As I write this, it is the middle of the day, Thursday. Manny Machado has not yet signed, and no one is sure when that will change. What we do know, is that the White Sox are one of, if not the top team in the race to sign the star. I write that disclaimer so if this article never sees the light of day, or Machado signs elsewhere minutes after this article is published, I don’t look overly foolish. But with all the rumors of the Sox being Machado’s ultimate destination, it’s hard not to think about the effect his signing would have with the rest of the organization. For the sake of this article, we’re going to look at the effect Manny’s arrival could have on the arrival dates of some top prospects.
Since the beginning of the rebuild, the White Sox have ditched their old habits in terms of prospect timelines. Top prospects are no longer rushed to the majors as they were in the days of Gordon Beckham (175 AB’s across two levels total before his major league debut), Carlos Rodon (32 minor league innings before his debut) and Chris Sale (10 minor league innings before his debut) and replaced with an ultra cautious approach to prospect progression. One that actually takes into consideration a players absolute readiness, as well as their service time and how long the team hopes they’ll stick around.
The Sox are so cautious now, that it almost frustrates fans. Fans were chomping at the bit for almost three months to see Michael Kopech before his major league debut, and now fans are feeling the pain with Eloy Jimenez, and preparing for what could be another excruciating wait for Dylan Cease.
Although, a signing of Manny Machado could change all that. The cautious approach makes sense when you’re a team that has its sights set on a draft pick more than a playoff spot. But Machado would kick the rebuild into overdrive. After a season in which it felt like the championship window got bumped back a year, Machado could right that ship. He would immediately become a powerful, head turning bat in the middle of the lineup. Couple that with the immense talent already on the roster and waiting in the minors, the Sox could be ready for a significant leap in the timeline.
Keep in mind, a few things would have to happen. BUT, there is a world where with Manny Machado in 2019, the White Sox compete for a Wild Card spot, and possibly the division. Now, for that to happen Yoan Moncada, Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez would have to take big strides from their 2018 seasons. None of those things are impossible to imagine happening, but are obviously still question marks. The bottom line is, Machado is the type of addition that could cause the Sox to make a significant leap, assuming the rest of the roster progresses.
Now to the point of the article. If the White Sox are all of the sudden at least a .500 level baseball team, will fans still be subjected to torturous waits for the next big prospects? History suggests not. One thing every quick call-up shares in the history of the White Sox, was that they were all called up to be contributors to a team that was competing. Before fans read that and think “so we’re just going to start rushing guys again?,” I have to say, they appear to have learned their lesson. In the case of Eloy Jimenez, and Dylan Cease, they would likely be ready to make an impact out of Spring Training, but will likely both have to bide their time in the minors. That said, they both present different cases.
Let’s start with Eloy Jimenez. Everyone paying attention knew that Jimenez was ready at the end of 2018. As the roster stands now, Jimenez will likely stick with the major league roster until the end of Spring Training, when he will be sent to Charlotte until mid-April when the deadline for an extra year of control has passed for him. With the addition of Machado, the White Sox may feel that a hot start in the month at the beginning of the season is worth giving up the extra year of control. It’s very possible, and reasonable the Sox insist on the seventh year of control anyway, but a Machado signing makes the possibility of Eloy Jimenez on the opening day roster all the more realistic.
Dylan Cease is a bit more complicated. Cease had a breakout 2018 season that sped up his timeline, and some scouts are saying he is talented enough to pitch in the majors out of Spring Training. But Cease has never pitched above Double-A, and it’s highly unlikely the Sox start having prospects skip Triple-A now. Although should the Sox arrive in mid-to-late June in a position where they are within striking distance of a playoff spot, it’s highly likely Cease makes his debut. If Jimenez is down until April, the players named above fail to take major steps and the team is not performing to expectation’s, it’s unlikely Cease joins the team in 2019.
Should Cease come up in June, this subsequently improves the odds that fans gets to see 2018 draft pick Nick Madrigal when rosters expand in September. A lot would need to happen in order for the Sox to bring up Cease this year, and even more for them to see Madrigal. But at the very least, signing Machado would open up the door for the Sox to bring some prospects up sooner due to the timeline being accelerated by Machado’s potential arrival.
Keep in mind, as much as these arrivals are dependent on major league team performance, they are more so dependent on the personal progression of the prospects named above. Cease and Madrigal’s developments will both need to see the same sort of strides that they did in 2018, but based on their 2018 seasons, there is no reason to believe they wont.
Now back to waiting on Machado.
Feature Image: Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights