No clear off-season plan has been stated by the brass of the Chicago White Sox and fans and observers shouldn’t be bracing for those details. Whether the franchise will continue down a familiar path or push some chips in and add some talent to the roster remains to be seen. In regards to being a more competitive club in 2019, Rick Hahn said, “As to whether we’ll be ready to contend, a lot of that depends on the moves we make this off-season.” The quote doesn’t sound like it’s coming from a man opposed to spending money. Kenny Williams is aggressive and Rick Hahn speaks in lawyerly pejoratives. The Sox will definitely be mentioned as a suitor for the prizes of the free agent class.
The White Sox often get used by agents as a proxy due to their unwillingness as an organization to comment on rumors. It is to be expected that they will be firmly in the mix for any number of free agents in this cycle regardless of that, however. Hahn has stated effusively that finishing pieces would be necessary via free agency to supplement the core of a winning ball club. Causing some to scoff in dismay, Hahn stated that, “While we are not yet in a position realistically to be adding so called finishing pieces, we are in a position where we need to be opportunistic with regards to the free agent market.”
Taking this quote at face value implies that the White Sox could patch some holes, add tertiary pieces, and continue on with the status quo as is this off-season. The General Manager didn’t stop there though. “If we see long-term pieces that make sense, in addition to augmenting the pitching or filling certain needs for 2019, we have the flexibility to pursue them and we are going to be opportunistic and respond to the market accordingly. We have, as part of this process, purposely put ourselves in a position where we have a great deal of economic flexibility moving forward.”
And long-term pieces there are. Rick Hahn should be dressing as Captain Ahab for Halloween because Manny Machado is his white whale. The microscope has been on the 26-year-old Los Angeles infielder for his numerous infractions, including nauseating comments in regards to not hustling. 6 WAR infielders in their mid-twenties don’t hit the open market often though.
Machado has accumulated 30 fWAR in just over six major league seasons. Playing third base for the early part of his career, he established himself as one of the very best talents in the sport. In 2018, with the Orioles and Dodgers, Manny has hit .297/.367/.538 with 37 homers. His 6.2 fWAR is in line with his career averages and he has posted a .377 wOBA with a wRC+ of 140 and a staggering .241 ISO. Soon the four time All Star will be a free agent and the bidding war will commence. Expect the Sox to be part of that war.
Skepticism reigns and rightfully so among the White Sox’ tepid fanbase. Hahn has promised to be active when the time is right and there’s no reason to not give him the benefit of the doubt in this regard. “You can’t always control when certain players become available,” Hahn said. “You can say in 2020 or 2021 we expect to be this, and we know we are going to need x. You can’t look at the projected free agent and say that player will be available, much less that player will be a White Sox when the time comes.” The time has come and this free agent would be the ideal fit on the south side of Chicago.
With a modicum payroll of around $10 million before arbitration figures and a pressing need for the acquisition of transcendent stars, the organization that plays second fiddle in Chicago could create a significant buzz this winter. A move of this magnitude would seemingly be out of character for Jerry Reinsdorf’s tenure, but other narratives have been squashed as of late, even though the reticence is very much still apparent.
The potential addition of Manny Machado makes pragmatic baseball sense. It’s not a secret that a player of this magnitude would shift expectations in a hurry and make the club relevant once again. It’s also not a given that the entire fanbase would be on board initially. His antics have been more present on the big stage of the baseball playoffs. This type of personality would be perfect for a fanbase that immortalized A.J. Pierzynski, deified Hawk Harrelson, and glorified Ozzie Guillen.
Manny Machado is an anti-hero. But he would be our anti-hero and a bonafide star not seen at 35th and Shields since Frank Thomas called it home. The 2018 baseball season is over. Clubhouses are empty and free agents will soon be filing. Jerry Reinsdorf is sitting on a mountain of unspent dough. The front office is plotting out their winter. The marketing department is creating a pitch to present while the ticketing agents hope that it works.
Winter is coming and it’s an important step for the Chicago White Sox. This off-season is Rick Hahn’s “Pequod.” And the time is now for him to go capture the biggest fish.
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