LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Is it "conceivable" the White Sox would make a deal for a young, talented player who has limited team control remaining but could immediately be extended?
"Is it conceivable?" White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Wednesday at the Winter Meetings. "Yes."
You might not want to get your hopes up too high, considering just about everything is "conceivable" in the leave-every-door-open world that is building a baseball team. But if the above description sounds familiar, you can most definitely apply it to Manny Machado, the Baltimore Orioles' star third baseman who has been the subject of many a rumor this week at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort.
Machado is set to be one of the headlining names of next offseason's bonkers free-agent class, and the Orioles are reportedly trying to get something for him before he walks away for what's expected to be a massive payday. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported earlier this week that the O's were actively shopping their superstar, which of course set the Twitter machine on fire.
White Sox fans have long coveted Machado, what with the rebuilding organization boasting no third basemen among their top-of-the-line prospects — though it's important to note Rosenthal also reported that Machado wants to play shortstop — and the beginning of the team's contending window rapidly approaching and perhaps even coinciding with the 2019 free-agent class, depending on what happens development-wise in 2018. So they were extra excited when a Baltimore writer tweeted Wednesday that the White Sox were one of the teams that made a trade offer to the Orioles.
Several offers are on the table for Manny Machado - Cardinals, White Sox, Yankees, Phillies and Giants. #Orioles— Dan Clark (@DanClarkSports) December 14, 2017
Now this might or might not be a reflection of reality. Hahn spent a good portion of his media session Tuesday talking about how a player would have to be under team control for a long time for the White Sox to consider parting with any of their recently acquired minor league talent, pieces that have fired up the fan base and created an appealing outlook for the future. The team's carefully laid rebuilding plans involve the likes of Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jimenez, Reynaldo Lopez, Luis Robert, Alec Hansen, Micker Adolfo and Dane Dunning, and it seems incredibly risky — if not downright foolish — to blow those plans up just a year into the rebuild to acquire, yes, a great player but one who is only guaranteed to be on the team that acquires him for one season.
But Hahn's response to a creatively worded question about a player fitting the description of Machado on Wednesday left the door open for the White Sox applying the strategy of acquiring a player who has little team control remaining and signing him to an extension right away. Again, there'd be no guarantee that the hypothetical acquisition of Machado would result in an extension. But Hahn pointed to there being different ways of acquiring pieces that set the team up for long-term success.
And Hahn agreed that it might be easier to sign someone fitting Machado's description to an extension if he was part of the team for a season.
"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."
Now, it would seem that Machado — like any player — would be itching to test the free-agency waters and receive the most monstrous contract offer he could. And it's for that reason that any White Sox deal would be such a huge gamble. Not only would Hahn be dealing away some of the talent — and not any insignificant amount of that talent — that's helped build the White Sox into the highest-rated minor league system in the game. But he'd be doing it with no guarantee of anything but one season of Machado, one season in which the White Sox are not expected to compete.
Hahn also said this Tuesday: "We’re not looking at stopgaps, we’re not looking to jump up and contend for one wild card and then regress back. We’re trying to build something that’s going to last, and extended control is part of that."
A Machado deal still doesn't seem to make sense right now for the White Sox. Hahn has spent the Winter Meetings up to this point talking almost exclusively about how it's time for the team to sit back and let its minor league talent develop. But that isn't going to stop the rumors from flying. That isn't going to stop the Twitter conversation from happening. And even for the White Sox themselves, it might not stop the door from completely closing.