The White Sox are in on Manny Machado. The White Sox are in on Bryce Harper. Are they in on both of them?
The "spend stupid" Philadelphia Phillies have generated that kind of speculation, that both of the biggest names on this winter's free-agent market could sign in the same place and form a baseball version of the Miami Heat.
But what about the White Sox? They have the financial flexibility to make a big contract offer, the kind of offer that could lure either Machado or Harper. Asked about how much the White Sox would be willing to spend on one of these guys, general manager Rick Hahn said Saturday that they "expect to, at the very least, go down swinging if we don’t convert."
It's true there are hardly any long-term financial commitments to speak of on the South Side, but signing both Machado and Harper to contracts worth multiple hundreds of millions of dollars is a totally different story when it comes to spending.
Hahn was asked about how realistic it is that both of the 26-year-old superstars could end up on the South Side.
"From a payroll-management and flexibility standpoint going forward, these are obviously not the last two free agents that we intend to add in the future," Hahn said during a question-and-answer panel with fans. "So having two commitments of the magnitude that they’re going to require on the same roster, it probably limits your flexibility. It might not be the strongest move for us long term."
There's no surprise to that, though it does offer up an interesting hypothetical: Would the White Sox say no to one of the big free agents if they both agreed to join up?
That's just a hypothetical, of course, and it's been quite some time since any reports have linked the White Sox to Harper, the most recent of those calling them long shots. Hence the intense focus on the Machado sweepstakes.
But the market has been shockingly small for both stars, with only the White Sox, Phillies and San Diego Padres reportedly going after Machado and only the White Sox, Phillies and maybe the Washington Nationals pursuing Harper. The reported figures on the offers to Machado — and it's important to note the White Sox offer is the only one that's been reported on — are much lower than what he was expected to get at the beginning of the offseason, another surprise twist in this slow-moving free-agent market. As for Harper, he's reportedly received offers from the Nationals, including one he turned down, indicating the type of monster deal he and agent Scott Boras might be looking for.
But, yes, Hahn is correct in suggesting that handing out two contracts like that would take the White Sox flexibility from great to almost non-existent. As he's reiterated throughout this weekend, the White Sox don't plan to stop being a part of negotiations for big free agents after this winter, regardless of where Machado and Harper are playing come Opening Day. Signing one of them would be great, but there will be other guys to sign after that. And doing something like landing both Machado and Harper would limit the team's ability to do that.
For someone like Hahn, who always keeps every possibility open, saying that something "might not be the strongest move" is about as close to "no chance" as he's going to get.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.