Hahn put rivalry aside in club's best interest

White Sox GM understands fans' mixed reaction to trade with Cubs

Hahn put rivalry aside in club's best interest

CHICAGO -- When White Sox general manager Rick Hahn first traded Jose Quintana to the Cubs, the reaction among his team's fan base could be characterized as highly positive but not universally applauded.

Those few doubters clearly didn't object to the return of outfielder Eloy Jimenez (No. 7 prospect per MLBPipeline.com) and right-hander Dylan Cease (No. 66) among the four players. Their scorn came from the perception of the White Sox helping out the rival Cubs in their quest for a second straight World Series title.

"I get the initial sort of, 'Oy, I can't believe they did that,'" Hahn said during a recent conversation with MLB.com. "I have a couple of emails, a couple of voicemails expressing 'Why the Cubs? How could you help the Cubs?'

"But people should be confident that was clearly the best offer we had received, and that has to be what they want us to take in the end. While there may be a visceral reaction initially, certainly the fans I've heard from get it. I have to assume if they truly want what's best for this organization, they would have wanted us to go down that path."

Maybe fans from both sides were stunned by the deal, with these two teams competing in the same market but standing at far different competitive points. The Cubs held a 1 1/2-game lead over Milwaukee in the National League Central entering Wednesday, having punctuated their rebuild with a title in '16. The White Sox have the second-worst record in all of baseball while in the early rebuild stages.

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Strip away the Chicago rivalry in the deal, though, and each side appears to have picked up what it needed.

"Everyone around here would be lying if they said it was a comfortable deal to make," White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams said. "But you are charged with doing the best you can for the Chicago White Sox.

"We view getting Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease, two impact players, vs. some of the other possibilities we had, as being a fair deal. I sent Theo [Epstein, Cubs president] a message after we made the deal, saying that was a nice, fair baseball deal. His reply was along the same lines of, 'Yeah, we don't find too many of those too often anymore. It was a pleasure being involved in a fair baseball deal.'

"Now in 2017, it's more fair for them because they are trying to win another championship. Our trying to win another championship will come in another couple of, two or three, years."

Quintana is 2-2 with a 4.20 ERA over five starts for the Cubs, who have climbed from 5 1/2 games back at the All-Star break. Meanwhile, Jimenez hit .369 with nine doubles, six homers and 20 RBIs in 23 games for Class A Advanced Winston-Salem.

Regardless of the initial response, Hahn knows it was the right move.

"No one who calls themselves a White Sox fan would really want us to take an inferior deal and to put the organization in an inferior position for the long term simply out of potential spite or rivalry," Hahn said. "People making the decisions have to decide what's best for long term interests of the White Sox, not how to avoid helping someone else in the league. That's just not our mission."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.