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GM Rick Hahn got off to a scintillating start running the White Sox. But boy, has he been mediocre since.
Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

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A Rick Hahn Assessment, Part One: Trades

Perhaps not as good or bad as you think, but the GM has been a wash since 2013

Back in June, Malachi Hayes analyzed just how bad a job Rick Hahn has done on the trade market. And little written in this update of sorts will contradict his take on Hahn’s work. But as far-reaching as it was, Malachi whet my appetite for a complete investigation of every trade Hahn has made. (As well as every free agent signing/extension, which is revelatory ... and a separate feature out this week.)

So, forgive the indulgence begged here, as some similar territory is covered. And that includes the same conclusion: Hahn, though hitting well enough with his big-ticket trades, has done a horrible job improving the White Sox via the trade market.

The broad take: A decade into his tenure, through 98 trades and player sales/buys, Hahn has brought into the White Sox ... 4.6 WAR.

Now, that might not sound like much, and to be fair, it isn’t.

But consider that he launched the rebuild with two key assets he did not acquire as GM: Chris Sale and José Quintana. Aided by Quintana’s limited tenure and effectiveness on the north side, Hahn has crushed that deal, with the tab running at +11.0 WAR and counting. In Boston, Sale has netted the Red Sox 13.5 WAR, so six seasons later and even as The Condor has sat out huge chunks of time with injury, the White Sox are just now getting into the black on that trade.

In fact, if Adam Eaton isn’t on Hahn’s holiday card list, something is very wrong, because the GM has concentrated almost all of his positive trade value on acquiring and then dealing Eaton. The outfielder’s acquisition in 2013 netted the White Sox 16.0 WAR (given the nature of the three-way trade, Hector Santiago’s 3.5 WAR away from the Sox doesn’t even count against Hahn’s total). Then, dealing Eaton away to Washington three years later has netted the White Sox 13.0 WAR, and counting.

That 29 total WAR, stemming from deals surrounding this one player, represents 31.8% of the total value in trades Hahn has brought to the White Sox over 10 years.

Hahn has had significant success in dealing with five teams of the 27 (no trades with the New York Mets or Minnesota Twins) he’s dealt with. Due to Eaton alone, he’s had great success with the Arizona Diamondbacks (+17.1 WAR) and Washington Nationals (+13.0), while the Cubs robbery with Quintana (and limited damage thus far with Craig Kimbrel) lands them at +10.3 and rising on the docket. Two other teams Hahn has victimized in a quieter way are the Texas Rangers (+8.7) and Cincinnati Reds (+5.4).

Interestingly, Hahn’s deficit comes by a thousand small cuts, because only the Oakland A’s and San Diego Padres truly have gotten the best of him. The Padres surplus, of course, all came from the Fernando Tatís Jr. trade, and that remains dwarfed by the chasm caused by dealing with Oakland — -33.7 WAR’s worth, thanks to Marcus Semien and Chris Bassitt.

The A’s swallow up any of Hahn’s gains with Eaton, and then some.

Once more, a big-picture summary. Hahn has brought in 91.1 total WAR so far in his trades over a decade, including several assests whose meters are still running: Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, and Eloy Jiménez, with Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López and Yoán Moncada still having 2023 count for (or against) Hahn’s totals.

Here’s a look at the significant trade gains made by Hahn:

  • Three of the top eight trades ever made by Hahn were in his first full season as GM (2013)
  • Hahn has seen success in three-team trades, with three of his seven best deals coming in that manner — and technically, giving up “nothing” (to the trade partner sending players to the Sox) in the case of the Avisaíl García and Todd Frazier deals
  • Only five of these nine 5.0-WAR deals are a net +5.0 WAR or more
  • Four traded players are still “active” for the purposes of this exercise (italicized above), with only Dane Dunning possibly working against the White Sox in the future

Here are the few losses. Unfortunately, they are big ones, almost offsetting the more numerous wins:

  • Imagine if that A’s trade was never made. WOW. It makes even the Shields-Tatís debacle pale
  • Outside of Fernando Tatís Jr. (and that’s a big one!), there aren’t many players outstanding in Hahn deals who could rise up and burn Hahn — realistically, just Dunning and Nick Madrigal
  • Although it’s outside of the purview of this exercise, as Malachi eloquently stated in this summer’s story (linked up top) Hahn has been miserable at finding hidden gems in trades, players who blossom later. And in at least two cases, Hahn traded away guys who didn’t help their new clubs, but did provide value later in their careers: Frankie Montas (from the Todd Frazier deal) never even pitched for L.A., but has been a 6.9 WAR pitcher in the majors since, while Addison Reed was a poor -0.6 WAR for Arizona in the Matt Davidson trade, but put up 5.6 WAR in his remaining career afterward)

Most of Hahn’s major gains and losses have come in package deals. Outside of those, Hahn has seen positives from just three one-on-one trades:

  • Leury García (3.8 WAR)
  • Dan Jennings (2.6)
  • Conor Gillaspie (2.4)

Consider that García’s “gains” were spread over eight seasons, as well as the fact that the last of these “big-win” deals was made on Dec. 11, 2014 (Jennings). As of this past Sunday, it’s been eight years since Hahn has made a basic trade netting even modestly good gains for the White Sox.

All in all, Hahn has a 30-35-33 record as a GM, with most if not all of those 33 “ties” being deals where the players never even made the majors to earn WAR. His only true hot streak came in that first year of GM work, 2013, which yielded 24.4 WAR for the White Sox. It all was erased and then some in 2014, at -29.8 WAR. And from 2018-on, with fewer and fewer deals happening overall (36 deals in the past five years after 62 in Hahn’s first five), Hahn is a net -0.7 WAR in his White Sox trades.

Looking ahead at the pending players still out there, how these numbers may still change, for better or worse? Several White Sox players may still add to Hahn’s total. Seasons of control and estimated WAR are provided below:

The list of players traded by the White Sox have more seasons pending, and unfortunately offset the gains anticipated above:

Keep in mind, if Cease retires, or the Cubs trade Madrigal, their WAR tallies stop. So these numbers are truly just ballpark estimates.

So, we’ll see. It all pretty much rides on Cease for Hahn; injury or mediocrity, Hahn’s sunk. More Cease 2022s on the horizon, he’ll be a genius again (OK, OK, an average GM). Could that be more than offset, however, by Tatís’ continued excellence? Unfortunately, yes.

You will find that this trade analysis is the kinder snapshot for Hahn. Next up will be his work in free agency, and it’s ... way worse than this.

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