White Sox

When it comes to Harper, Machado sweepstakes, can White Sox compete with team that plans to spend 'stupid'?

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USA TODAY

When it comes to Harper, Machado sweepstakes, can White Sox compete with team that plans to spend 'stupid'?

The White Sox sure seem willing to spend and spend big this offseason if the right opportunity comes along. They're reportedly interested in Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the two biggest names on this winter's free-agent market.

But other teams are interested in those guys, too. And at least one other team is being more vocal about its willingness to shell out big bucks — making no bones about the fact it's even willing to spend "stupid."

That was the word used by Philadelphia Phillies owner John Middleton, who told USA Today's Bob Nightengale: "We're going into this expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little stupid about it."

That's a bit of a joke, of course — he added, "we just prefer not to be completely stupid" — but it shows how pricey this winter's bidding wars are going to get.

The White Sox have a ton of financial flexibility thanks to their rebuilding effort, but they're not alone. The Phillies are right there with them in terms of long-term financial commitments. Throw in the fact they're further along in their rebuilding process than the White Sox, and it makes them a prime candidate to hand out one of the biggest contracts in baseball history.

The Phillies — who Nightengale wrote just last week seem like a lock to land Harper — spent time in first place in 2018 and have an exciting roster of young players that already makes them a contender heading into 2019. Add Harper or Machado to that mix, and you're looking at a team that could win multiple championships starting in 2019.

The White Sox don't have that, and it seems to remain their biggest challenge in convincing one of the best players in baseball to sign up. They have a very bright future to pitch, but it's a planned future, not the demonstrable win-now roster of teams like the Phillies.

What could help to ease those concerns would be money and a whole lot of it. Obviously other teams are willing to spend, but few teams have the ability to spend and spend big that the White Sox have because of the ridiculously small amount of money they have committed past the 2019 season.

Rick Hahn has made a point that the White Sox have made a habit of shattering preconceived notions, doing the unexpected during this rebuilding process. But certainly no one expects him to do something "stupid."

In fact, Hahn's comments surrounding what deals the White Sox might or might not make this winter (or at any point in the last two years) seem to show the complete opposite of "stupid." His prerequisite for every potential move is that it's something that fits in with the team's long-term plans, given that there's still much player development to be done with the organization's stockpile of highly touted prospects. And signing either Harper or Machado, both 26 years old, would do that. Having one of the best players in baseball during their prime while the prospects come up and form the team around them? Yeah, that makes an awful lot of long-term sense.

But how much long-term sense does spending "stupid" make? Throwing more money than most of us can dream of at a player is a convincing argument in getting him to sign and make your team a heck of a lot better. But going overboard could handcuff what a team is able to do down the line. Harper and Machado are great players who can do a lot of things, but they're each just one piece of a 25-man roster. While the White Sox are expecting to have a lot of young, cheap players on those rosters of the future, there could be more than one "finishing piece" that's required to polish off this rebuilding effort. If you spend "stupid," are you able to afford those other pieces?

How stupid do you have to spend before the positive of acquiring a player is outweighed by the negative of not being able to acquire the next one?

Certainly the Phillies aren't going to hand Harper or Machado a blank check and bankrupt their long-term future either. They've got some smart folks over there, too. But it shows how financially competitive the bidding wars could be this winter — and what the cost could be of winning one of them.

White Sox free-agent focus: Patrick Corbin

White Sox free-agent focus: Patrick Corbin

This week, we’re profiling some of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.

Much of the conversation around the White Sox and free agency has focused on the two biggest fish in this winter's pond: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. But as good as those guys are at baseball, there's one thing they definitively cannot do: pitch.

Maybe it's because the White Sox have the potential to field a homegrown rotation of the future just one year from now, but making a big-splash pitching addition hasn't seemed to be as exciting a talking point as the possibility of adding Harper or Machado. And that's weird because the White Sox have said they're going to go out and get a pitcher, multiple pitchers most likely.

Certainly there are vocal fans out there who want the White Sox to bring this winter's best available starting pitcher to the South Side. Patrick Corbin is just 29 years old and coming off a remarkable season in which he posted a 3.15 ERA and struck out 246 batters in 200 innings. That was good enough to place him in the top five in this year's NL Cy Young vote.

Prior to this campaign, the numbers weren't nearly as good. In his first five major league seasons, he posted a combined 4.12 ERA and averaged 130 strikeouts a year. But the contract year rarely disappoints, and Corbin took full advantage, hitting the free-agent market on one heck of an upswing. He's going to be a very popular man as the winter wears on because everyone's always in the market for premium starting pitching. Given that he's two years younger than fellow free agent and 2015 AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, Corbin is as premium as it gets on this year's free-agent market.

Of course, the White Sox have starting pitching as a stated need, with two holes in their rotation thanks to Michael Kopech's recovery from Tommy John surgery and James Shields' departure. And because of the flexibility this rebuilding process has created, they have multiple ways they could go about filling those holes. They could add a couple one-year fill-ins and simply wait for Kopech to get healthy and for pitching prospect Dylan Cease to reach the majors. Add those two guys to the trio of Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, and you've got a homegrown starting staff heading into 2020. Or, they could provide a safety net in the form of a longer-term deal for a bigger-name. That guy would help anchor the rotation as the team plans to transition from rebuilding to contending on an annual basis.

Corbin would fall into the latter category, though he'll likely be in such high demand across the league that the same challenges facing the White Sox in a pursuit of Harper or Machado would apply. They'd have to outbid some of baseball's biggest spenders — including the New York Yankees, who have been mentioned as a likely landing spot for Corbin — and convince a young star to pick planned future success over the ability to join up with a roster capable of winning multiple championships right now.

Corbin is a great pitcher who would line up nicely with the White Sox long-term plans. But like Harper and Machado, there's a big difference between wanting to add an All-Star player and convincing them to sign.

MORE PATRICK CORBIN NEWS:

Want to beat L.A.? Pay Patrick Corbin
Phillies owner promises to spend $$$ and Corbin would be a good buy

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Luis Robert highlights White Sox prospects as Arizona Fall League concludes

Luis Robert highlights White Sox prospects as Arizona Fall League concludes

The Arizona Fall League wrapped up on Thursday for White Sox prospects and the overall results were mixed.

Perhaps the most important thing from the seven-week season is that Luis Robert began to show his potential. After injuries limited him to just 50 games in 2018, his first season playing in the U.S., Robert added 18 games and 79 plate appearances against much more experienced players in Arizona.

Robert, still just 21 and the second-youngest hitter on the team, hit in his first 14 games in the AFL and tallied a hit in 16 of his 18 games. He did this while missing over a week in the middle of the season due to a hamstring injury. The Cuban outfielder’s final numbers are .324/.367/.432. He had five walks, which isn’t an inspiring total, but he kept the strikeouts down at 13.

One of the things that still hasn’t shown in games very often is Robert’s power. He didn’t hit a home run in the 2018 minor league season, but it’s possible his thumb injury was affecting his ability to hit for power. Robert’s power didn’t come through much in the AFL, but there was definitely improvement. He hit two home runs and had two doubles, but this home run last week was definitely seductive.

The AFL isn’t make or break for prospects. Adam Engel hit .403/.523/.642 in the AFL in 2015 and hasn’t shown the ability to hit in the majors yet. Still, Robert showed flashes of his potential with the bat while also causing chaos on the base paths with five stolen bases in five attempts.

Robert was one of seven White Sox minor leaguers who played for the Glendale Desert Dogs. Glendale finished the season 12-18.

The next biggest hitting prospect on Glendale was Luis Alexander Basabe. Basabe struggled in his time in Arizona, but did show some of what has makes him an intriguing prospect.

Basabe hit just .180, but did draw 12 walks in 63 plate appearances. The 22-year-old isn’t known for hitting for average. He is a career .258 hitter in six minor league seasons, including a .251 mark in Double-A in the second half of 2018. However, if he can draw walks at a high rate while bringing good speed in the outfield, he can have some value.

Overall, hitting .180/.333/.180 is a disappointing stint, but there was at least one positive with the walk rate.

Laz Rivera rounded out White Sox hitters with a line of .215/.271/.246. Rivera had solid stints at both levels of Single-A in 2018, his first full season of pro ball, but the AFL showed he may find the adjustment to Double-A a tough one.

On the pitching side the only marquee name was Zack Burdi, but he got shut down early in the season. He made only five appearances (4 2/3 innings, 3 unearned runs, 5 strikeouts, 1 walk, 2 hits), but Rick Hahn said there’s nothing to be concerned about.

Tanner Banks (4.43 ERA, 10 strikeouts, 5 walks, 30 hits in 22 1/3 innings), Zach Thompson (2.70 ERA, 15 strikeouts, 6 walks, 10 hits in 13 1/3 innings) and Danny Dopico (6.57 ERA, 15 strikeouts, 12 walks, 10 hits in 12 1/3 innings) also pitched for Glendale. All three will be 25 or older when 2019 rolls around.