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Ranking Every Trade Made By White Sox GM Rick Hahn

by Adam Kaplan

As the lockout continues to drag along with no likely end before the new year, I wanted to take a moment and look back at every trade Rick Hahn has ever made.

In 2002, Hahn began his stint in the organization as the Assistant General Manager of the White Sox. Nearly 10 years later on October 26, 2012, he took over as the team’s new General Manager, replacing Kenny Williams following his promotion to Executive Vice President of the organization. To compile this article, I scoured through the “Trades and Transactions” notes of Baseball-Reference dating back to this hire, and by my count, Hahn has made 59 trades during his tenure as the Sox general manager. This is unless I missed a major one. Please don’t come at me if I didn’t include some random minor league pitcher in my count. I’m only human.

Of those 59 total trades, I think 28 of them are interesting and worthy of discussion. I ranked these 28 trades from worst to first. The remaining 31 trades are listed at the bottom of the post, after the rankings. Keep in mind, most of these trades are getting judged with the benefit of hindsight. On some level, I get that it’s unfair to do so since Rick Hahn can’t predict the future at the time of the trade. Similarly, the goal of a trade is to improve your team without giving up key assets, and if the player(s) you receive flounders and the player(s) you give away soars, it’s not a great look. I also took into account that while Hahn can acquire great players and prospects, sometimes it’s on the rest of the organization to develop the prospect.

Furthermore, the context of the team matters. Acquiring players that helped/will help the Sox during this current championship window is much more valuable than trading for a similar piece when the Sox were intentionally bad. It’s not that Hahn did a better or worse job per se depending on what year he made the trade, but the on-field performance of the team at the time the trade was made does affect its rankings.

Lastly, these trades are being judged at this very point in time. A lot of trades get the full benefit of hindsight and history. Newer trades won’t. Likewise, some prospects that were traded away or acquired are being judged for how they’ve performed recently, and how well (or not well) they’re expected to perform in the future.

So with all of those caveats and qualifiers in mind, below is my ranking of every trade made by Rick Hahn as GM of the Chicago White Sox:

Abject Failures

28) SS Fernando Tatís Jr. and RHP Erik Johnson to the San Diego Padres for RHP James Shields

Considering that Tatís is already a borderline MVP winner at age 22, it’s not a great look for Hahn that he’s still looking for middle infield and corner outfield help in 2021, and that could have been solved had he not traded away the now San Diego superstar. Though I can understand that neither Hahn nor the Padres knew what they then had on their hands when it came to Tatís, Hahn 100% knew what he was getting when he decided to trade for James Shields. Further, Hahn should have properly evaluated his team before deciding to make a trade that early in the season.

James Shields had a 4.28 ERA in 67.1 innings for the Padres, before being traded to the White Sox, where his ERA ballooned to 6.77. Meanwhile, the Sox were not that good of a team in 2016. At the time the Sox traded for Shields, they were 29-27 and had lost 11 of their last 15 games. The hot start by the team was nice and fun, but any GM worth their salt should have known their record at the time was largely the result of small sample size luck. I’m happy Hahn believed in that team, but he clearly should have been more realistic in his evaluation. There’s a reason most teams wait until the end of July, immediately before the trade deadline, before making major trades. The Sox making an acquisition in 2016 for a starting pitcher would have been like if the Royals this past season decided to become buyers after this:

27) RHP Frankie Montas, INF Micah Johnson, and OF Trayce Thompson to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 3B Todd Frazier (from the Cincinnati Reds)

Thompson and Johnson both had cups of coffee in the Majors and were good throw-ins by the Sox, but still, a trade for a flame-throwing young pitcher like Montas for Frazier back-fired in Hahn’s face. Todd Frazier did hit 40 home runs for the Pale Hose in 2016, but did nothing else and got shipped away the next year as Hahn embarked on The Rebuild. Meanwhile, Montas just pitched 187 innings with a 3.37 ERA for the Oakland A’s in 2021 and is set to earn only $5.2MM in 2022, per Spotrac.

Kenny Williams, A’s Fan

26) SS Marcus Semien, RHP Chris Bassitt, C Josh Phegley, and 1B Rangel Ravelo to the Oakland A’s for RHPs Jeff Samardzija and Michael Ynoa

Squint closely, and you can justify this trade being not *THAT* terrible. Samardzija had a pretty good career as a starter and was coming off of a year where he pitched almost 220 innings with a 2.99 ERA and a 3.20 FIP. The former Notre Dame wide out would have been a perfect fit to complement Chris Sale and José Quintana had he pitched like what was expected of him. Further, it took patience from Oakland to develop Marcus Semien, patience the Sox probably would not have had. Semien didn’t have his first season of a wRC+ over 100 until 2019.

Still, Samardzija was awful for the White Sox. In 2015, his lone year on the South Side, his ERA was close to 5.00. Meanwhile, the White Sox sure could use Marcus Semien and Chris Bassitt on their team right about now. Even if they had lost Semien to free agency before this full rebuild (or if he would have been sold off in 2017), Bassitt still would have been valuable during the Sox’s past two years of playoff runs. It also doesn’t help that Bassitt and Semien were important pieces to knocking the Sox out of the playoffs in 2020.

Lastly, before you get mad at me in the comments because of this heading’s title, it’s a Moneyball reference. Calm down.

We’ll See, But I’m Confident The White Sox Lost the Trade

25) 2B Nick Madrigal and RHP Codi Heuer to the Chicago Cubs for RHP Craig Kimbrel

If you want to know my full thoughts on this trade, check out my What’s On Second article that I wrote a few weeks ago for this site. The tl;dr version? Hahn knew what he had in Madrigal- he wasn’t a prospect like Tatis or Semien- and traded him away for a relief pitcher who was awful for the Sox, and now Hahn can’t turn around and trade that awful pitcher for an acceptable second baseman.

Should Have Worked Out Better For the Sox

24) 3B Todd Frazier, RHP David Robertson, and RHP Tommy Kahnle to the New York Yankees for OF Blake Rutherford, OF Tito Polo, RHP Tyler Clippard, and LHP Ian Clarkin

Rick Hahn made four major dumps before and during the 2017 season hoping to get prospects to build a core for a successful rebuild. Not shockingly, three of those trades will be very high on this list. This is the fourth trade. The Sox didn’t give up anyone of value to them at the time because they were trying to tank and rebuild. But to not have any of the prospects pan out is aggravating. One of the centerpieces of the deal, former first-round pick Blake Rutherford, slashed .250/.286/.404 with only 11 home runs in 2021 in the bandbox the Charlotte Knights play in.

23) OF Melky Cabrera + ~$2.5MM to the Kansas City Royals for RHP A.J. Puckett and LHP Andre Davis

Thanks to moves Rick Hahn made in 2014 and the offseason prior to 2015, season ticket purchases skyrocketed. That allowed Rick Hahn to convince Uncle Jerry to spend a bit over his budget so he could sign Cabrera to a 3-year/$42MM contract. And like many of the moves Hahn made during this mini rebuild, they didn’t pan out so well. The Sox won 76 games in 2015 and 78 games in 2016. As such, the Sox front office sold anything not bolted down to the floor to obtain prospects for a proper rebuild in 2017.

Melky was the last to sign with the Sox and he was one of the last to be traded away. Cabrera was not expected to bring in a huge haul like trading away Frazier, Robertson, and Kahnle, but the goal was to get SOMETHING that could have been useful in return. That would have been nice considering Cabrera was still a useful player. Before being shipped away to Kansas City, Melky slashed .295/.336/.436, good for a wRC+ of 107 in 98 games in 2017.

Meanwhile, neither AJ Puckett nor Andre Davis ever sniffed the Majors

22) LHP Zach Duke to the St. Louis Cardinals for OF Charlie Tilson

Zach Duke was a pretty good reliever throughout his career, though it didn’t help that one of his less good years came in 2015 when Rick Hahn was trying to rebuild the team. In 60.2 innings, Duke had a 3.41 ERA and a K/9 under 10 (9.79). Duke righted the ship in 2016. In 37.2 innings, his ERA was 2.63 with a K/9 of 10.04. Since the Sox had no use for a good reliever in 2016 come the trade deadline, Duke was shipped to the St. Louis Cardinals for an outfield prospect. In 96 games for the White Sox, between 2016 and 2019, Charlie Tilson slashed .246/.310/.290, good for a wRC+ of 66.

21) RHP Joakim Soria to the Milwaukee Brewers for LHP Kodi Medeiros and RHP Wilber Perez

The Sox traded for Soria prior to the 2018 season (that trade is coming a bit later) and then sold him to Milwaukee, a team in the middle of a playoff push, before the trade deadline. Since the Sox had gone full tank/rebuild mode, a closer was much more valuable to a team like the Brewers than the Pale Hose. It’s just a shame what the Brew Crew gave the Sox in return wasn’t so helpful.

20) RHP Addison Reed to the Arizona Diamondbacks for 3B Matt Davidson

After saving 40 games for the White Sox in 2013, Rick Han flipped Addison Reed to the Diamondbacks for a former first-round pick in Matt Davidson. It’s always a win when you can flip a closer for a highly-touted prospect. It just stinks that Davidson never really panned out for the White Sox. Truthfully, this trade probably deserves to be a bit higher, because the reason for Davidson’s lack of success is most likely the result of the organization’s ineptitude in developing players, and that doesn’t fall on Rick Hahn’s shoulders. Though, because Davidson didn’t ultimately pan out, I’m ranking the trade right here.

Didn’t Pan Out, Might Get Burned

19) LHP Konnor Pilkington to the Cleveland Baseball Team for 2B César Hernández

Rick Hahn needed to trade for a second baseman this past season due to Madrigal’s injury, and there were not a lot of realistic players available in the marketplace. As such, Hernández was probably the best option Hahn could have afforded. I’m still not sure what the snag was that held up a deal to get Eduardo Escobar from the Diamondbacks, but the White Sox quickly had to shift to Hernández instead.

The White Sox needed to make a trade for a second baseman in the midst of last year’s campaign, and you’re happy it involved a prospect you probably never heard of until this trade. However, it will sting if Pilkington becomes a household name and burns the Sox because of Cleveland’s scary pitching factory that turns prep school pitchers into Cy Young candidates.

Trading For a Player Hoping Manny Machado Would Sign A Long-Term Deal For Less Than He’s Worth

18) OF Alex Call to the Cleveland Indians for 1B Yonder Alonso

The title says it all

Didn’t Pan Out, Worth The Risk

17) RHP Yordi Rosario + $500K in international bonus pool money to the Pittsburgh Pirates for RHP Iván Nova

It would have been nice if Iván Nova had pitched as he did in 2013, with a 3.10 ERA in 139.1 innings. However, in 2019, the Sox just needed somebody to eat innings while the younger players developed. The team was not expected to win nor had they planned on winning much, so it didn’t really matter how good or bad Nova was.

16) RHP Jeff Soptic to the San Francisco Giants for 3B Conor Gillaspie

I debated not even putting this trade on the list considering neither player really amounted to anything. However, Conor Gillaspie did get significant at-bats and starts when he was on the White Sox from 2013-2015. As such, it felt more appropriate to throw this trade into this particular section.

15) RHP J.B. Wendelken and LHP Zack Erwin to the Oakland A’s for INF Brett Lawrie

Of all the prospects in this particular section that the White Sox gave up, JB Wendelken is probably the best. And even so, he ended up being an above-average middle reliever. Ultimately, a fine piece to give up to see if you could have gotten anything out of Lawrie during a time where Hahn was collecting complementary pieces. However, Brett Lawrie only played in 94 games for the South Siders, and a year later, Hahn embarked on The Rebuild. But still, fans shouldn’t be terribly upset at how this trade turned out five years later.

14) OF Steele Walker to the Texas Rangers for OF Nomar Mazara

Mazara was a decently touted international prospect that didn’t work out well in Texas. Sometimes, a change of scenery is all it takes for a prospect to finally come into his own. Though, as it turns out, Nomar Mazara is just not that good at hitting a baseball no matter what team he plays for. Regardless, considering the prospect the Sox gave up, right now, it looks like it was a good risk for Hahn to take.

Might Be Nothing, But My Eyebrow Is Raised

13) RHP Miguel González to the Texas Rangers for 3B Ti’Quan Forbes

In 2021, Ti’Quan Forbes was promoted from AA to AAA by the White Sox organization. If Jake Burger ends up a bench player for the Sox, Forbes will most likely be the starting 3B for the Charlotte Knights in 2022. Forbes didn’t have a great season in Charlotte last year, and he’s not really a name on casual fans’ radar, but the fact that he’s currently in AAA is the reason my eyebrow is raised. He’ll be 25 heading into the 2022 season, and if he takes his game into a higher gear, then this trade will produce massive dividends. However, I could also see this trade not even being list-worthy if I decide to revisit in 2 years.

Good Relief Work For A Bad Sox Team

12) INF Jake Peter to the Los Angeles Dodgers for RHP Luis Avilán + RHP Joakim Soria (from the Kansas City Royals)
11) RHP Yency Almonte to the Colorado Rockies for RHP Tommy Kahnle

In 2016, Tommy Kahnle pitched 27.1 innings for the Sox with a 2.59 ERA. Before he was traded to the Yankees in 2017, he pitched 26 innings with a 2.50 ERA. In 2018, Soria saved 16 games with a 2.56 ERA in 28.2 innings. Both obviously would eventually be traded in other moves, and neither player the White Sox gave up amounted to much.

Good Relief Work For A Good Sox Team

10) International Bonus Pool Money to the Arizona Diamondbacks for RHP Ryan Burr

Even though Ryan Burr didn’t end up making the postseason roster, he ended up being quite good for the Sox in 2021. Burr ended that season with a 2.45 ERA and only gave up a run in 6 of his 30 relief appearances. While he was not the dominant pitcher like many thought he was when he went his first 11 appearances (14.1 IP) without giving up a run, he still was a stabilizing force at a time when back end bullpen guys like Aaron Bummer, Codi Heuer, and Evan Marshall were struggling and inconsistent.

9) LHP Bailey Horn to the Chicago Cubs for RHP Ryan Tepera

Despite blowing a lead to Cleveland during his first outing with the Sox, Ryan Tepera was absolutely lights out for the team during the run towards, and actually in, the playoffs. Tepera pitched two scoreless innings during the Sox Game 3 win over the Houston Astros. I would love to see him get re-signed once the lock-out ends. To quote myself:

Worked Out Well For Both Sides

8) C Omar Narvaez to the Seattle Mariners for RHP Alex Colomé

Despite what the underlying numbers said (and how shaky he looked at times), Alex Colomé ended up being a very good closer for the Pale Hose. The righty saved 30 games for the Sox in 2019 in 61 innings with a 2.80 ERA. He was lights out for the Sox during the COVID shortened 2020 season. In 22.1 innings, he saved 12 games with a minuscule 0.81 ERA. He also earned a save in the Sox sole win that postseason.

Narvaez ended up with a good offensive season for the Mariners in 2019. He slashed .278/.353/.460, good for a wRC+ of 120. Though it’s hard to feel too broken up over losing the now Brewers catcher when the Sox has James McCann during Colomé’s tenure with the team.

7) RHP Jake Peavy to the Boston Red Sox for RHP Frankie Montas, RHP JB Wendelken, and SS Cleuluis Rondon + OF Avisaíl García (from the Detroit Tigers)

Jake Peavy was an excellent pitcher, but for some reason he didn’t work out while on the South Side. Some of it was just bad luck (in 2011, Peavy had an ERA of 4.92, yet a FIP of 3.21 and an xFIP of 3.52), but it also didn’t help his K/9 took a huge dip while calling Chicago home. Regardless, Hahn smartly decided to remove Peavy from his roster, and ended up getting quite the haul in return. Unfortunately, much of the return didn’t end up staying with the Sox, but almost ten years later, it’s clear that Hahn smartly acquired some excellent players.

Sadly, as mentioned earlier, Frankie Montas and JB Wendleken both ended up in Oakland, and both found success there. Cleuluis Rondon never made it to The Show, but hey, you can rarely bat 1.000 in trade returns. Then there’s Avisaíl García.

García became an All-Star for the White Sox in 2017. That year he slashed .330/.380/.506, good for a wRC+ of 138. Unfortunately, injuries ended up derailing García’s 2018 season and the Sox non-tendered him after the year. However, as the rest of García’s career has shown, he still turned out to be an above-average corner outfielder, and the Pale Hose have yet to find a consistent right fielder since losing the former All-Star.

We Should Always Trade with Texas

6) OF Álex Ríos + $1MM to the Texas Rangers for PTBNL (Leury García)

The White Sox were able to ship away Álex Ríos and have Texas eat most of his contract while getting the current longest-tenured Sox in return? That’s a Win/Win. Regardless of what you think of Leury Legend (and truthfully, for me, it’s not very high), he was still instrumental and will continue to be instrumental during this current championship window the team is in.

5) RHP Dane Dunning and LHP Avery Weems to the Texas Rangers for RHP Lance Lynn

Even without the extension the Sox gave Lance Lynn, this is probably my favorite trade Rick Hahn has made. Giving up six years of cost control of a young pitcher is not nothing, but the cost control won’t mean a whole lot if the player can’t significantly contribute during the legitimate window the Sox now have open for themselves. Dane Dunning will need to make massive strides over the next two years in order for the Sox to get Buyer’s Remorse.

Meanwhile, Lance Lynn is a front-of-the-rotation type starter who can help you win right now. That’s why he finished 3rd in AL Cy Young voting this year. In 2021, Lynn pitched 157 innings with a 2.69 ERA and a 2.62 FIP. Lynn was worth 4.2 fWAR last season.

Those stats are sweeter knowing Lynn only made $8MM in 2021. Lynn is going to get a huge pay raise over the next couple of years (he signed a 2-year/ $38MM extension), but still, it will be worth it because Lynn is the type of player that will help you win a World Series, and the Sox were able to extend Lynn thanks to Hahn trading for him.

The Best Trade Rick Hahn Has Ever Made (Outside of the Obvious 3)

4) LHP Héctor Santiago (to Los Angeles Angels) and OF Brandon Jacobs (to the Arizona Diamondbacks) for OF Adam Eaton (from the D’Backs)

Héctor Santiago was a fine southpaw starting pitcher; however, to flip him for a stud center fielder is pretty incredible work from Rick Hahn. Santiago spent two and a half years on the Angels with an ERA in the mid-3.00’s during his tenure. That’s respectable, but clearly worth giving up in order to obtain a 25-year-old player who can play excellent defense, can hit, draw a walk, and hit the occasional home run.

From 2014-2016, during Eaton’s first tenure on the White Sox, his average wRC+ was 119 while slashing .290/.362/.422. Eaton’s best season for the Pale Hose came in 2016 with an fWAR of 5.9 in 157 games.

Eaton’s return to the White Sox in 2021 along with his outspoken role in the Drake LaRoche dust-up means he’s left a sour taste in many fans’ mouths. However, he was pretty damn good when he was on the field (the first time). Plus, there’s the added benefit of trading away Adam Eaton for…

The Cream of the Crop – Trades That Built The Current Core

3) LHP José Quintana to the Chicago Cubs for OF Eloy Jiménez, RHP Dylan Cease, 1B Matt Rose, and INF Bryant Flete
2) RHP Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox for INF Yoán Moncada, RHP Michael Kopech, RHP Victor Diaz, and OF Luis Alexander Basabe
1) OF Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals for RHPs Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López, and Dane Dunning

You can quibble with the order of these Top 3 (and I suspect many of you will), but these three trades are clearly the best trades Rick Hahn has made while he was the General Manager of the Chicago White Sox. I put the Adam Eaton trade first because I think Lucas Giolito is the best player of this bunch and he’s produced the most for the Sox. Further, the Pale Hose were able to find the value out of every player received in this trade, something which can’t be said from the other two trades. Regardless, I think we can all agree that Rick Hahn did an excellent job receiving both stars and role players in order to complete The Rebuild.

Below are the remaining 31 trades. A lot of these trades involve middle relievers and/or players who never made it to the Majors. In my humble opinion, these trades didn’t impact the Chicago White Sox in any way. The Sox didn’t trade away players that could come back to haunt them but also didn’t acquire a player useful enough to make an impact within their organization. I broke up this portion of the article into bigger named players you’ve probably heard of and lesser-known players you probably never heard of. Again, if I missed someone, don’t @ me.

Bigger Named Players

Lesser Known Players

Featured Photo: White Sox / Twiter

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