Emma: Rick Hahn Owns The White Sox’s New Direction

By Chris Emma–

CHICAGO (CBS) — As the drama and theater of the World Series played out early last November and the Cubs finally won their first championship in 108 years, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn faced the heat at home.

Hahn’s 11-year-old son struggled to sleep the night of the Cubs’ victory in Game 7. He pressed his father on when the White Sox would be back in the World Series. Needless to say, Hahn understands the angst from the fan base.

“I have questions in my house that aren’t so easy,” Hahn said with a laugh.

During a busy weekend of festivities at the annual SoxFest convention at the Hilton Chicago, Hahn was nothing but honest about where the White Sox are headed.

With each session at the convention, Hahn promised he would be transparent as can be and then followed through. The White Sox are building for a future that seems more promising with each trade. Prospects like infielder Yoan Moncada, right-hander Michael Kopech, right-hander Lucas Giolito and many more represent the organization’s chance at winning another championship.

Such hopes stand down the road. Hahn teased 2019 as the potential beginning for their window of competing, though he acknowledged well how circumstances can change. As for this 2017 season? Hahn is being transparent.

“The focus of our scouting department, of our player development people, of our major league staff is on building something that’s sustainable,” Hahn said Friday. “In the short term, we might have to pay some price at the big league level.

“So it’s tough to stand up here with a straight face and say to you this team is ready to contend. However, I think everyone here understands what we’re doing for the long term.”

The 45-year-old Hahn was comfortable in his own skin as he walked through the Hilton. A graduate of Michigan, Harvard and Northwestern, Hahn is usually the smartest guy in the room, and he sounded it while addressing the White Sox’s future.

Hahn is still looking for further trades to bolster the White Sox farm system, which now includes six top-100 prospects on MLB.com’s list. They aren’t going to jump at anything short of a major haul for left-hander Jose Quintana. Third baseman Todd Frazier and reliever Nate Jones are still available, too.

The White Sox are done “piece-mealing” together their roster, to borrow a term Hahn used in describing the last decade. They’re in this for the long haul.

“I mean, the talent is amazing,” Giolito said. “Just look at all these guys. We’re all here, we’re all ready to work and ready to put it all together.”

Added Kopech: “We’re going to have a chance to be good for a long time. I’m excited for that.”

Hahn has been handed full control of the White Sox’s new plan. Executive vice president Kenny Williams has been active scouting, and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is on board with the rebuild.

After years of concern that rebuilding would hurt attendance, the White Sox have actually re-energized their fans by trying to win the right way. After all, they all witnessed the Cubs reap the rewards of a thorough, thoughtful rebuild with the World Series championship in 2016.

Like the Cubs, the White Sox will be ready to spend in free agency once their prospects arrive in the majors and open a window for contention. But Hahn won’t call up players like Moncada or Giolito “until they have answered any questions we have had for them at the minor-league level.” They’re committed to doing this the right way.

Finally, the White Sox have an infrastructure in place for long-term success. To become a contender again, it will take time and great patience.

This is Hahn’s plan, and he’s more than comfortable owning it.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

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