Kenny Williams

In interview, Kenny Williams addresses fan anger and the fallout of White Sox missing out on Manny Machado and Bryce Harper

In interview, Kenny Williams addresses fan anger and the fallout of White Sox missing out on Manny Machado and Bryce Harper

Manny Machado is still a San Diego Padre. Bryce Harper is still a Philadelphia Phillie. And White Sox fans are still angry.

No, nothing's changed since earlier Thursday, when Harper broke Machado's week-and-change-old record for the biggest free-agent contract in the history of American pro sports, officially leaving the White Sox empty handed in their pursuits of the two biggest names on this offseason's free-agent market.

Neither guy ended up on the South Side, despite the fact that the team went after both, going especially hard on Machado, to the point where general manager Rick Hahn and team vice president Kenny Williams seemed blindsided when the 26-year-old infielder spurned them for the Padres last week.

Well, more than a week later, Williams voiced his opinion on the fallout in an interview with the Sun-Times' Daryl Van Schouwen, addressing the harsh reaction of fans who have taken to social media to express their outrage with the team's effort and approach to the negotiations.

"I was going to say it has already passed for us but Rick and I were talking about it yesterday, and it ain’t bleeping passed," Williams told Van Schouwen. "It’s a shame if it’s being portrayed that we were on the cheap on this thing. That’s really interesting because, holy s**t, that’s a quarter of a billion dollars we offered with a chance to be higher than what he’s getting."

White Sox fans have indeed attacked the front office for being cheap, and Williams is not exactly wrong in correcting them there. The White Sox committed to spend as much as $350 million on Machado. That is, by definition, the opposite of cheap.

But it doesn't take someone with inside info to figure out that the reason Machado is playing for the Padres right now is that there was a $50 million difference in the amount of guaranteed money in the two offers. The White Sox only offered $250 million guaranteed, while the Padres offered $300 million guaranteed. Machado went with the latter. And while Williams is not wrong in arguing that the White Sox offer could have made Machado richer over time, if Machado breaks his leg tomorrow, he'll be $50 million richer than he would have been had he signed with the White Sox.

That's a big difference. And a lot of fans feel the White Sox could've and should've done more, what with the financial flexibility they've talked about for so many months. Williams, though, thinks they did the best they could have done.

"There is nothing I can say that will make them feel better," Williams told Van Schouwen. "Rest assured that no one is feeling what Rick and I are feeling because every single day since June of last year, this is what we had planned for, the pursuit of both Harper and Machado. Harper (was) well out of our range. With Machado we extended ourselves as far as we could without jeopardizing what we’re going to need to do in the future.

"People are lost on the fact that on a yearly basis our offer was more than San Diego’s. The average annual value was 31 (million dollars) and change. So it was about years guaranteed. So there is an argument that could be made that our offer was the better of the two. It certainly had more upside for him. All he had to do was basically stay healthy."

Williams spoke the morning news of Machado's deal with the Padres broke, and his comments then irked a lot of fans, as he said part of the reason the White Sox couldn't commit more guaranteed dollars to Machado now was that they needed to plan for the day when their current prospects and young major leaguers need new contracts. That might be true, but it's at least half a decade down the road.

Well, the fans who were miffed by those comments that day won't be happy about these new ones, with Williams doubling down on that explanation.

"Our fans would have been much more disappointed in our inability to keep this next core together," Williams told Van Schouwen. "We would have overextended ourselves had we gone to an uncomfortable level."

The social-media rage is unlikely to subside, and these comments, coupled with the outcome of both pursuits, do little to disprove what Hahn referred to as a "false narrative" at SoxFest that the White Sox would not spend enough to bring top-of-the-line free agents to the South Side. No matter the effort level in the pursuits or the potential money committed, until the White Sox win a high-profile free-agent derby, that narrative, true or false, will remain intact.

In situations like these, money always seems to do the majority of the talking. Williams confirming that the White Sox were unwilling to spend what it ended up taking to land each of these free agents shows they might not have been having the same conversation as other teams, at least not the Padres with Machado or the Phillies with Harper.

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Kenny Williams addresses Manny Machado's reported $300 million deal with Padres: 'We could not go to that level'

Kenny Williams addresses Manny Machado's reported $300 million deal with Padres: 'We could not go to that level'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox sound as if they were somewhat blindsided by Manny Machado's reported decade-long deal with the San Diego Padres.

Speaking to reporters shortly after news of Machado's agreement with the Padres came out, White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams talked with reporters at Camelback Ranch and expressed a feeling of shock.

"I’m wearing my shades so that you guys don’t see the shock in my eyes," Williams said. "It is disappointing. I’d be lying to you if I said anything other than that.

"But Jerry (Reinsdorf, team chairman) really stepped up and stepped up in a fashion that is unprecedented. We all in that clubhouse talked about it this morning. We felt like we actually were potentially could close a deal today with him. We thought we were the high offer on the table, and we still feel — if the reports are accurate — we still feel that there was more potential for him to make more here then that reported deal."

The Padres' reported deal with Machado is worth $300 million over 10 years. How he might have made more than that, if those are the reports Williams was referencing, is a tad unclear, considering Williams said the White Sox weren't willing to go to $300 million. But he said he believed they had made the best offer.

"San Diego stepped up to that level," he said. "That level wasn't feasible to us because we still have to project putting together a total winning roster and keeping the young players that will ultimately earn into greater dollars themselves, so when you look at the big picture without having to sacrifice some of them, we could not go to that level."

Of course, what that brings up immediately is where the White Sox stand with Bryce Harper, the other mega free agent on the market who they have pursued this offseason. If they weren't willing to spend $300 million on Machado, would they be willing to spend that — and most likely more — on Harper?

General manager Rick Hahn has talked about hoping to dispel of the notion that the White Sox won't spend big dollars to acquire one of the game's best players, but they do appear to have their limit.

Of course, Williams' point about maintaining financial flexibility is a good one. Just look to the other side of town to see a Cubs team that is barreling toward a scenario in which their homegrown core becomes too expensive to keep together. The White Sox are still developing their core, but it could be bigger and richer than the one on the North Side, featuring young pitchers like Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease and young position players like Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal. Those guys could all demand big contracts down the road, and the White Sox would be wise to be able to keep that group together. A contract like the one Machado got from the Padres would have made that much more difficult, if not impossible.

The White Sox had much the same to offer as the Padres did: a bright future, a loaded farm system, the potential to play for a perennial contender for the next decade. But the Padres had $300 million.

"You've got to give it to them," Williams said. "They are in a similar trajectory as we are. And for the same reasons we were after him, they were after him. Their ownership group did a great job in trumping everyone else."

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Ken Williams says White Sox have transitioned to a more aggressive role: 'We're looking at all possibilities now'

Ken Williams says White Sox have transitioned to a more aggressive role: 'We're looking at all possibilities now'

LAS VEGAS — When the White Sox embarked on their rebuild at the Winter Meetings two years ago with the trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, this was an offseason that couldn’t come soon enough: The transition from sell mode to buy mode.

Last winter, they remained on the sidelines, patiently waiting for their time to arrive: “We expect things to be a lot more interesting a year from now,” Rick Hahn said last year in Orlando.

Here we are one year later, in Las Vegas of all places, and the White Sox are angling to hit the jackpot by signing a big-name free agent who could take the franchise to the next level.

“We transitioned from the sell mode of years past now to a more aggressive role, and we’re looking at all possibilities now,” White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams said Monday. “We’re trying to build it back up. We’re still probably a year away from bringing the bulk of our prospects into the fold, but the opportunities that present themselves now warrant us dipping our foot in the water, seeing if we can accelerate that.”

The two big-name free agents who fit that description are Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Even with one of the best farm systems in baseball and a few of their top young players already in the majors, signing either one of these two perennial All Stars would plant a giant flag at Guaranteed Rate Field, signaling to the rest of the baseball world that the White Sox mean business.

How important would it be for the White Sox to have a face-of-the-franchise type player who could not only bring victories to the win column but more fans to the ballpark?

“If it’s a guy who can play and the right guy and he fits economically into today and tomorrow, then I think it’s a great thing. The answer is obvious,” Williams said. “If you develop people or you acquire people who fans like and will come out and want to see, that even helps the cause to a greater degree because, what does it do? It gives you more revenue, it gives you more resources that you can then try to improve the team even more.”

How much will the White Sox be able to improve the team this winter? That’s a big question mark. Signing free agents is a two-way street. The White Sox can easily sell their future. Most White Sox fans have bought in from the very beginning, but Williams says the team has some heavy lifting ahead to fully cement their faith in the rebuild.

“It’s building, but ultimately, you’ve got to prove it to White Sox fans,” Williams said. “We know that, and that’s what we’re setting out to try to do. We’re trying to earn their patience. It takes a while sometimes.”

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