With the failed attempt to sign free-agent infielder Manny Machado, the Chicago White Sox fan base has erupted in anger and disappointment, leading to more scrutiny of the front office.
High expectations for a big free agent signing this off-season were set during SoxFest 2018, an event that took place more than one year ago. White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn fielded questions about the possibility of the team signing a mega free agent in the upcoming 2019 off-season. In response, Hahn stated, “I can certainly assure you the resources will be available… Will we be able to convert on every target? No, not always in a robust and competitive market… Anyone who doubts that we will break from past perception or past process, I believe the evidence is there over the last year that those old standards are gone.”
Well, 13 months later, the White Sox have struck out on Manny Machado, and the sole mega free agent remaining on the market is Bryce Harper. The White Sox reportedly offered Machado an 8-year contract worth $250 million with a ninth and tenth year option for $35 million each and an additional $30 million available in incentives. While this offer may seem aggressive on the surface, the team simply did not put its best foot forward while pursuing him by not offering more guaranteed money. The White Sox hoped that by acquiring Machado’s brother-in-law and close friend, in Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay, the team would be able to low-ball Machado and still land him. This approach did not work. Additionally, it is hard to argue that the past off-season for signing free agents was a “robust and competitive market.” As evidence, the smaller market San Diego Padres signed Machado to a reported 10-year deal worth $300 million.
Due to the Machado situation White Sox executives have put the team in an extremely difficult position. The White Sox have entered a public relations nightmare, and the only possible move to fix the problem is to sign Bryce Harper. Reports indicate they remain a long shot for Harper, but the team does appear on the short list of teams still ‘in touch’ with him. The favorite is clearly the Phillies, followed by the Giants and potentially the Dodgers if Harper opts for a short term deal. The Nationals’ owner, Mark Lerner, essentially ruled the Nationals out on Harper. In reality the Giants payroll is already high, and it’s doubtful Harper will sign a short term deal with the Dodgers.
Given the lack of a ‘robust and competitive market,’ now is the time for Rick Hahn, Kenny Williams, and Jerry Reinsdorf to make a run at Harper. If the White Sox were so heavily invested in Machado why not transfer that interest to Harper? They may have less organizational depth at third base than right field, but the team needs a player who can serve as the face of the franchise, generate revenue and interest, and most importantly, wreak havoc in the middle of the lineup.
Harper can meet all of these goals. He collected a 10.0 WAR in 2015 and poses a threat to get on base at a .400 rate every single season, not to mention his ability to hit 40 home runs every year. If an individual were to tell me at the start of last season that the White Sox would simply have to beat the Phillies to sign Harper, and it would not take anything beyond $350 million dollars, I would sign Harper on the spot (granted it is not my money). It is time the franchise stop worrying about their finances in 2028 and 2029 and start moving the team to get to the next level. To position the team to compete the Sox must sign a player that can single-handedly alter the direction of the franchise.
As a result of the Machado derby Sox fans should avoid watching the San Diego Padres for the next decade, as the left side of their infield may soon be the best shortstop – third base combination in all of baseball, with Fernando Tatís Jr and Manny Machado. The White Sox traded Tatís Jr in June 2016 to San Diego for pitcher James Shields, who went 16-35 during 2.5 seasons with the team.
If Sox fans watch the Padres, they will only think of what might have been.
Follow William Karmin on Twitter (@WilliamKarmin04) for more White Sox news and opinion.