Rick Hahn faces the crowd

Following classic soundbites such as “Mired in mediocrity,” “If I had my druthers,” and “Development isn’t linear,” we can add, “Losing the forest through the trees” to Rick Hahn’s verbal repertoire. This expression relates to the Chicago White Sox’ efforts in landing premier free agent Manny Machado, and Hahn wanted to address that topic in his opening statement to fans at Saturday’s SoxFest seminar.

“How much time do I spend each day on this specific issue? I would be lying if I didn’t say it consumes a lot of our energy and thoughts,” said Hahn. “It’s been an important priority for us, which at times, in particular, me, and maybe others in the front office perhaps fallen into the trap of losing the forest through the trees.”

“When we started this thing a little over two years ago, we made it our mission to acquire as much premier talent as possible. First, through trade. Second, through the international market. Third, through the draft. Ultimately, it was going to come down to being active in the free agent market, but never at one point was the success going to be dependent on one guy,” said Hahn.

Closing his opening statement, Hahn reiterated to fans that he’d be personally disappointed if the White Sox fail to convert on Machado.
While the prized free agent won’t single-handedly help the Sox go from a 100-loss team to playoff contender in 2019, Machado would significantly boost the chances that the rebuild efforts will pay off in near-future seasons.

Other insight from Hahn comes out when fans who have no media experience take over the microphone. No one knows what will be asked, and it’s in those moments we can get a little bit more transparency and clarity from the Sox general manager.

The first question that caused a long pause was actually from the host of this seminar, White Sox play-by-play announcer Jason Benetti. It was just a simple, pointed question: “What are you most happiest about this offseason?”

One would think Hahn could easily handle that question like swinging at a 16-inch softball. Instead, the immediate response, or lack thereof, was a bit telling. The audience sat in silence as Hahn was in thought. Was it acquiring quality arms to help shore the bullpen? Alternatively, giving up very little in trading for Ivan Nova? Is it helping the sales pitch to Machado by signing his best friend and dealing for his brother-in-law?

“It’s not over yet for me,” said Hahn. “The way free agent and trade market has played out over several winters, we’ve sort of moved away from SoxFest date on the calendar essentially being the unofficial start of the season.”

“There’s still on our mind conversations we’ve had the last 48 hours on three to four potential acquisitions that we are working.”

The offseason pipeline includes Machado, and the possibility of trading for Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson or adding another starting pitcher to compete for the fifth spot. Hahn confirmed during the seminar that he’s still looking for reinforcements for the rotation. Just a few weeks away from players reporting to Spring Training, there could be even more activity to look forward to from the Sox.

Another topic that provided additional insight we may not get from Hahn was a question asked by Wayne from Downers Grove. It was about how being the “Mystery Team” works, and if the Sox don’t want to deal with all of the noise when pursuing top-end free agents, why doesn’t the front office act more like the mystery team?

“I’ll hide the ball more in the future,” said Hahn. “I 100 percent agree that we operate better when it’s under the radar. I get irritated with leaks. I get really irritated with leaks that we made offers to players we made no offers to. I get really irritated with reports that we are pursuing a guy that I don’t even know who the agent is we are supposedly going after.

“I think when you’re involved in premium-type guys with a lot of spotlight and spectacle around them stuff gets out. As much it may irritate me, and quite frankly make our jobs that much harder, we are not going to go out there and lie.”

It would be fun for five minutes to review all of the rumors tied to the White Sox at some point this offseason that fit with what Hahn was saying, like being a potential spot for Nelson Cruz, or making an offer to Yasmani Grandal. Also, if you have been frustrated with the open spats between reporters on the White Sox offer to Machado, Hahn shares the same feeling. It’s an excellent example of making his job harder when that rumor begins to pull other teams interest and increase their seriousness in pursuits of Machado.

Finally, with how angry players are about what has transpired these last two offseasons it feels like a work stoppage is coming after the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 2021.

Danny from Wheaton posed the question to Hahn: What the White Sox will do if a work stoppage does happen?

“You raise a very important, legitimate, and serious issue,” said Hahn.

“My job is to put the best team together under the current rules. There seems to be some discontent, especially from the veteran players, on the free agent market with how these rules affect them. As a result, there needs to be a serious conversation in collective bargaining on changes that need to be made.”

Hahn concluded, “As we sit here in early January with what I feel is an incomplete roster, it’s frankly not on my mind. I do look forward to when we sit down as a GM body, and we talk about different CBA proposals, and how it will impact free agency and different parts of the baseball industry. Honestly, right now we are just trying to focus on building the best team under these rules. Be in a position where hopefully there isn’t a work stoppage, which hasn’t happened in several decades, and that we are in the position to win multiple World Series with labor peace.”

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Josh Nelson
Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson is the host and producer of the Sox Machine Podcast. For show suggestions, guest appearances, and sponsorship opportunities, you can reach him via email at josh@soxmachine.com.

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Yolmer's gatorade

I imagine Hahn is basically Jerry’s lawyer, so the comments on the work stoppage possibility are good. It seems like Jerry and company are not in favor of taking a hard line on CBA changes. They sound open to working with the players on CBA reform.

Greg Nix

I wouldn’t read too much into it. Hahn isn’t Jerry’s lawyer; in this particular capacity, he’s more like Jerry’s PR guy. And two years away from the CBA expiration, basically anyone you ask is going to say they don’t want a work stoppage, even the MLBPA.


I don’t think there’s anyway Reinsdorf won’t take a hard line with the union. He knows franchise values would skyrocket with a salary cap.

Yolmer's gatorade

Basketball’s salary cap is based on revenue sharing, I believe. It would probably be something similar with baseball. The value of basketball franchises have skyrocketed because of the game’s popularity in America but abroad as well.


MLB is more popular than the NBA.

Yolmer's gatorade

Not in Europe.


Look at local tv ratings for the NBA compared to MLB.

I think the popularity of the NBA is overstated because of the ridiculous money ESPN threw at them. ESPN gives the league top billing on all their platforms in an effort to try to make that money back.


Yes, local ratings are strong for MLB, as it’s become more of a regional sport. However, MLB and NBA revenues last time I checked were both in the $6 billion range. Also the average MLB viewer is almost 20 years older and getting older than  the avg NBA viewer. Unfortunately the future is not looking good for baseball particularly with the international appeal of basketball.

karkovice squad

Actions speak louder than words. The words are just carefully designed to avoid creating liability by overtly demonstrating bad faith.


Padres may get the bidding process going again with Manny, but the longer this drags out the longer I feel like the White Sox are going to screw this up. There was another interview where Hahn claims that the White Sox will not be outbid (which should be true), but I still don’t trust him. If he fumbles on this it should cost him his job.


As long as Machado and Harper are on the market there is no reason the Sox have to show all their cards in these negotiations.


In all likelihood, the Sox window for Machado came and went.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Huh? So he’s just going to sit out the year because he doesn’t like the best offer on the table?


No.  In all likelihood the holdup is because Bryce Harper is negotiating a deal with the Nationals, and when that is done, the Phillies will be the default landing spot for Machado.  I wish this weren’t true, because I’d love to see Manny on the Sox.  But the longer this drags on, it leads to me believe Manny is just waiting on Philadelphia’s final offer after they discover Harper got away from them.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Washington can’t offer what Philly will offer.


Or what the Sox can. If the Sox miss on one of these guys the front office needs to be held accountable. They have stated they’ve pointed to this offseason for two years.

The players are in a time warp. They think the owners are still willing to give out ten year contracts at numbers that they will certainly not be able to meet performance wise. Manny and Harper are dragging this out trying to get every last nickel on the table. Everyone else has to wait.

karkovice squad

So they’re stuck at Grand waiting for the Red Line?


The owners are in a time warp. They think the players should just play for the love of the game, signing short term deals that give the team all the leverage while performing better than what they’re being paid. The owners are dragging this out trying to get every last nickel on the table. All the fans and players have to wait.



If it was the best offer on the table, he’d be at Sox Fest this weekend.

The longer this drags on, the worse it is for the Sox. Other teams might decide to jump in because the price is lower than they thought (San Diego maybe?) and so on and so fourth.

Could Machado sign with the Sox? Sure. Is it likely at this point? With each passing day, I think the odds go down.

Right Size Wrong Shape

So you are saying that there is a better offer on the table? Then why isn’t he at Mystery Team Fest this weekend? It’s going to drag out as long as possible so that he can get every last dollar, which he should. If the Sox need to up their offer, they will. He might sign somewhere else anyway. But they shouldn’t start bidding against themselves because its making you nervous.


Right now it isn’t so much about the best offer on the table.  It’s about the existing offers getting better.  And once Harper signs (again, probably with the Nationals) then Machado’s agent can pit Philly and the Sox against each other.  My personal take on this is that Philly will get EITHER Bryce or Manny, and since they will strike out on Bryce, they will outbid the Sox and sign Manny.  Sad, but likely outcome.  

Right Size Wrong Shape

I don’t see him going back to Washington. They’ve already spent a lot of money this off-season. For them to compete with Philly they’d have to get close to the luxury tax, right? I think this will drag out, but still think Philly and the Sox are in the driver’s seat for Harper and Machcado, respectively.


I hope you are right.  That would be beyond awesome for the Sox to land one of these guys.  But my gut is starting to tell me otherwise.  


I have a sneaking suspicion that the Sox prefer Harper to Machado. If they can get Machado at their price they have a shot at Harper too. Harper is the type of free agent Boras negotiates directly with ownership for. As if he’s separate item in the budget.


The Sox are waiting for someone to outbid them before they up their offer on Machado. If the Padres go past their offer, then they will present another bid. Once the Sox blow past the Padres offer, they will be out. The only way the Sox don’t get Machado is if the Nats sign Harper and the Phillies outbid the Sox on Machado. But if the Phillies aren’t going to outbid the Nats, then they certainly aren’t serious about spending stupid money. Which again leads Machado back to the Sox.

As Cirensica

I can’t stop thinking that there is a risk, tiny but a risk, on Machado’s back (and Harper’s). Days pass by, and they haven’t signed. A slip in the bathtub, a misread step in the basement, a miscalculate jump off a pickup truck, and many millions of $$$ will be gone in the briefest moment. I am certain players are nervous when they have no contract signed.