White Sox

Breaking down the cases for and against the White Sox trading for Manny Machado

Breaking down the cases for and against the White Sox trading for Manny Machado

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The White Sox are reportedly pursuing a trade that would bring Manny Machado to the South Side.

That ground-shaking news coming in the middle of the night after a third straight day of inactivity by the White Sox at this week's Winter Meetings. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal said the White Sox are making the strongest push of any team to land the Baltimore Orioles' star third baseman, with other reports from USA Today's Bob Nightengale and The Score's Bruce Levine adding that the White Sox have made the best of a dozen offers and that they're among the lead teams in this suddenly crowded derby.

The news brought joy to White Sox Twitter but plenty of head-scratching, as well, as general manager Rick Hahn has spent the week talking about how it's time for the team to sit back and let all its minor league talent develop as the carefully crafted rebuild moves forward.

While a deal might still seem to make little sense, even after all these reports, there are arguments to be made that the White Sox should both make and stay away from such a trade. Here's a breakdown.

The case for a Machado trade

It's Manny Machado.

This is one of baseball's best young players, a 25-year-old who in six major league seasons has been named to three All-Star teams, won a pair of Gold Gloves and finished in the top 10 in American League MVP voting three times. He hit 105 home runs and missed only 11 regular-season games in the last three years. Last season, he managed to come one run shy of matching his career high in RBIs while playing for a last-place Orioles team that was 12 games under .500.

There's no doubt that Machado is a special talent, and obviously the White Sox would be an improved team with him.

The big hang up is the fact that Machado is slated to become a free agent after the 2018 season, making a trade for him a risky move to say the least. But Hahn talked Wednesday of the possibility of being able to extend someone fitting Machado's description,

"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."

Acquiring Machado — and successfully extending him — wouldn't hurt the rebuild. It would strengthen it. Machado would be a proven centerpiece of the White Sox future, and he'd be playing alongside what would still be an immense amount of young talent. While it would take a couple members of the team's stockpile of minor league talent to land Machado in the first place, there'd still be plenty of future stars in the system to join Machado on a championship-contending team of the future. And Machado would be right in the heart of that lineup.

The case against a Machado trade

Trading for Manny Machado is an extremely risky move that could jeopardize the planned future of the franchise.

It's obvious that Machado is a great player, no one is arguing that fact. But the White Sox have spent a year impressively building a minor league system that is the envy of the baseball world. And one of those future stars, Michael Kopech, is being reported as a potential centerpiece of the package that would head back to Baltimore. Kopech is arguably the top pitching prospect in the game after dominating at the Double-A level last season. Legendary writer Peter Gammons said this week on the White Sox Talk Podcast that there are baseball folks out there who believe Kopech will one day win a Cy Young Award.

But the cost for Machado won't stop at Kopech. There would surely be other pieces of a return package that would be difficult to see depart the organization. After months of acquiring talent in franchise-altering trades that sent Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana away from the South Side, for Hahn to reverse course and blow up his rebuilding effort seems completely illogical.

And it's all because there's no guarantee that a Machado trade would mean Machado in a White Sox uniform past the 2018 season. Machado is slated to hit the free-agent market a year from now, and he's expected to be able to earn a massive payday. While the White Sox would potentially have a leg up on the competition if Machado spent a year with the organization, it's no sure thing that they'd be the most appealing bidder or that they'd be able to offer Machado the biggest contract.

With the cost in prospects and the uncertainty about his future with the team, trading for Machado would seem to make little sense, a wild change of direction one year after Hahn so clearly declared which way this team is going.

"We’re not looking at stopgaps, we’re not looking to jump up and contend for one wild card and then regress back," Hahn said Tuesday. "We’re trying to build something that’s going to last, and extended control is part of that."

White Sox Talk Podcast: American League All-Stars rave about Jose Abreu

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: American League All-Stars rave about Jose Abreu

With Jose Abreu playing in the All-Star Game, we asked some of his American League teammates about the White Sox first baseman. Justin Verlander, Craig Kimbrel and Michael Brantley rave about Abreu, explaining why he’s such a great hitter and a tough out for pitchers. 

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

All Star of the present Jose Abreu trying to help Yoan Moncada become the All Star of the future for White Sox

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USA TODAY

All Star of the present Jose Abreu trying to help Yoan Moncada become the All Star of the future for White Sox

WASHINGTON, D.C. — While the White Sox wait for their All Stars of the future to develop, Jose Abreu is representing the club at the All-Star Game in the nation’s capital.

Abreu, elected by the fans to be the American League’s starting first baseman Tuesday night, might represent the White Sox present, but he’s a key part of their future, as well. While his contract situation remains a mystery — the team would need to extend him in order to keep around past the 2019 season — he’s helping to develop the players who are planned to make up the next contending group on the South Side.

No player is more under Abreu’s guiding hand than Yoan Moncada, his fellow Cuban who just a season ago was the No. 1 prospect in baseball. Moncada’s development from top prospect into star of the future is the biggest storyline of the season for the White Sox. And Abreu, the role model in this clubhouse, is in part tasked with helping Moncada do just that.

“Our friendship is special,” Moncada said through a team translator last week. “We’re always talking about everything, having fun. He gives me advice, and I always try to make fun of him. Our relationship has been for a long time. We were friends in Cuba. And now we are rejoined here. It’s just a very good relationship. I’m blessed having him here.”

“He’s a Cuban, and it’s always special to play with a fellow Cuban countryman. He’s a great kid,” Abreu said through a team translator Monday. “I think that it’s a blessing. The White Sox did all that they could do for us to play together. I’m just enjoying the moment and every day with him. It’s special. It’s definitely a very special feeling.”

Abreu is often lauded by White Sox brass as the perfect example of what they want their young players to become. His incredible production makes that an easy comparison: He put up at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first four major league seasons. But it’s what he does outside the lines that gets the highest praise. Rick Hahn, Rick Renteria and all of Abreu’s teammates constantly talk about his work ethic, his routine, his dedication to getting better and the way he goes about his business.

Moncada’s noticed. And he sees Abreu’s latest accomplishment — getting picked as an All-Star starter — as vindication that, yes, Abreu’s methods certainly work.

“Knowing him, knowing all the effort that he puts into his preparation, his work ethic, all that work that he puts into his preparation is paying off and he’s recognized with this election,” Moncada said. “That’s something that motivates you, something that lets you know that if you do things the right way, you’re going to get rewarded. For me, it’s a motivation, and I feel really honored to share this team with him.”

Moncada’s first full season in the bigs hasn’t gone smoothly. He’s had his hot stretches — including the last couple weeks; he’s slashing .356/.453/.644 since July 2 — but he’s also had long periods of struggles. Certain aspects, such as a propensity for striking out and making errors at second base, have been constants throughout the campaign.

Renteria refers to the mistakes and the poor results as teachable moments. Does he have a proxy teacher in Abreu?

“I tell him to enjoy the game,” Abreu said. “Enjoy the game, have fun, be a little more focused on the situation of the game. But I think the key is to have fun.”

Mostly, though, Abreu is convinced that Moncada will blossom into the kind of player White Sox fans hoped he would when he brought that top-prospect track record to the organization in the Chris Sale trade. The expectations are undoubtedly high, but Abreu’s been seeing Moncada meet them for some time. The two have known each other since the younger Moncada was 17 years old.

“I think that he was born with special abilities to play this sport,” Abreu said. “Before I met him, there were a lot of people talking about him in Cuba because of his abilities, the talent that he has. And when I met him, it was a very special moment. As soon as I met him, I realized, ‘Wow, what people say about him is true.’ His body type, his ability to play the game. He’s special.”

So will the All Star of today and the All Star of tomorrow one day share the All-Star stage?

“I would like to have that opportunity. Let’s pray to God to have that opportunity,” Abreu said. “If that happens, that would be really special for us.”