White Sox fans will have plenty of time to continue their social-media lovefest over Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado.
Long desired by South Side baseball fans, Machado is one of the headlining members of next season’s free-agent class. And while he’s moved from third base to shortstop, where Tim Anderson plays, and seems destined for one of the biggest contracts in baseball history, none of that is likely to deter hopes that he’ll wind up one of the finishing touches of Rick Hahn’s rebuilding effort.
But what if Machado goes to play for the New York Yankees or some other team? What if the White Sox need to search elsewhere for a free-agent addition to a team with a young core of planned rebuild stars?
The answer could be the guy hammering White Sox pitching this week in Toronto.
Josh Donaldson is one of the other superstars heading to the free-agent market next winter, and the White Sox have received an up-close-and-personal look at just how much of a game-changing bat he swings. Through the series’ first two games, Donaldson — whose light-hearted tiff with White Sox first base coach Daryl Boston’s whistle has made the social-media rounds in the past couple days — has mashed, going 3-for-8 with a pair of home runs, four RBIs, three runs scored and a walk. He was right in the middle of the Blue Jays' offensive onslaught against Miguel Gonzalez and a trio of relievers in Tuesday night's 14-5 pounding.
And it looks like he settled his "feud" with Boston, too.
Though Donaldson is an eye-popping seven years older than the still-just-25-year-old Machado, he could be a more realistic option for the White Sox — that is, should they be in the spending mood after the 2018 campaign. It’s very possible the White Sox won’t yet be ready to add a huge name like Machado or Donaldson, with young minor leaguers potentially still a year or more away from taking the team from rebuilding mode to full-on contention mode.
But if the determination is made that it is time to add a big name to the mix via free agency, Donaldson would be as attractive a candidate as any. He had a three-year stretch from 2014 to 2016 of three All-Star appearances and three top-10 finishes in American League MVP voting. He’s hit at least 33 home runs in each of the last three seasons, 2017’s batch of 33 dingers coming in just 113 games.
And he’d be a more logical fit than Machado, not only because he’d most likely come at a far cheaper price, but also because he could be inserted at third base, where the White Sox don’t have an entrenched prospect ready to take over in the future. Jake Burger’s development was dealt a significant delay when he ruptured his Achilles in spring training. Anderson is locked in at shortstop, and while you’d figure the White Sox would find a way to add Machado if they wanted him badly enough, a natural fit at third base could prove more sensible while allowing Anderson — who in the first four games of the 2018 campaign is 6-for-16 with three homers, four RBIs, six runs scored, a walk and three stolen bases — to continue to mature at shortstop.
And if the rebuilding White Sox are looking for a long-term add at third base in free agency but aren't yet ready when Donaldson hits the market, they could wait until after the 2019 season and take a swing at Colorado Rockies star Nolan Arenado.
As with everything Hahn’s front office is dealing with and will have to deal with over the next few years, there is a good deal of flexibility. Quite a bit could happen to change the situation for both Donaldson and the White Sox over the next seven months.
But while the White Sox are playing in Toronto this week, fans might want to think about a new man crush.