White Sox

Bryce Harper or bust? A long-term solution might be the only solution for White Sox in free agency

Bryce Harper or bust? A long-term solution might be the only solution for White Sox in free agency

Everything Rick Hahn’s front office does these days has one goal in mind: Do what’s in the best long-term interest of the White Sox.

Certainly, signing Bryce Harper to a decade-long contract would fall into that category.

The White Sox are reportedly interested, to the point that they apparently sent Hall of Famer Jim Thome to Las Vegas to try to sell Harper, the biggest fish in this winter’s free-agent pond, on the benefits of playing 81 home games on the South Side of Chicago each summer. That level of commitment in the wooing process would lead any observer to believe that the White Sox are willing to offer a monstrous contract, and Harper is expected to receive the biggest one of those the baseball world has ever seen.

But despite all that, only one team will win the Harper sweepstakes. No matter how good the White Sox chances might be, there’s the possibility they won’t get him. After all, the competition seems stiff, with the New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers also mentioned as having met with or planning to meet with Harper. And the group of teams making their pitch figures to be much larger than just those four.

So what if the White Sox don’t get Harper? Is the next step simply to move down to the next name on the list of available free-agent outfielders? It might not be that easy.

Remember, Hahn’s focus is squarely on the long term, and he remains steadfastly committed to the rebuilding effort he started around this time two years ago, when he traded away Chris Sale and Adam Eaton for all those highly ranked prospects. Signing Harper would obviously change the rebuilding process, but it would in no way blow it up. In fact, it stands to reason that the only way the White Sox could successfully lure Harper to the South Side — apart from the proverbial dump truck full of money, of course — is to get him to buy into the future all those prospects have made so bright. But the same cannot be said for many of the other outfielders on the free-agent market.

Why am I talking outfielders? Why not mention the left side of the infield, where Manny Machado could play for the next decade? Why not talk about starting pitching, where Dallas Keuchel could anchor the rotation for years to come?

Certainly the “long term” discussion applies to talents like those, too. But the White Sox have a hole to fill in right field after non-tendering Avisail Garcia last week. Many of the internal options — Nicky Delmonico, Leury Garcia, Ryan Cordell — are all coming off disappointing seasons, with top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez likely ticketed for left field once he reaches the majors and Daniel Palka looking like the team’s everyday designated hitter after Matt Davidson was non-tendered, as well. That leads to external options and the free-agent market.

But while Harper is the no-brainer solution, if he ends up elsewhere, other options might not be as attractive to the White Sox as they are to their fans. Players like Michael Brantley, Adam Jones and Andrew McCutchen might seem like fine consolation prizes to solidify right field in 2019 and 2020, but none of those guys carries the long-term value Harper does. None of them carries the long-term value as the prospects the White Sox already have, even if those prospects won’t by major leaguers in the short term.

In other words, perhaps it’s Harper (or a long-term impact like him) or bust. Or, as Hahn might phrase it, a long-term solution is the only solution.

"I do feel, as we look at this market — and obviously I've seen or heard the vast amount of rumors about our activity — I think it's important to note that we are by no means losing sight of what we're trying to accomplish over the long term. The long term remains the priority. We aren't looking to do stopgap fixes, so to speak,” Hahn said on a conference call last week. “In this free-agent market, as I alluded to before, there are potential opportunities to convert on premium talent that would fit along with what we're trying to develop for the long term.

“Usually when you look at a rebuild, entering Year 3, as we are, isn't necessarily the time teams push ahead in a winter and try to advance things and accelerate things unnaturally, and that's not what we're going to do. We're going to stick with the long-term plan. But if, in fact, there is an opportunity to convert on unique talent when it comes available that fits that long-term plan, then yes we're going to be aggressive and fully explore it.

“But short of those opportunities, we're not going to just aggressively look to do things that don't necessarily fit with where we are as an organization and what we're trying to accomplish over the long term. We've worked too hard to put ourselves in a quality position long term, and we're not going to sacrifice that in one offseason just to make some headlines in the winter."

There are arguments to be made that adding Brantley or Jones or McCutchen or whomever would have its long-term benefits. All three of those guys, for example, would bring a veteran presence and winning experience to a young clubhouse. And maybe the White Sox share that opinion. But the point is that while Harper is a slam-dunk as a long-term piece of the puzzle, there might not be many who fit that description on the market right now.

Machado certainly does. Keuchel would, with the right contract. But depending on what the bidding wars end up looking like, bringing in an older player on a shorter deal might just not make sense for the White Sox, even if it makes them a better team next year or the year after. If it doesn’t make them a championship-caliber team three and four and five years down the road, it might not end up happening.

Of course, it’s certainly worth mentioning that starting pitching might be exempt from such parameters, what with the two holes in the rotation heading into 2019. In those terms, there’s no such thing as “bust” because the White Sox will need five starting pitchers, no matter where they come from. But certainly Hahn and his front office will be thinking about the long term in those moves, too.

Those wanting Harper, the 26-year-old expected to ink a long-term deal, it sounds like the White Sox would be all about such a signing. Those wanting short-term plugs, what Hahn called “stopgap fixes,” you might be left wanting.

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Carlos Rodon is ready for White Sox to start winning: 'There's a point in time where it's s**t or get off the pot'

Carlos Rodon is ready for White Sox to start winning: 'There's a point in time where it's s**t or get off the pot'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Even though the White Sox failed in their attempt to sign Manny Machado, spring training goes on.

There’s a season to be played. Machado certainly would have helped in 2019, but as someone who was here before the rebuild began and hopes to play a big role with the White Sox when their contending window opens, Carlos Rodon says it’s time.

It’s time for the White Sox to start winning.

“There’s a point in time where it’s s**t or get off the pot, man. I mean, there’s a point where you’ve got to make a turn,” Rodon said in an interview on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “I’ve been on teams like this before, not in the big leagues, but during my younger baseball career, where they’re OK or weren’t good at all, and there’s a point where the team turned and we became great or just winners. We just came together and it just happened. It’s got to happen soon. We’ve got to start picking up some ground. This is about winning, and I get the whole ‘there’s a process to winning,' and I agree a hundred percent with Rick (Hahn), but it’s time.”

Rodon isn’t promising an AL Central crown in 2019, but if White Sox fans are starting to feel a little itchy after 195 losses in the first two seasons of the rebuild, you’re not alone. Rodon feels your impatience.

The impressive prospects that Hahn and the front office have signed or acquired are starting to find their way to the majors, but is there enough talent in the clubhouse right now to answer Rodon’s hope of turning the corner in 2019?

“These guys are here for a reason, so I believe in every guy beside me in this locker room. I think we have the ability. I’ve always liked being the underdog. I’ve always liked being the guy that has something to prove. It just gives you a little fire,” Rodon said.

For the White Sox to take that next step, several players must start reaching their potential. Rodon includes himself in this category.

Coming back from shoulder surgery last season, Rodon returned in mid-summer and showed flashes of that ace the White Sox envisioned he’d become when they picked him third overall in the 2014 draft.

He combined to go 5-0 with a 1.84 ERA in July and August. What happened in September?

“For a lack of a better term, I s**t my pants. It seems like it always happens. Right in the middle of August and July, I get on a good run and then I s**t my pants,” said Rodon, who went 0-5 with a 9.22 ERA in the final month of the season.

What went wrong?

“I don’t know. I try to do too much. I have stuff that I don’t have to throw that 96 (mph) up there all the time. Just kind of let it work. Something I was working on today just kind of smoothing it out. I try to do more than I should when what I have is already good enough,” said Rodon, who turned 26 in December. “It’s just being young, I guess you could say. Still learning how to pitch.”

Entering his fifth season in the majors and holding the most seniority in the White Sox starting rotation, Rodon could be in line to start for the White Sox on Opening Day. But ask him if he thinks he’ll get the ball when they begin the season March 28 in Kansas City, he gives a very honest answer.

“It would mean a lot, but I feel like I haven’t really deserved it. I haven’t really earned it,” Rodon explained. “But if I am the Opening Day starter, I’ll take it with pride and go out there and compete. I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t feel like I’ve truly earned a top-of-the-rotation kind of guy, but that’s because we have a young rotation and I guess you could say (I have) most of the experience except for Ivan (Nova).”

While many White Sox fans would have loved to have seen Machado in a White Sox uniform on Opening Day, Rodon doesn’t fault the front office in their attempt to sign the All-Star free agent.

“Guys that make it to free agency have been in the big leagues for six years and they’ve earned the right to decide where they want to go. Now granted, I commend Rick, Jerry (Reinsdorf) and Kenny (Williams) and all of the guys in the front office that put in all of the hard work to try to make a run at Machado. They should be able to go home at night and sleep well because they did everything they could. It’s not up to us. The player still has a decision. He has a decision to make and he decided to go a different route and we did everything we could, so there’s nothing you can do about it. Something you move on from and the season continues,” Rodon said.

Do you believe the White Sox did everything they could to get Machado?

“I believe we did. I think we did, so they say. And I’m going to go with that. I trust what they say.”

And trust Rodon when he says it’s time for the White Sox to turn things around. There’s a clubhouse filled with players who feel the same way.

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Manny Machado fallout


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Manny Machado fallout

Mark Grote, Chris Bleck and JJ Stankevitz join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00 - The fallout continues from the White Sox' failure to sign Manny Machado. Are Sox fans right to be mad that their team would not do whatever it took to land a once-in-a-generation player?

10:00 - Pat Boyle joins the panel to talk about the Blackhawks recent hot streak and whether or not the team should be buyers at the deadline.

17:00 - The Bears clear up some cap space by cutting Dion Sims. Will they use that money for a kicker? Plus the panel discusses if they Bears will re-sign Adrian Amos and if they should have any interest in Le'Veon Bell?

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast