White Sox fans don't normally need to dedicate too much brain space to worrying about the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies play in the NL East, nowhere near the AL Central, and since reaching back-to-back World Series in 2008 and 2009 (they won the first), they haven't demanded much postseason attention, either.
But the Phillies seem poised, if you believe all the reports simmering on the Hot Stove, to be everyone's — including the apparently aggressive White Sox — main competition this offseason.
You want the White Sox to sign Bryce Harper? Oh well, too bad, everyone thinks he's going to end up on the Phillies. OK, how about Manny Machado? Yeah, the Phillies want him, too. Jeez, what about Patrick Corbin, Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Miller or Nathan Eovaldi? Phillies. Lord, well at least the White Sox can land a big fish via trade, right? Well, actually, the Phillies are going after those guys, too.
Sources: #Phillies signaling they could sign major free agents *before* Bryce Harper and Manny Machado make decisions. Patrick Corbin, Nathan Eovaldi, and Craig Kimbrel are among the candidates Philly is considering. Full story here: https://t.co/KRSIoEIuwt @MLB @MLBNetwork— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 26, 2018
You can add the #Phillies to the list of teams that spoke with the #Diamondbacks about Paul Goldschmidt.— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) November 26, 2018
A source says the teams discussed a package that would have included Zach Eflin & several young players. But the deal fell apart when the Phillies tried to add Carlos Santana
You've got to be ph'ing kidding.
The Phillies owner has already declared his intention to spend big and "maybe even be a little stupid about it," a good sign that his club could end up winning several bidding wars that the financially flexible White Sox might be involved in. In specific regards to Harper, The Athletic's Jayson Stark wrote "it’s amazing how many people inside this sport almost assume that the Phillies will be the highest bidder in this auction." The South Siders are reportedly interested in Harper, Machado and Eovaldi, the first two of which are expected to receive a couple of the biggest contracts in baseball history. But even if Rick Hahn's front office seems willing to spend, can anyone compete with "stupid" spending?
If the Phillies end up doing what they seem so intent on doing and land not one but multiple big-ticket items this winter, they'll be instant contenders. But while that might leave teams like the White Sox without a date to this offseason's dance, it could provide a promising template for future offseasons — because it wasn't long ago the Phillies were a rebuilding team themselves.
Yes, the Phillies, now poised to take the baseball world by storm, just spent the past six seasons with sub-.500 records. They haven't finished higher than third in the NL East since their run of five straight division titles ended in 2011. And so, rebuild. That process has worked, to a degree, with the Phillies looking last season like one of baseball's fun, young teams on the verge of contention. Problem is they're still on that verge after nosediving in the second half and missing the playoffs yet again.
But that's where what Hahn calls "finishing pieces" come in. The Phillies made a couple big additions last offseason in Jake Arrieta and Carlos Santana, though they might be trying to move on from the latter. They've got a young core of guys — Aaron Nola, Rhys Hoskins, Seranthony Dominguez — that they want to bolster and bolster in a big way. Harper, Machado, Corbin, whoever. Those are "finishing pieces," the cappers to a rebuilding effort that vault a team over the top.
The White Sox will be there one day. They might be trying to add "finishing pieces" now, while they have the opportunity to do so with a talent like Harper or Machado, before the waves of highly touted prospects starts washing up on the South Side, but they still fall into that category. Whether they do it this offseason, next offseason or in an offseason after that, that time is coming. And given the White Sox financial flexibility, it's not at all difficult to envision them having an offseason in which they add multiple "finishing pieces" of a high caliber.
But this winter, they'll have competition, every team in the game will have competition, because the Phillies are there now.