LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — It looks like the notion of the White Sox trading for Manny Machado is a little more than just "conceivable."
That's the word White Sox general manager Rick Hahn used Wednesday at the Winter Meetings when proposed with the idea that his rebuilding organization would try to pursue a player with just one year of control who could potentially be convinced to sign a lengthy contract extension. While the creatively worded question required some verbal gymnastics to avoid saying the word "Machado," that's exactly the player that was being discussed.
And now it looks like the White Sox are doing a little more than just discussing a trade with the Baltimore Orioles. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported that the White Sox are making an aggressive push — the most aggressive push of any team — to acquire the Orioles' star third baseman, one of the headliners of next offseason's monster free-agent class. USA Today's Bob Nightengale followed that up with his own report that the White Sox have made the best offer of a dozen teams to propose trades for Machado. And The Score's Bruce Levine added Thursday morning that the White Sox are indeed among the lead teams in this suddenly hot derby.
A quiet Winter Meetings for the South Siders just got cranked up to 11.
White Sox fans are sure to be ecstatic that the team is pursuing a player they've long coveted. With all the highly touted minor league talent the White Sox have built up over the past year, none of those players play third base, and Machado's pending free agency lines up with the rapidly advancing rebuild, which Hahn described Wednesday as ahead of schedule.
A move still seems shocking, though, considering the rebuilding White Sox have carefully laid plans for the future involving the likes of Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jimenez, Reynaldo Lopez, Luis Robert, Alec Hansen, Micker Adolfo and Dane Dunning. It would figure that the Orioles would expect a sizable return package for Machado, and Rosenthal's report mentioned a package built around either Kopech or Giolito.
Machado, though, is only under team control for the 2018 season. The idea of giving up either of those two highly regarded pitching prospects for just one guaranteed year of Machado seems extremely risky, and it was Hahn who said this week the White Sox are "not looking to jump up and contend for one wild card and then regress back." The White Sox, even with Machado, wouldn't figure to be a championship club in 2018. Without a guarantee that Machado would sign a contract extension with the White Sox, a trade would seem to put the much-discussed rebuild in a precarious position.
The flip side, obviously, is that Machado could be a long-term piece, a centerpiece of the White Sox future, bringing many of these prospects along with him. Hahn talked Wednesday about the benefits of having a player with the team as opposed to being a "cold" free agent when he talked about hypothetical extensions.
"Sometimes you need to be creative. Sometimes you need to perhaps take a risk," Hahn said. "I think it’s probably slightly easier after a player has been part of this organization, understand what we’re about, to extend him as opposed to meeting him cold free agent and trying to sell him on the organization. We’ve had success with both, so we’re not afraid to do either, but perhaps there is a little advantage from time to time to have a guy already be on campus when you’re talking about extending him into the future.
"You guys have heard from a many of players how much they enjoy being with us, how they want to stay here, they want to be part of this rebuild. That’s in part due to the type of guys we’ve brought in and in part due to the culture and direction we’ve created."
Machado, of course, is one of baseball's best players. The 25-year-old is already a three-time All Star. In 2017, he slashed .259/.310/.471 with 33 home runs and 95 RBIs for a last-place Orioles team that was 12 games under .500. He's extremely durable, playing in every regular-season game save 11 over the last three seasons. He's a slick fielder with a pair of Gold Gloves to his name, and he's already finished in the top 10 in American League MVP voting in just six major league seasons.
Interestingly, a report earlier this week from Rosenthal said Machado wants to play shortstop moving forward. Should the White Sox acquire Machado, it will be interesting to see what happens with Tim Anderson, who has been touted as the team's shortstop of the future. Though you figure any team would make room for a player the caliber of Machado.
Hahn will address the media one more time in Florida following the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning. Of course, any deal could still take time to play out.
Buckle up. The White Sox are officially on the hot stove.