible for a team that missed the playoffs the previous season to come into the annual Major League Baseball Winter Meetings, trade two of their best players, and still “win” the busiest week of the offseason, the Chicago White Sox have now accomplished that feat.
The White Sox have been a team of stopgap and patchwork acquisitions for many, many years. Nearly two decades to be exact. Even with the 2005 team winning the World Series, the club has still been a half-effort, half of the time club.
Between Jerry Reinsdorf’s unwillingness to spend with the upper echelon of major league clubs, and Kenny Williams’ signature past-their-prime bargain buys, the White Sox have long yearned for a recipe that would bring them sustainable success. The fan base suffered through years of acquisitions of players in the twilights of their careers.
Adam LaRoche, Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr., James Shields, Kevin Youkilis, Jimmy Rollins, and the list could literally consume the length of this entire article. I will spare you that; you know all too well the players and acquisitions that I speak of here. Decades of backwards logic, middle of the road spending, and habitual ravaging of the minor league system to bring has-been players to town.
Kenny Williams for years has ran the White Sox like someone trying to fix a deep laceration with some Neosporine and a Band-Aid, rather than a surgeon with the scalpel and stitches that it needed. Since Rick Hahn was viewed as the next big hiring as a baseball general manager before being named just that for the White Sox, he has been handcuffed to these same broken philosophies.
Until now. Now Hahn has seemingly been released from the figurative shackles of the old, broken way of doing things on the south side of Chicago. I wrote last week that the White Sox seemed to be stuck in neutral heading into the most crucial negotiating period of the offseason, and were dangerously close to missing their opportunity to reap the largest return on their big name assets.
Thankfully, I was wrong in the sense that they were idling in neutral. Rather, Rick Hahn was just quietly waiting to pounce this week. One can forgive me for feeling like they were going to muff this offseason like too many others simply due to the past track record, and I can certainly take solace in the fact that Hahn blew my assessment of their plans out of the water.
How did Rick Hahn swing two of the three top prospects in baseball?
On Monday evening we heard that the White Sox and the Washington Nationals were making progress on a Chris Sale trade, and “just haggling over the final pieces” before they completed the move. The Boston Red Sox, realizing that they would miss out on Chris Sale if they didn’t give in to the team’s request for Yoan Moncada, swooped in and offered the White Sox the league’s top prospect along with three others in exchange for Sale.
Rick Hahn used the leverage of the impending deal with the Nationals to get the package that they really wanted from the Red Sox, knowing that team president Dave Dombrowski had been pursuing Chris Sale for at least the last year and is rarely afraid of mortgaging his club’s farm system for a player that he wants.
The next day Hahn used Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo’s similar all-in style to the Sox’s benefit again when he offered the Nationals the center fielder they needed in exchange for the top pitching prospect in the game in Lucas Giolito, along with their third-rated prospect Reynaldo Lopez and their 2016 first round selection in Dane Dunning.
A return that many in the baseball world have said was a flat-out steal by the White Sox, even though Adam Eaton is a severely underrated player, as well as exactly what the Nats need right now. Hahn stoked the fire that Rizzo must have felt for missing out on all of their targets this week, by dangling a solution to one of them in his face, while demanding a hefty price tag, and Rizzo took the bait.
Not only did Hahn leverage what he wanted out of Dombrowski and Rizzo, two of the more aggressive front office members in baseball, he managed to do so by spending only two of their notable trade pieces in Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. He also set the asking price for Jose Quintana somewhere in between the returns that they received for Sale and Eaton on Tuesday and Wednesday, which is phenomenal news for the White Sox.
What does this week’s acquisitions mean for the farm system?
The White Sox entered the offseason with a farm system that ranked near the bottom of the league, and featured only two Top-100 prospects in Carson Fulmer and Zack Collins. Teams like the Brewers and Braves who had the highest regarded systems held seven to eight Top-100 prospects.
To make a dent in the work that needed to be done this winter as the White Sox laid the groundwork for their roster and farm system overhaul, I estimated that the Sox would need to acquire seven Top-100 prospects along with additional second tier prospects in return for their notable valuable players.
Thus far, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has exceeded those expectations by turning Chris Sale and Adam Eaton into the following:
- Four Top-100 prospects according to MLB Pipeline, including two of the top three: Yoan Moncada (#1), Lucas Giolito (#3), Michael Kopech (#30), Reynaldo Lopez (#38).
- The number one positional prospect (Moncada) and the number one pitching prospect (Giolito) according to MLB Pipeline.
- The eighth ranked RHP prospect in baseball (Lopez) according to MLB Pipeline
- Three second tier prospects, including the Nationals’ first round selection in this past MLB Draft (Dane Dunning).
Rick Hahn deserves all of the credit in the world today as White Sox fans sit at home, reading about the newest additions, with a feeling or hope and optimism that they have longed to feel for too many years. MLB Pipeline already has the White Sox inside the Top-10 in all of baseball already.
The rebuild is far from over, and that’s all the more reason to get excited about the work that Hahn has done this week. The White Sox still have valuable assets to deal in the near future like Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, David Robertson, Nate Jones and even Melky Cabrera. Here’s a very interesting that a friend of mine shared with me last earlier that shows that the White Sox are ahead of the curve in their revamping of their farm system:
The White Sox have the same amount of those prestigious Top-100 prospects that the Cubs had in 2014, two years before they won the World Series with one of the best young cores in all of baseball, and one would argue (myself included), that the White Sox’s list as a whole is deeper than the Cubs’ list in 2014.
One can only assume that the White Sox will continue to deal all of their valuable trade assets in the coming weeks and exceed my estimation of seven Top-100 prospects this winter, considering that Quintana will give them at least two more himself alone.
The White Sox will also add some more early first round draft picks to the plethora of talent as a result of the poor seasons that they are staring down in 2017 and probably 2018 as well. There’s no reason to believe right now that the White Sox will not enter the winter of 2018-2019 without very large expectations for the core of young players acquired coming together in some form during the 2019 season.
At the minimum today, Rick Hahn has earned the right for us to trust his plan, trust his abilities as the point man on the rebuild and enjoy his vision of future sustainable success on the south side of Chicago. I, for one, am on board with the plan.
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