We knew the White Sox wanted to make a splash. We had a pretty good idea that the team was ready to move on from the losing stage of the rebuild, at any cost. But then rumors started to leak. First it was Jon Morosi, then Jon Heyman, and then Bruce Levine. All sending the same message, the White Sox are going to be all in on the off-season’s two biggest names. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Bruce Levine even going so far as to say that Jerry Reinsdorf, at age 82, is ready to hand out the largest contract in baseball history.
This is in stark contrast to how the White Sox have historically operated as a club. Reinsdorf has been typically classified as a “thrifty” owner, with Jose Abreu’s $68 million dollar contract being the largest in team history. Harper and Machado will both demand contracts that begin at $300 million dollars. At age 26 and both coming off high level seasons, this is likely market value. Players of Harper and Machado’s status and age are rarely, if ever, seen on the open market. So while the Sox have never spent the kind of money they’re now rumored to be prepared to spend, they have never been faced with such a unique opportunity.
The opportunity that is presenting itself is almost a perfect storm for the team. Coming off a 100 loss season, the team has one of the best farm systems in baseball, but perhaps more importantly, only about $13 million dollars on the books right now for 2019 before arbitration. With the young players coming up, the unique talents available, and the rare financial flexibility the White Sox have, the time has never been more opportune for the team to strike. Make no mistake, the team should absolutely be in on the Machado/Harper sweepstakes until the end. But as has often been the case with the team historically, should and did have been very different things, but the reports are indicating this time is different.
So besides the money, which is obviously going to be important, what else does the franchise offer the Manny Machados and Bryce Harpers of the world? They are a team that has been consistently in the bottom five teams in attendance, haven’t made the playoffs in a decade, and are coming off their worst season since the 70’s. Why would two championship hungry players such as Harper or Machado sign on for that? Well, much like the reasons that the Sox can be players for the two young mega stars, the White Sox offer a unique opportunity that other franchises cannot offer.
The first, and biggest pitch the White Sox can make to the superstars is the young core. Michael Kopech will return in 2020, Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease are slated to make 2019 debuts and 2020 will likely see the arrival of others like Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal as well. While it may be difficult in many cases to sell superstars on prospects, the White Sox farm system is a unique case. Especially with many of the top prospects slated to make debuts within the next year. What the team can offer is an opportunity to be THE guy on the next great Chicago team. This is a role that would be naturally appealing to players like Harper and Machado, and is not difficult to envision.
The White Sox, despite being decidedly second fiddle in Chicago, do still play in Chicago. Chicago is a major market draw that can rival both New York and Philadelphia. With the Cubs financial situation looking like it could keep them from being in on Machado and Harper, it may be that the Sox are one of the only true big market teams that could be in on Machado and Harper, which would be a natural draw for them.
So while it is still a long shot that the team lands one of the two stars, and an even longer shot that they land BOTH, the stars seem to be aligning for a potentially special off-season on the South Side. Buckle up Sox fans.
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