Over the past few days, the White Sox have been the butt of a running joke that involves one of the most prized free agents in all of baseball, his close friends, his family, and even his dog.
Manny Machado has still yet to decide where he’ll play baseball this upcoming season, and fans and writers alike are anxiously awaiting major developments. The candidates that Machado met with are the Philadelphia Phillies, the New York Yankees, and the Chicago White Sox. He met with each team over the span of four days several weeks ago.
Machado ended his trip in Philadelphia, where every fan recognizes the value Machado has to their franchise. Even a random construction worker yelled at him in passing, “Get that money!” as Machado headed into his meeting with Matt Klentak.
Manny Machado has arrived in Philadelphia!
• He stopped to take a photo with a construction worker who told him to “Do the right thing and sign.”
• The door to CBP was locked.
Welcome to Philadelphia, Manny! Do the right thing. pic.twitter.com/0x4jAZxx62
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) December 20, 2018
The day before, he met with the “evil empire” of the New York Yankees, where the checkbooks are hefty, the legacies are cemented, and the high-profile players like himself usually end up migrating to.
But his first trip was to the White Sox, the team not only with the worst record, but also the ability to offer the largest contract. This fact put the Sox in an excellent position from the start, but Rick Hahn and his staff have done plenty to help their cause.
On Tuesday, the White Sox announced the signing of Jon Jay, a solid major leaguer that can play a very strategic role in persuading the highly-prized Manny Machado to join the South Siders. Jay, who signed a one-year deal with the team, is very close to Machado, according to a story that Machado wrote in the Player’s Tribune. The other player in the middle of the story is his brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso, who the White Sox traded for just a few weeks ago. With Alonso, the Sox have another option to play first base and slot in the DH spot, adding a 20+ HR hitter to the lineup every day. Alonso was an All-Star first baseman in Oakland only one season ago in 2017.
So naturally, after the White Sox signed one of Machado’s best friends and traded for his brother-in-law, the joke became that the White Sox were going to sign Machado’s uncle to play third, his wife to be executive assistant to baseball ops, his sister to play left field, and his dog to be a ball boy. The idea, in White Sox fans’ minds, is that the organization is trying to do some recruiting for the free agent through those closest to him.
But what happens if Machado doesn’t want to be a part of another rebuild like he was in Baltimore? What happens if he chooses to go play for the Bronx Bombers? The Phillies, who won 20 more games in 2018 than they did in 2017, are also an attractive destination as they are rumored to offer the most money.
The White Sox have been slowly building a roster that perhaps doesn’t look that scary on paper, but finally looks respectable. As much as a Machado signing would be fantastic for the team, the rebuild, and ultimately the future, the White Sox are looking the best they have in years. They now have a couple of everyday players to rely on, something they haven’t had in years, who might also be serving as recruiters.
The Sox were in desperate need for a dependable reliever at the back end of the bullpen all last year. To fix that, the club inked long-time Royals closer Kelvin Herrera to a two-year deal and traded Omar Narvaez for Alex Colome. These two moves will be crucial to holding down late-inning leads.
These weren’t the only transaction the White Sox made to solidify a position, though. They also needed a back-up catcher after a year of inconsistent performances from the catcher position, so they signed veteran catcher James McCann to one-year deal. McCann is only 28 years old and can give the White Sox’ young pitchers insights into how they are viewed by a division rival.
With players like Ryan LaMarre, Charlie Tilson, and Adam Engel among those fighting for an outfield spot next year, the Sox also needed an everyday outfielder that can produce consistently. So, they went out and signed Jon Jay, who has been a .280 hitter over the last three years, and has played over 140 games in his last two seasons.
Even if at the beginning of the season the Sox find themselves without Machado or Harper, they are still a better position than they were last season. The aforementioned players that have been added will be able to serve as respectable stopgaps until players like Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Seby Zavala, Zack Collins, and others can rise through the ranks. Machado or Harper can push them over the line of contention, but the prospects are still the most important part of this entire plan. It is important that the Sox not rush them while still fielding a respectable team. These moves accomplish just that.
Yes, it has been a much slower and quieter offseason than when it was reported that the Sox were not only frontrunners for Bryce Harper, but also in consideration to sign both Harper and Machado. However, they have been making very solid acquisitions that they needed to make as a team before a making a potential huge splash in free agency.
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