White Sox

Race to the bottom? With Giants in town, thinking about No. 1 pick and another high-profile addition to White Sox rebuild

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AP

Race to the bottom? With Giants in town, thinking about No. 1 pick and another high-profile addition to White Sox rebuild

The race to the bottom kicks into high gear this weekend on the South Side.

No, there won’t be the same sort of atmosphere that accompanies the actual pennant races happening elsewhere around the league at this time of year, but you could argue that the stakes are similarly high for the teams with two of the three worst records in baseball.

The White Sox and the visiting San Francisco Giants are a combined 67.5 games out of first place in their divisions, at the tail end of a couple last-place seasons, but they’ll be fighting for the No. 1 pick in next summer’s draft this weekend and throughout the remainder of September. Both are competing with the team with baseball’s worst record, the Philadelphia Phillies, and all three squads are within a game and a half of each other at the bottom of baseball’s standings.

Now, as manager Rick Renteria explained and as you surely could have guessed, obviously these teams aren’t trying to lose to improve their draft position. It’s been a tough year in all three cities. The White Sox are in the early stages of their rebuild. The Phillies are trying to crawl out of theirs. And the Giants are having a very uncharacteristic season after failing to make it four straight Even Year championships last October.

Getting the No. 1 pick isn’t on the minds of those in either of the dugouts this weekend at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“I think their club and our club and every club that plays Major League Baseball tries to go out honestly and tries to perform well, tries to win a ballgame,” Renteria said. “I think all those things take care of themselves. They’re not something I think about, worry about, concern myself with.

“My biggest concern is, are the players doing what they’re supposed to do, are they gaining experience and knowledge and are they dealing with situations that occur at any given moment properly? And the rest, it is what it is.”

But while the managers and players aren’t thinking about next year’s draft, the fans certainly are. And while there will be nothing that happens this weekend that affects baseball’s exciting pennant races, it’s anything but a meaningless trio of games, as it could have a huge impact on who gets to pick first next June. That provides some reason to pay attention over the final month of the season as the White Sox finish out a last-place campaign.

Getting the No. 1 pick could be huge, obviously, as it would give Rick Hahn a golden opportunity to add a franchise-changing player to his already remarkable cadre of highly ranked prospects in the minor leagues. Top picks over the past decade and a half have included some of baseball’s best players: Carlos Correa, Gerrit Cole, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, David Price, Justin Upton and Joe Mauer. Imagine adding someone like that to an existing group of prospects that includes Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez, Alec Hansen, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Dane Dunning and Luis Robert.

But while the race to the bottom is a moderately fun thing to follow over the season’s final month, it’s important to note that no matter the White Sox pick, there will be opportunity to add an incredible talent — as well as the usual pitfalls of a guy not panning out.

There have been No. 1 busts like Bryan Bullinger, Matt Bush and Luke Hochevar. And similarly there have been perennial All Stars taken at Nos. 2 and 3: Kris Bryant, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon and Justin Verlander were No. 2 picks, while Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer and Evan Longoria all went at No. 3. The White Sox spent a No. 3 pick on Carlos Rodon three years ago, and they’re hoping he’ll be at the top of their rotation of the future.

It might be fun this weekend to follow the standings closely and see if the White Sox can better position themselves for the first choice in the draft. But at the same time remember that this last-place season’s silver lining means a pick at the top of that draft, even if it’s not the first one. And as history has shown, there’s franchise-altering talent to be found at one, two and three.

So get ready for another high-profile addition to the White Sox rebuild.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Machado Watch continues for White Sox

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Machado Watch continues for White Sox

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Scott King (WGN Radio) join Kap on the panel. Machado Watch continues. Will the Orioles actually trade him? Meanwhile, has Alex Cobb’s price tag become too high for the Cubs?

Vincent Goodwill joins Kap to talk Bulls and the guys discuss how much Mitch Trubisky needs to win to help his development.

White Sox reportedly not offering up top prospects for Manny Machado

White Sox reportedly not offering up top prospects for Manny Machado

The Manny Machado saga spins on, though it’s looking far less promising for White Sox fans who wanted to see the Baltimore Orioles’ superstar third baseman come to the South Side this winter.

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale chronicled the latest happenings with Machado in an exhaustive Thursday report that heavily featured the White Sox, who apparently have not decided to blow up their rebuilding effort by dealing away multiple top prospects. That’s not happening, per Nightengale, who reported the White Sox didn’t include any of their highest rated guys in an offer that was at one point reported to be the best out there for Machado. Nightengale did still report the White Sox offer as “solid.”

In fact, as Nightengale continued, it seems the White Sox made their offer completely expecting to have Machado for just the 2018 season. Machado is slated to be one of the headliners of next winter’s crazy good free-agent class.

The catch comes, perhaps not surprisingly to those familiar with the Orioles’ reputation, from Baltimore owner Peter Angelos, who is dramatically concerned that the White Sox would acquire Machado simply to flip him elsewhere in a trade — specifically, Angelos worries, to the New York Yankees, the Orioles’ division rivals. Nightengale added that the White Sox have repeatedly assured the Orioles they won’t do such a thing, but Angelos doesn’t seem to be sold.

The big headline for the White Sox, though, from the whole thing is that all this buzz and speculation doesn’t seem to involve them pulling a 180 on what they’ve worked for more than a year to do: gather a ton of highly touted prospects and build a homegrown champion. Michael Kopech, who seemed to fit the Orioles’ wishes as a young controllable pitcher, has been said to be “untouchable.” And if none of the organization’s top prospects were included in the deal, as Nightengale said, it’d be logical to assume that Lucas Giolito wasn’t involved in the team’s trade proposal either.

The White Sox became the buzz of baseball on the final day of the Winter Meetings with reports flying all over the place that they were making the most aggressive push for Machado and that they had made the Orioles the best offer of any team. The initial, middle-of-the-night report from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal listed Kopech and Giolito as potential trade chips.

But a trade seemed to make little sense for the South Siders, who would have to give up multiple of their precious prospects — players projected to be the future of the big league team and deliver perennial contention — for nothing more than one guaranteed season of Machado, who is expected to receive a huge payday once he hits the free-agent market. Even with Machado, the White Sox wouldn’t figure to be a championship contender in 2018. That’d be putting all the eggs into one basket, that one season in Chicago would somehow convince Machado to skip the free-agent frenzy and sign with the White Sox.

Simply put, it’d be an incredibly risky move.

But apparently those aren’t the dice Rick Hahn and his front office are ready to roll, which ought to ease the concerns of rebuild fans, even if it might disappoint those who wanted to see Machado come to Chicago.