Winter Meetings interview with Rick Hahn

RICK HAHN: It's never easy to trade a pitcher the caliber of Chris Sale, a player that our amateur scouting staff identified early on, prior to 2010 draft, and our player development people along with Major League staff helped maximize his high, high level of talent at the Big League level.

As I talked with Chris this afternoon to inform him of the trade, pass along our great gratitude as an organization for everything he did in our uniform and obviously wished him well, it was not an easy phone call to make, but one, quite frankly, based upon the return that we were able to procure in this trade was one that we were extremely excited about making.

We have made no secret heading into the offseason our goal is to put ourselves in the best position to contend for an extended period of time for multiple championships. Given where we were as an organization entering this off-season, we knew we were going to have to make some painful decisions. But if we had the opportunity to acquire some high-impact talent that would be around for a number of years, it was time to start that process.

So today was the first step in what will very likely be an extended process but one that we feel, if we continue to acquire similar-type players with the upsides of the individuals that we acquired today, will be for the extended long-term benefit of the organization.

With that, questions.

Q. With the interest you had from various teams besides Boston and the talent packages you were being offered, how tough was this decision to make, where to pull the final move on it, and how much did you go back and forth with your Boston people before deciding on the Boston fit?
RICK HAHN: There was extensive debate. Obviously we took this decision quite serious, and there were a number of talented players involved not just in the Red Sox package but in other packages that we were debating, and those conversations went up to late this morning until we decided the Red Sox deal was the one that made the most sense for us, based on the players that were coming back.

Q. How was the last, maybe, from 6:00 on last night, what was it like in the room until this morning?
RICK HAHN: Stuffy. Didn't smell great. (Chuckles.)

There was a great level of excitement since we got here about the caliber of players that we were likely to receive back. We view Moncada as a premium position player, a guy who is going to play up the middle for us, be an impact offensively and defensively for us for a long time. And Kopech, we project him out as a front end of the rotation starter, the kind of guy that's pretty rare in terms of peers throughout Minor League Baseball right now.

Basabe, another switch-hitting up-the-middle talent plus defender in center fielder who can run. And then Diaz, a plus-plus arm who has some secondary offerings to back it up.

These are the type of impact players that we need to continue to acquire and build up to get our system to the point where we are able to have that extended run of success, and there were similar-type players being offered from other clubs, and there was a level of excitement in that room as we debated which was the best path for us. And although there were a few minutes along the way where you take time to realize the caliber of player that you're giving up in Chris and, as I said, someone who's success is a tribute not only to his great ability but our amateur scouts and player development and Major League coaches and one of our own. In the end we knew this was something we had to do for the benefit of the club.

Q. Does this in your mind, in your people's minds, open up the floodgates for the possibilities of numerous other players possibly being dealt over the next couple days here and in the future?
RICK HAHN: I don't know if it necessarily leads to a quickening of our pace. We've had conversations leading up to these meetings as well since we've gotten here on a number of different fronts, and we're extremely open-minded on ways to continue the process that we started today.

It's conceivable more comes together while we're here, or it may take a few more weeks on certain fronts and conceivably into the season as well. We don't view this as a quick fix; this is something that we're going to do with diligence and with the proper patience in order to maximize our returns.

Q. Rick, you've been making a lot of moves the last couple years the other direction, going for it, signing free agents, making trades, how difficult is it to reset and what finally convinced you now is the right time?
RICK HAHN: It was an organizational decision, something that Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams and I and others, Buddy Bell, and Jeremy Haber in the front office have been discussing for a long time. It doesn't -- this path, you're right, doesn't fit with how we have acted over the last several years. We've been in a more of a "win now and patch and play" type of situation.

We feel the same frustration that the White Sox fans have felt over the last few years which those plans may look good on paper or entering Spring Training make everybody feel optimistic haven't played out the way everybody inside and outside of the organization anticipated.

That extended period of frustration and not being able to see a path in order to rectify that based upon where we were in terms of our resources as an organization led to very serious conversations over not just the last few months but over the last few years about when is the right time to pivot to taking this longer-term approach.

And ultimately, based upon where we were during the off-season and the landscape ahead of us, we felt now is the type to, again, put ourselves in a position where we can have that success over extended period, maybe change our time horizon as we look to make these moves, our focus as we make these moves.

Q. Rick, in Moncada you acquired a tremendous prospect. The Red Sox were so high on him they even bring him up last year, they brought him up as a third baseman. But his favorite position is a second base. Do the White Sox view him as a second baseman, and how soon you think he will be (indiscernible)?
RICK HAHN: There is still some development left in this player, obviously. He's extremely young, has had success already at the higher levels, but he's not a finished product.

In terms of his time horizon, the good ones have a way of forcing the issue. But we project him, in all probability, to start in the Minors. Second base, third base, we think he's capable of playing both, but at this point we would have him playing second base for us.

Q. With Kopech, obviously a limited time this year, pitched in the fall league. What stood out to you guys from him in the fall league and with his past, the suspension and the broken hand and an altercation earlier this year? How were you able to look at that when taking this deal into account?
RICK HAHN: We did a lot of due diligence in all of the players in terms of their make-up and background, and with Michael there were a couple of incidents that we wanted to look into. And we got comfortable with what led up to the background and the back story behind him. He's an extreme competitor, you can see that from the physicality in his mound presence, the stuff is obvious with the plus-plus fastball and the slider.

We project him out about as well as just about any Minor League starter out there right now. There is still a fair amount of development left for him given the missed time and where he finished the season, but he did perform extremely well out here or in the Arizona Fall League, which sorta reinforced those projects that we have for him.

Again, not a finished project by any stretch, but a guy we project out to have a strong potential of helping to anchor a rotation in the future.

Q. Clubs get caught on that treadmill where they're between 75 and 85 wins, and they think, okay, this is the next step we're going to go, and it doesn't happen. How much does that play into that decision?
RICK HAHN: It's a big part of it. Last thing you want to be is caught in between. You don't want to be a club that's not good enough, not capable of winning a championship but at the same time is just sort of mediocre or stuck in the middle. We try each off-season to be realistic about where we are as a club and what are going to be the opportunities based on the free agent or trade market or internally to improve ourselves and get us to that spot where we are going to be able to contend for a championship.

In the past few years we've been aggressive in trying to patch some of those holes, and unfortunately they haven't played out the way we anticipated when we made those deals. This is an effort to move more toward being able to sustain ourselves at that higher echelon. There may well be some pain along the way. That's part of this process in terms of the performance at the Big League level. But ultimately we think whatever, you know, sacrifice we make for the short-term at the Big League level is going to pay off for an extended period at the Big League level, because the last place we want to be is caught in between.

Q. Moncada was an amateur or free agent coming out of Cuba recently. Where were you guys in that process in 2015 and was there ever a point in this negotiation when the cost that the Red Sox paid to get him might have made him an untouchable?
RICK HAHN: We didn't discuss his signing bonus or the tax or any of that stuff with the Red Sox in terms of his accessibility in this trade; it was more about the talent that they were receiving and what we acquired coming back. We admired him as an amateur. We were interested in him as an amateur and quickly realized we weren't going to be able to sign him as an amateur.

Q. A lot of clubs recently the last few years have gone through the rebuilding process, including one in your own town. Is it a fun process or a painful process?
RICK HAHN: It's probably a bittersweet process because you wind up sitting up here potentially talking about moving a five-time All-Star and CY Young candidate, which is never enjoyable, especially when it's a home-grown guy.

At the same time there is a level of excitement of what this could potentially look like down the road. We have a lot of work ahead of us and similar such moves ahead of us to the once we made today, but there is the idea of being able to put yourself in that position to on an annual basis contend and to be self-sustaining for the most part with your own homegrown players. Has a great deal of appeal not only to the front office but when you talk to our scouts about it and the challenges it presents and the opportunity it presents as well as our Major League coaching staff.

We had organizational meetings back in Arizona a month ago prior to the general manager meetings, and while we weren't public about these conversations, there was a great deal of enthusiasm in the room for where we potentially could go over the next five, six years even though the front end of that may be painful.

Q. Did you contact Jose Abreu about Moncada?
RICK HAHN: We had a conversation with Jose at the time Moncada was an amateur. They were teammates in Cuba. I haven't spoken to Moncada directly today, but in speaking with his representative he mentioned the fondness he has for Jose and the excitement he has to potentially be playing with them in the future. Jose spoke very well of him at the time.

Q. Scouting reports?
RICK HAHN: He gave us scouting reports. Us, not ESPN, a scouting report.

Q. If you're going to do this, you're going to go all in, assuming, would you prefer to get most or all of it done by the time you guys hit Arizona so you can start building this the way you want to?
RICK HAHN: We would love to get as much as possible done as soon as possible, but that desire to do it quickly isn't what's going to dictate how quickly it happens. What's going to dictate is our ability to make trades that we feel good about that do further our cause.

There is no rush to do it from that standpoint. It's much more important to do it right than to do it quickly. Do it too quickly, do it hastily without the proper vetting of targets could put yourself in a worse predicament, if you aren't careful.

Internally, yeah, we want to move as quickly as possible. We're ready to do more deals today if the right opportunities present themselves. But we're not going to force the issue. If nothing happens right now, we have some talented players under control going forward, some who are under control for the next four or five years who conceivably could fit in as this next young core grows together and be on the next potential championship core.

The short answer is, yeah, we feel a desire to do it as quickly as possible, but in reality we are going to have to follow the market and the value of these players and what makes the most sense.

Q. Dombrowski said you called him on Friday and said the asking price was different than it used to be. What was the discussions with the Red Sox like this time compared to any previous discussions?
RICK HAHN: There have been a lot of reports out there about what we asked for last time. I'm not the sure what that's alluding to, public reports, there were some fairly aggressive asks that apparently came from me that weren't necessarily entirely accurate. There have been players -- David and I have had these conversations with regard to Chris for over a year now, and certainly this time around there were different players than a year ago that were in the mix, in part because some of those players played so well that, frankly, they're contributing at the Big League level in Boston and less accessible than they might have been a year ago.

This time around versus the deadline or versus last year when we had the conversation, I think it was a little more the universe of players that we were focused on was narrower than in the past, and David and I were able to fairly quickly zoom in on the key elements of the deal and then needed to build it out from there over the last few days.

Q. No secret that the Washington Nationals are out looking at a lot of players, too, including Chris Sale. Wondered last night especially or today how aggressive were they, if you can say, and whether anything came close with them?
RICK HAHN: I don't think it's really appropriate to talk about deals we didn't make instead of focusing on the deal we did. I will say there were other clubs that were aggressive on Chris. We had a lot of productive conversations, and ultimately it came down to two in the end, and both of them were aggressive and presented us with solid packages that we had to choose between.

Q. What sort of a sell line to fans now that this has started? Is it anything more complicated than be patient, invest your energy in the Minors, follow our Minor League teams?
RICK HAHN: There is some of that, but there are still some talented players in Chicago. There's still some exciting young players that we think are going to be part of this going forward, whether it's Tim Anderson or Carlos Rodon and a handful of others that we will focus on come Spring Training even more.

I think the message is that we realize that the way we had been approaching this for the last few years wasn't bearing fruit, and given that and given the frustration, we're taking a different approach. With that approach we think that the long-term benefit is well going to be worth whatever potential short-term hardship may arise from it.