White Sox

Breaking down the cases for and against the White Sox trading for Manny Machado

Breaking down the cases for and against the White Sox trading for Manny Machado

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The White Sox are reportedly pursuing a trade that would bring Manny Machado to the South Side.

That ground-shaking news coming in the middle of the night after a third straight day of inactivity by the White Sox at this week's Winter Meetings. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal said the White Sox are making the strongest push of any team to land the Baltimore Orioles' star third baseman, with other reports from USA Today's Bob Nightengale and The Score's Bruce Levine adding that the White Sox have made the best of a dozen offers and that they're among the lead teams in this suddenly crowded derby.

The news brought joy to White Sox Twitter but plenty of head-scratching, as well, as general manager Rick Hahn has spent the week talking about how it's time for the team to sit back and let all its minor league talent develop as the carefully crafted rebuild moves forward.

While a deal might still seem to make little sense, even after all these reports, there are arguments to be made that the White Sox should both make and stay away from such a trade. Here's a breakdown.

The case for a Machado trade

It's Manny Machado.

This is one of baseball's best young players, a 25-year-old who in six major league seasons has been named to three All-Star teams, won a pair of Gold Gloves and finished in the top 10 in American League MVP voting three times. He hit 105 home runs and missed only 11 regular-season games in the last three years. Last season, he managed to come one run shy of matching his career high in RBIs while playing for a last-place Orioles team that was 12 games under .500.

There's no doubt that Machado is a special talent, and obviously the White Sox would be an improved team with him.

The big hang up is the fact that Machado is slated to become a free agent after the 2018 season, making a trade for him a risky move to say the least. But Hahn talked Wednesday of the possibility of being able to extend someone fitting Machado's description,

"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."

Acquiring Machado — and successfully extending him — wouldn't hurt the rebuild. It would strengthen it. Machado would be a proven centerpiece of the White Sox future, and he'd be playing alongside what would still be an immense amount of young talent. While it would take a couple members of the team's stockpile of minor league talent to land Machado in the first place, there'd still be plenty of future stars in the system to join Machado on a championship-contending team of the future. And Machado would be right in the heart of that lineup.

The case against a Machado trade

Trading for Manny Machado is an extremely risky move that could jeopardize the planned future of the franchise.

It's obvious that Machado is a great player, no one is arguing that fact. But the White Sox have spent a year impressively building a minor league system that is the envy of the baseball world. And one of those future stars, Michael Kopech, is being reported as a potential centerpiece of the package that would head back to Baltimore. Kopech is arguably the top pitching prospect in the game after dominating at the Double-A level last season. Legendary writer Peter Gammons said this week on the White Sox Talk Podcast that there are baseball folks out there who believe Kopech will one day win a Cy Young Award.

But the cost for Machado won't stop at Kopech. There would surely be other pieces of a return package that would be difficult to see depart the organization. After months of acquiring talent in franchise-altering trades that sent Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana away from the South Side, for Hahn to reverse course and blow up his rebuilding effort seems completely illogical.

And it's all because there's no guarantee that a Machado trade would mean Machado in a White Sox uniform past the 2018 season. Machado is slated to hit the free-agent market a year from now, and he's expected to be able to earn a massive payday. While the White Sox would potentially have a leg up on the competition if Machado spent a year with the organization, it's no sure thing that they'd be the most appealing bidder or that they'd be able to offer Machado the biggest contract.

With the cost in prospects and the uncertainty about his future with the team, trading for Machado would seem to make little sense, a wild change of direction one year after Hahn so clearly declared which way this team is going.

"We’re not looking at stopgaps, we’re not looking to jump up and contend for one wild card and then regress back," Hahn said Tuesday. "We’re trying to build something that’s going to last, and extended control is part of that."

White Sox name James Shields as Opening Day starter

White Sox name James Shields as Opening Day starter

The White Sox have announced who will toe the rubber when the season begins later this month.

As expected, James Shields will be the team's Opening Day starting pitcher when the White Sox kick off the 2018 campaign against the Kansas City Royals on March 29 at Kauffman Stadium.

The starting rotation's elder statesman at 36, Shields seemed the logical pick for the first start of the season.

It's been a rough go for the one-time All Star since he came to the South Side in a trade with the San Diego Padres in the summer of 2016. In two seasons with the White Sox, he's got a 5.99 ERA with 181 strikeouts and 58 home runs allowed in 231.1 innings. Last season, he made 21 starts, finishing with a 5.23 ERA and 103 strikeouts and 27 home runs allowed in 117 innings.

While that trade still smarts considering the player the White Sox gave up, Fernando Tatis Jr., is currently ranked as the No. 8 prospect in baseball, Shields brings plenty of value to the 2018 rotation as a veteran mentor for young major leaguers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, as well as pitchers making their way to the big leagues like Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen and Dylan Cease.

If Shields could rediscover some of the magic that made him a great pitcher during his best years with the Tampa Bay Rays and the aforementioned Royals, with whom he made World Series trips in 2008 and 2014, respectively, and have a strong couple months out of the chute, he could provide Rick Hahn's front office with a midseason trade piece, someone who could potentially fetch a prospect or two that could help advance the franchise's rebuilding efforts.

The Royals have announced that it will be Danny Duffy opposing Shields on Opening Day.

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Houston Astros?


White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Houston Astros?

What’s there to know about the Houston Astros?

They’re the best, that’s what there is to know.

The Astros are the defending world champions for a multitude of reasons, and it’s all those and more that will have them as a favorite to repeat in 2018. Yes, the Cubs and New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians will all have something to say about that. But right now, no team is better on paper than the team the just won the big enchilada not five months ago.

The best 1-2 starting-pitching in combo in baseball? It belongs to the Astros. Justin Verlander was sensational for them after coming over in a late-summer trade with the Detroit Tigers. All he did was post a 1.06 ERA in five regular-season starts and a 2.21 ERA in six postseason outings. Justin Verlander. Again. And then there’s his running mate Dallas Keuchel — who doesn’t like the Cubs very much, apparently — has been just as good. He had a 2.90 ERA last year and won the American League Cy Young in 2015 with a 2.48 ERA and 20 wins.

Get past those guys and you’ll have to face the new guy. Gerrit Cole is now an Astro, as well, the reigning champs bolstering their already excellent rotation by importing one of the National League’s best pitchers. Cole saw his numbers jump last year (4.26 ERA) but still almost had 200 strikeouts and now has a much better roster around him than the one he left in Pittsburgh.

Charlie Morton? He threw four one-run innings in Game 7 of the World Series. Lance McCullers? He had 2.1 shutout innings in Game 7 of the World Series. This rotation is a force that could mow down the AL. There are questions, sure, but this five is entering 2018 as the best collection of arms in the Junior Circuit.

And we haven’t even gotten to the hitting. Oh, the hitting! The Astros scored 34 runs in seven World Series games. They banged out 56 hits. They hit 15 home runs. This after they were baseball’s best offense during the regular season.

The names are obvious to anyone who watched the postseason. Jose Altuve, surely tired of all the short jokes, is arguably the best player in baseball, and he won the AL MVP last season with a ridiculous .346/.410/.547 slash line. Carlos Correa, perhaps baseball’s best young shortstop, had a .315/.391/.550 slash line. George Springer, your World Series MVP, hit 34 regular-season home runs and got on base at a .367 clip before hitting five homers and slashing .379/.471/.1.000 in the Fall Classic.

Then there’s Alex Bregman and Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez, who were all very good to great in 2017. They shouldn’t all be expected to do what they did last season — you need look no further than the Cubs to see what a deep World Series run can do to a team, especially early. But is there a better lineup than this in the AL? Anyone? Bueller?

It’s hard to repeat, and “hard” is becoming one heck of an understatement considering no one’s repeated in almost two decades. The Yankees last did it when they beat the broken-bat-throwing Mike Piazza and the New York Mets in the 2000 World Series. Since then, no one’s done it twice in a row.

Last year, most of us looked at the Cubs and said, “They have the best team, they are favorites to do it again.” And then they were not even in first place in the NL Central at the All-Star break. A similar fate could await the Astros. But right now, they look like the best team the AL has to offer.

Houston, you are clear for takeoff ... again.

2017 record: 101-61, first place in AL West, World Series champions

Offseason additions: Gerrit Cole, , Joe Smith, Hector Rondon

Offseason departures: Carlos Beltran, Cameron Maybin, Mike Fiers, Tyler Clippard, Luke Gregerson, Francisco Liriano

X-factor: The Astros now count one-time Cubs closer Hector Rondon among their relievers now, but the X-factor pick here is Bregman. After a fine but nothing special first half, he was one of baseball's best after the All-Star break last year, slashing .315/.367/.536 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs in 71 games in the second half.

Projected lineup:

1. George Springer, CF
2. Alex Bregman, 3B
3. Jose Altuve, 2B
4. Carlos Correa, SS
5. Josh Reddick, RF
6. Marwin Gonzalez, 1B
7. Brian McCann, C
8. Evan Gattis, DH
9. Derek Fisher, LF

Projected rotation:

1. Justin Verlander
2. Dallas Keuchel
3. Gerrit Cole
4. Lance McCullers
5. Charlie Morton

Prediction: First place in AL West

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants