White-Sox windtalker and Commander and Chief Rick Hahn sent a flurry of smoke signals out to Sox fans this past week. Many of his statements were of the canned variety one would expect from an executive in a heated race to secure one or more exceptional free agents, namely: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

Few among us will abstain from reading the tea leaves and interpreting his comments as signaling a sway in action one way or the other. In fact, MLB.com‘s White Sox beat writer Scott Merkin just fired out an admonishing tweet for White-Sox Twitter to stop reading too deeply into Hahn’s comments.

However, the fact remains Hahn said stuff…so…we’re going to think stuff. That’s the luxury we have as fans and close observers of our favorite franchise. And as the Winter Meetings came to a close over the last 24 hours, Hahn did some serious chatting with the Sox-media contingent on hand for the puttering fireworks.

From Rick Hahn’s scrum on Wednesday night

When asked about signing players out of free-agency and whether a deal is close (presumably with Harper):

In direct contrast to the 2016-Winter Meetings in Washing D.C. where the Sox cut a deal with Boston for Chris Sale, the same trade that netted Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, the Vegas edition of a trade-free-agent bonanza sputtered from the beginning. Rumors swirled for days about player/club meetings and what team was in the lead for which player, but the reality was ultimately disappointing.

The White Sox stole Ivan Nova from the Pirates for a few nickles and two fungos while much of the focus remained on who was meeting with Harper and where. Rumors and optimism aside, the trade for Nova was a good move by the White Sox, but this was an appetizer compared to the feast many of the Sox-faithful were hoping for.

The Sox still need a catcher

This following answer was in response to a question about catching prospects, but according to Merkin, seemed to have greater significance.

Emmhmm. Damn right players want in on the South Side. Despite Hahn’s pot shot at the media for stirring up “inaccurate” rumors, most of his thoughts were fair and honest. I wouldn’t expect an executive in the heat of competing against other cities and front-office brass to take a boastful stance and goad a free agent into making a decision. it seems foolish to make pronouncements to the media about where they stand in the depth chart with players they’ve pitched.

Still, these processes and negotiations reach a point where, occasionally, the last card organizations have to play is muddying things up in media reports to force a player one way or the other. In fact, Phillies’ GM Matt Klentak did something close to this after signing Andrew McCutchen to a three-year deal earlier this week. But the nuclear-option is always the last resort. Klentak didn’t go full throttle on the nuke launcher; just fired a small scud toward Harper’s camp.

Timing is key

Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings have become the defacto offseason deal-making venue, but that is a false assumption. With all of the executives and media herded into one hotel for four days, the likelihood of a deal getting done is always possible, but players clearly don’t feel pressured to make hasty decisions.

This is wise and true. If Hahn went rushing into free-agency demanding players take the deals in front of them without seriously considering whether it’s the right move or not, we should all kick him to the curb. Instead, there is a serious question of emotional intelligence in this process. It’s a rhetorical plea he is making to these players, along with the business and money side of the equation.

My belief is that the monetary offers will be extremely similar between the last few horses in the race for Harper and Machado, and what sways each player could come down to who they feel most comfortable with.

And the best insurance policy the White Sox have is their gleaming, shimmering, downright embarrassing amount of talent in the minors.

The definition of success is…

…parades and rings. Hahn and Jerry want parades and rings. Championships will validate the entire process the Sox have undergone the last two years.

Harper’s agent Scott Boras told a swarm of media members Wednesday that part of what Harper is factoring into his decision-making process is the health of the franchise regarding prospects. He wants to know who is coming up in the next few years and how much of an impact they will have on the team.

And one thing to keep in mind is that Harper already has a few familiar faces inside the Sox organization. Lucas Giolito, Luis Alexander Basabe and Reynaldo Lopez were once Nationals’ players, and the fascination with friendships and how they influence these types of decisions is undeniable.

I mean, let’s face it just because Kris Bryant and Harper grew up in the same city doesn’t make them kindred spirits. In fact, my guess is they’re not quite as close as Cubs’ fans would like them to be. But what about Giolito and Lopez? … Excuse me while I scan Instagram and Twitter for any photos and/or tweets Harper has liked on Giolito’s account. There might be something in those tea leaves I missed.