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Grading the White Sox: Rick Hahn

There’s no aspect of the job that was done well in 2022

F.
| Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

At midseason, the SSS staff graded the 46-46 White Sox, from the head of the class Dylan Cease down to Dallas Keuchel. We invented a WARsss metric that could very well be just a cute way to trot out our special site grades — but really for all you know could be the product of years of research in a stats lab.

Our expanded report card will take us through everyone who saw time in uniform for the White Sox, plus some front-office types. Most of our writers will take on a couple of players, with final grades and short writeups, running through the end of November. Enjoy!


Rick Hahn
General Manager
Midseason: -1.4 sssWAR
Final: -2.401 sssWAR

When the White Sox decided to embark on a rebuild, the reason given by GM Rick Hahn was that the team was “mired in mediocrity.” The Sox were unable to build a successful roster around their young core of Chris Sale, José Abreu, Adam Eaton and José Quintana.

So Hahn decided to tear it down and start again, in the hopes of building a talent pipeline that could sustain itself over a long window of contention. As for how we should judge his success, we were told to ask him “after the parade.”

After the 2020 season, the Sox made the decision to move on from manager Ricky Renteria. A big reason cited was the meltdown in Game 3 of the Wild Card Series, where the Sox tried to bullpen their way through nine innings. The need for an established third starter was obvious all season long, but Hahn decided against going out and getting one at the deadline. After firing Renteria and promising more of a “true” (outside the organization) managerial search, Hahn was denied the opportunity to select a replacement, as Jerry hired his buddy, Tony La Russa.

If you were to ask Hahn, I am sure he would say this is the sole reason the Sox are not a title contender right now.

But after a 2021 season which saw the Sox win a horrendous AL Central and then promptly get annihilated by a superior Astros team, the Sox once again had several holes that needed to be addressed. The Sox were poor defensively, could not reliably hit right-handed pitching, and needed upgrades in right field. Hahn’s solution to these problems was to go after utility players, bullpen arms, and AJ Pollock. He also decided to let Carlos Rodón walk instead of giving him a qualifying offer. Rick Hahn had the option to guarantee either having a 5 WAR pitcher return on a one-year contract or receive draft pick compensation if that pitcher signed elsewhere, and instead decided it was better to have neither. Rodón went on to have a Cy Young finalist season in San Francisco and would have finished second on the Sox in innings pitched.

The Rodón decision was made in part because the Sox had planned to have Michael Kopech enter the rotation. Even though Hahn stated that they’re not surprised that he broke down towards the end of the season, they sure built a rotation that assumed he wouldn’t.

Hahn routinely builds a roster that assumes the best-case scenario. This year was probably the luckiest of Hahn’s career. He was able to get high-level performances from discards like Elvis Andrus and Johnny Cueto. Davis Martin came out of nowhere to pitch like a No. 4 starter. And even that was not enough to make up for Hahn’s shoddy roster-building.

And the shoddy roster led to baffling decisions when players were injured. Often players were not put on the IL because the organization had no one to replace them. Other teams see injuries as a time to make moves — either within the organization or looking outward. Far too often with the Sox, the response to a player being hurt was to shrug and either continue playing him, or have him unavailable and taking up a roster spot.

A frequent defense of Hahn is that he is not allowed to spend. For 2022, that was not the case. The White Sox had the seventh-highest payroll in baseball last season — and of the top 12 payrolls, nine are going to the playoffs. In his season-end press conference (which took place before the end of the season), Hahn stated that the Sox were not going to be able to “throw money at the problem.” And for Hahn, this is absolutely the case — but not exactly the way he wants to put it!

That’s because when Hahn gets the “rare” green light from Jerry and decides to spend money, he spends it badly. Last offseason, Hahn signed an already-injured Joe Kelly to a multi-year contract (no, not the first time he’s done this). He gave below-average utilityman Leury García a three-year deal when he already had a Romy González at home.

Hahn was given the largest payroll in team history and built a team that could not field, could not run, and could not hit home runs.

And when Hahn has made big swings, they have been for relievers. In 2021, his big trade move was for Craig Kimbrel. And then his big free agent move in the offseason was for Kendall Graveman. And after the team was in desperate need of some help at the trade deadline, his only move was for Jake Diekman (a subpar lefty, paid handsomely as a veteran — and on the team for next year!).

Hahn is the embodiment of the 2022 White Sox offense — he’s still looking for a single when he needs to be swinging for the fences.

When I was in school, I had a teacher who would allow us to write reflections whenever we got a bad grade on an assignment. If we were able to show what we had learned, he would improve our grade. True failure is when we do not learn from our mistakes or make any effort to improve. The end-of-season press conference provided Hahn with a perfect opportunity to show that he had learned from his mistakes. But he doubled down:

Hahn believes that by replacing Tony La Russa with a competent manager, the core that he built will prove to be a World Series contender. While there’s some truth to improvement coming in the form of a new manager who knows the rules and isn’t falling asleep in the dugout, that cannot be the main source of change to organize the parade that was promised. It is not La Russa’s fault that he had a roster with at least five players who would be best served at either first base or DH. It is not his fault that the biggest position player signing was García.

José Abreu was far and away the best position player on the White Sox this season, and is one of the greatest players in franchise history. His teammates love him and he has more than lived up to the expectations placed on him when the Sox signed him. He plays every day and produces, both of which make him stand out from the rest of the team. Despite all of this, the Sox might be in their best interest to let him go.

The reason? Hahn has built a roster so flawed and logjammed with players who cannot reliably play the field, the Sox might need to move on from a player who one day will have a statue on the concourse. That is Rick Hahn’s legacy.

Since the start of 2020, Hahn has had several opportunities to fortify the core and build a team that could compete for a championship. And in nearly every opportunity, he has made the team worse. Almost every member of the core has gotten worse under his watch. Hahn stated that improvements will need to come via trade this offseason, which is a terrifying thought considering his trade history.

Hahn has been general manager of the White Sox for nine 162-game seasons. In those seasons, the Sox have finished above .500 ... once.

Hahn’s performance as general manager is akin to Andrew Vaughn in the outfield. It is a job he never should have been given. Even though I know he’s trying his hardest, he just isn’t talented enough to make it work. And every year he’s allowed to do it is a sign of organizational failure.

Hahn promised us parades, and instead has us looking around like Will Smith in an empty house for any sort of baseball joy. He treated 2021 like a triumph, and the offseason that followed indicated that winning the AL Central was enough for him.

And he couldn’t even do that.

Rick Hahn gets an F.


2022 White Sox Grades

Rick Hahn, GM, -2.401
Bennett Sousa, LHRP, -2.425
Frank Menechino, BAT COACH, -2.469
Yasmani Grandal, C/DH, -2.549
Leury García, UTIL, -2.7
Adam Haseley, OF, -3.146
Joe McEwing, Third Base Coach, -3.167
Ryan Burr, RHRP, -3.4
Tony La Russa, MGR, -3.5
Dallas Keuchel, LHSP, -3.9


Poll

Tyrone has eloquently eviscerated Rick Hahn. How does our grade rank?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Too hard, being a GM isn’t easy, you "fans."
    (26 votes)
  • 35%
    Way too soft, how is Rick Hahn not at the bottom of the class?
    (97 votes)
  • 55%
    SSS is killing it, perfect grade.
    (152 votes)
275 votes total Vote Now
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