By Chris Emma–
(CBS) Somewhere amid the chaos of the Miami Convention Center, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn went hiding.
It was Tuesday at the All-Star Game festivities as Hahn walked alongside his son, Charlie, when his cell phone rang. It was Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and the offer for which Hahn had been holding out hope.
Hahn found an All-Star Game exhibit and removed himself from the public eye. He even hid himself from Charlie, who was an 11-year-old White Sox fan distressed by the Cubs winning the World Series. This phone call was pretty important. It could be instrumental for both Chicago organizations.
“I essentially had to ditch my child at the Miami Convention Center,” Hahn joked Thursday on 670 The Score.
Charlie should be OK with this deal, despite its ramifications for the Cubs’ chances in 2017. The White Sox dealt top-end starting pitcher Jose Quintana and his team-friendly deal in exchange for elite outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez, pitching prospect Dylan Cease and two others.
Epstein had called Tuesday — two days after initial discussions — saying he would be willing to part with Jimenez, ranked as the No. 8 prospect according to MLB.com, and Cease, the No. 63 prospect. Hahn essentially had a pick of two other lower-level prospects to complete the deal.
Both teams won with this deal. The Cubs acquired a 28-year-old Quintana who has had steady career production and a terrific contract that runs through 2020. They’re positioned to contend in 2017 and the next seasons to come, bolstered by using organizational depth to add a solid southpaw.
As for the White Sox, Thursday was the latest great day for an organization heading in the right direction. Hahn held out for the best offer on Quintana and struck with another of baseball’s best prospects.
Jimenez has light-tower power already and is still growing into his 6-foot-4 frame. At 20, he’s making a strong impression in high-A ball and has risen up the rankings as a result. There’s a thought that he could immediately become the top White Sox prospect.
Cease is 21, has an electric arm and is beginning to find his form in low-A ball after past injury concerns. He has posted a 2.79 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings in 13 starts three seasons removed from Tommy John surgery.
It was a year ago that Hahn declared the White Sox were “mired in mediocrity” after their plans to contend in 2016 drastically diminished. He then put words to action this past December with two major trades that began an overhaul of the organization.
It was then that the White Sox turned Chris Sale and Adam Eaton into Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning. They’ve also signed 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Luis Robert and drafted slugging third baseman Jake Burger out of Missouri State.
The White Sox went from one of the worst farm systems in baseball to arguably the best. They now have nine top-100 prospects in the system, according to MLB.com rankings.
No. 1: Yoan Moncada, infielder
No. 8: Eloy Jimenez, outfielder
No. 11: Michael Kopech, pitcher
No. 23: Luis Robert, outfielder
No. 28: Lucas Giolito, pitcher
No. 36: Reynaldo Lopez, pitcher
No. 59: Carson Fulmer, pitcher
No. 63: Dylan Cease, pitcher
No. 68: Zack Collins, catcher
That list doesn’t include other young pitching prospects with potential such as Spencer Adams, Zack Burdi and Alec Hansen. And there are players who could surprise, like with any other organization.
Some of the top White Sox prospects are nearly ready for the majors, with Moncada, Giolito, Lopez and Fulmer all likely to come up to the big leagues later this season. Jimenez, Robert, Cease and Collins are among those still developing at the lower levels.
There’s always major risk building with young prospects, but the White Sox have five of the top pitching prospects in baseball and have others exceeding expectations in the minors. Even if only half of their arms pan out, they have the foundation for a premier rotation for years to come.
In the last year-plus, the White Sox have also added long-awaited and important bats to the mix, with Moncada, Jimenez, Robert, Collins and Burger forming what should be a talented young lineup. Their loaded farm system includes both impressive arms and talented position players.
Ideally, the window for contention opens in 2019 as these prospects emerge at the big league level. The White Sox can hope to have a rotation of burgeoning talent and a lineup stacked with versatility.
Thursday brought the latest victory for the White Sox organization, one with grand promise for the future.
Hahn won’t have anything to hide from if his vision comes to fruition.