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updated: 7/15/2017 6:25 PM

Rozner: Chicago baseball in very nice place

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  • Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein

    Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Chicago White Sox Vice-President/General Manager Sox Rick Hahn

    Chicago White Sox Vice-President/General Manager Sox Rick Hahn
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 

Theo Epstein arrived in Chicago with a plan and delivered on every promise.

Much to the chagrin of those who didn't get it, the Cubs president tore it apart, rebuilt the team and did the unimaginable, winning a World Series in five years.

But the underrated part of his game is just how cutthroat Epstein is in his dealings within the game of baseball.

Sure, he's well-spoken and smiles while always remaining polite. But underneath all that polish is a competitive executive who will slice up anyone who dares to get in his way.

This should remain a comfort to Cubs fans who may have wondered if there is any complacency in the front office.

Similarly, Rick Hahn has become the face of the White Sox front office, seemingly mild-mannered and friendly with all who come across his path.

He's a North Shore guy and very well-schooled, but having waited his turn to take over the operation, Hahn pushed hard for a rebuild and only eight months in he has capitalized nicely on the brilliant contracts the Sox signed early in players' careers.

That is the most overlooked part of the program.

Sox ownership took chances with some young players and scored big with Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana, saving a ridiculous amount of money in the process and making those players very attractive in trade talks.

That cost certainty allowed the Sox to jump-start a rebuild and virtually all of their top prospects have been added since the deals began in December, including significant money spent internationally.

But Hahn is also deceiving in his personality. Calm on the outside, he had to be stewing at the foolish narratives dominating the Sox conversation, especially the notion that the Sox would harm their own chances of getting better by refusing to deal with the Cubs.

No matter how many times he said it was a question only of matching up, his case fell on deaf ears.

And then there was the belief that the Sox were stopping after two big deals, or that Hahn had missed the boat on Quintana, waiting too long and being too stubborn in his asking price.

Absurd when you consider Quintana's long-term value.

Still, Hahn had to have the guts to stay the course. He couldn't be talked into selling low, willing even to wait until the off-season to restart trade talks on Quintana if necessary.

Turns out it wasn't.

"We had multiple conversations right up to (the end), and actually while the medical review was going on," Hahn said. "Clubs were still calling us even though we were down the road (with the Cubs).

"They wanted to be part of this in case something did fall apart. There was strong interest. Probably the two highest periods of interest in Jose were right after we did the Sale and Eaton deals, a week to 10 days thereafter. More robust than that was the last 10 days, certainly the last five.

"There were teams involved that are not in contention to win (this year) … interested in the conversation about how (Quintana) would fit in for them over the next three years."

As was the case with the Cubs, there is no guarantee that a rebuild works for the Sox, but given their success with the previous approach, it was far past time to try something different.

And with every trade they make that bolsters their inventory of young talent, their chances of making this work get better. Far from done, the Sox will continue dealing.

"We've made great strides in the last 12 months," Hahn said. "We've had two very fine drafts. We've made a potentially impactful international signing in Luis Robert and with the (Quintana) trade we've acquired some very highly regarded, potentially impact players.

"In terms of how close we are to the end of this process, I don't have an answer for that yet. We still have more work to do over the next (two weeks) before this trade deadline.

"There will be more work that needs to be done this offseason, and as part of that process of preparing for the offseason we'll assess where we are from a talent standpoint and continue on the proper path toward accumulating as much talent as we can.

"All I can tell you is we're in a much better position today than we were a year ago."

Hahn and Epstein, two men who smile and pat you on the back while talking shop.

When it happens, it's probably a good idea to keep your hand on your wallet.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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