White Sox

Did an injured Yankee just dash White Sox fans' Manny Machado dreams?


Did an injured Yankee just dash White Sox fans' Manny Machado dreams?

The New York Yankees have an injured shortstop. And so White Sox fans' dream scenario for the upcoming offseason might have just flown out the window.

It seemed the Yankees might have already been among the favorites to reel in Manny Machado, one of the biggest names in this offseason's loaded free-agent class, what with their always-big bank account and the promise of surrounding him with an impressive fleet of young stars. They won 100 games without Machado, imagine what they could do with him. Sounds like a pretty good sales pitch.

But now they can offer Machado something else he wants: the chance to continue being an everyday shortstop.

Didi Gregorius is heading for Tommy John surgery, plucking the starting shortstop out of the Yankees' lineup and giving the Bronx Bombers a hole at Machado's position of choice.

Prior to this news, which came out around lunchtime Friday, there was no reason for the Yankees to move on from Gregorius, who has belted 72 home runs for them over the past three seasons, including a career-best 27 of them in 2018. That dinger total went along with a career-high .829 OPS and a career-high 10 stolen bases. As White Sox fans who have long been dreaming of Machado coming to the South Side know, Machado's a great player and would be an upgrade over most every other hitter in the game. But those numbers from Gregorius are nothing to complain about.

Now, though, Gregorius will be sidelined until the middle of next season, giving the Yankees the perfect excuse to make that upgrade. And Machado is "believed" to be interested in heading to the Bronx.

Machado signing with the White Sox was always going to take an awful lot of work. After all, the South Siders would have to pitch hoped-for future success to the 26-year-old in the face of win-now promises from contending clubs. And there would be the sticky situation of Tim Anderson entrenched at shortstop for the foreseeable future. And then there are the financial implications, the White Sox probably needing to bid alongside some of baseball's biggest spenders.

Obviously Machado would be a huge addition to any lineup and improve the championship hopes of any team. He finished the regular season with career highs in batting average (.297), on-base percentage (.367) and slugging percentage (.538). He matched career bests with 37 homers and 70 walks and set a new one with 107 RBIs. He's already hit two home runs this postseason as his Los Angeles Dodgers chase a World Series title.

But as is the case with any big-ticket, long-term addition this winter, the White Sox not only have to face the same questions any team would when it comes to making such a move. They need to figure out during how much of that contract they would be a contending club. Injuries to a host of top prospects in 2018 — headlined, of course, by Michael Kopech's Tommy John surgery, which will knock him out for the entirety of the 2019 campaign — has thrown an added element of mystery to the timeline of the rebuilding effort.

Machado will obviously test the market this winter, and it looks like he could receive one of baseball's all-time biggest contracts (alongside fellow free agent Bryce Harper). But with the Yankees now in need of a shortstop after feeling the sting of playoff elimination at the hands of the rival Boston Red Sox, they figure to be rather motivated.

Rick Renteria says 'don't be surprised' if Yoan Moncada is White Sox third baseman come Opening Day: So what's that mean for Manny Machado?

Rick Renteria says 'don't be surprised' if Yoan Moncada is White Sox third baseman come Opening Day: So what's that mean for Manny Machado?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — That potential position switch for Yoan Moncada isn't so potential at the moment. It's happening.

The guy who started 148 games at second base during his first full season in the big leagues is practicing at third base as the full squad has come together here at Camelback Ranch. That was been mentioned as a possibility throughout the offseason by Rick Hahn and Rick Renteria.

But the skipper took things to another level Monday, saying that it shouldn't be a surprise if Moncada is the White Sox starting third baseman come Opening Day.

"I think we are going to work him over there as much as we can during the spring. And don’t be surprised if you see him there Opening Day," Renteria said. "The reality is the more flexibility we have with him, the more he knows what he can do. He sees himself and has been an excellent third baseman, before we (acquired) him, in the amateur ranks.

"It’s one of those things where we want to be able to see and keep ourselves open to all the possibilities and see if he can handle it. There’s no better time than spring training. He’s been working over the winter on it a little bit. As we see him continue to work, we will be able to make a determination as to where he’s at and how good he might be able to be. We’ll keep working at it."

Now, of course the immediate reaction is what this has to do with the guy who's not here, Manny Machado.

The White Sox are still in pursuit of the 26-year-old free-agent superstar, who still hasn't made up his mind on where he's going to sign despite major league camps being in full swing in both Arizona and Florida. Machado plays on the left side of the infield — a two-time Gold Glover at third who moves to shortstop, his original position, last season — and plenty of fans are jumping to the conclusion on social media that because the White Sox are sliding Moncada to third and prepping for him to be the starter at the hot corner that one of two things is happening: 1. The pursuit of Machado is dead, or 2. Machado insists on playing shortstop after all and it's Tim Anderson who'll be moved.

Here's why neither of those things is the case.

Moncada's move to third base has little, if anything, to do with Machado and a lot more to do with Nick Madrigal, last year's first-round pick who is what the White Sox call a Gold Glove caliber defender up the middle, specifically at second base, where he's played since he joined the organization. Madrigal, who the White Sox described as the best all-around player in college baseball when they drafted him, could move through the system quickly, and when he arrives at the major league level, they want to have a spot for him.

But they want to have a spot for Moncada, too, as they still think highly of his ceiling and what he'll be able to do as a hitter one day, despite the 217 strikeouts and other less-than-ideal numbers posted during his first full season in the bigs in 2018. And so with no obvious long-term answer at third base within the organization, getting Moncada there sooner rather than later could make him more comfortable once Madrigal arrives and once the transition from rebuilding mode to contention mode comes. And that could all happen within the next season or two.

Renteria went as far as saying that a move to third could help Moncada improve both on defense and offense. He made 21 errors at second base last season, one of the highest totals in baseball. For what it's worth, in 31 games at third base as a member of the Boston Red Sox organization (including the Arizona Fall League), Moncada made eight errors.

But the manager thinks a move to third could help him focus in the field and at the plate.

"I think that playing third might allow him to free himself up, simply because he’s going to have to be more focused," he said. "At second base, you can get a little bit more lackadaisical. I think that it’s possible, and there’s no guarantee, that playing third base rounds out his focus a little bit more on both sides of the ball. At least that’s an expectation or a hope we might have.

"I think that his range factor is huge, his arm is good. Understanding the nuances of the game at third, getting reacquainted with it again will be a factor in how well he’ll do. But I think that just allowing him, and then allowing us to use (Yolmer Sanchez) at second base a little bit more gives us a little bit more well-rounded infield."

Most importantly, though, Machado simply isn't here. He might be eventually, but he isn't now. And yet Renteria and the White Sox still have to get ready for the upcoming season. If Machado doesn't come, Moncada would likely be the team's starting third baseman, and this is in preparation of that. If Machado does come, it's not a hard fix: Moncada slides back to second base and Sanchez likely takes a bench role.

Renteria said before SoxFest that Machado told the White Sox he'll play anywhere they ask if this is where he ends up signing. That was important info considering Machado's supposed preference for shortstop. And so Tim Anderson likely stays the everyday shortstop whether Machado signs or not. Moncada is the movable piece, and his return to second base would be easy in the event Machado comes to the South Side.

But Renteria is constructing his everyday lineup with the players he has right now. It's a contingency plan in case Machado goes elsewhere, not a sudden change of strategy because the White Sox have given up hope.

"I think I’ve been saying I can’t worry about who’s not here. I’ve been focused on the guys that are here," Renteria said. "I have to move forward that way. And like any team, anything can happen. You make adjustments as those changes occur, if they occur. Right now, the guys that are in that locker room are the ones that I’m most focused on. And we’re trying to make sense of how our roster will look and how our lineups will look with the guys that we do have."

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MLBPA union chief Tony Clark calls Rob Manfred's comments on slow-moving free agency ‘unconstructive and misleading’


MLBPA union chief Tony Clark calls Rob Manfred's comments on slow-moving free agency ‘unconstructive and misleading’

MLB's war of words regarding its slow-moving offseason now is pitting MLB commissioner Rob Manfred against Tony Clark, executive director of the Players' Union. 

Sunday, Manfred implied that the players share at least some responsibility for baseball's lack of offseason activity.

“I’m not ascribing blame,” Manfred said on Sunday. “(But) I do think certain things can be an impediment to making agreements.

"When you’re pronouncing three years ahead of free agency that a player is going to be a $400 million player – and there’s never been a $400 million player in any sport – that becomes an impediment to the bargaining process. I do believe that.”

Superstars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper remain unsigned, though Manfred's comments likely were aimed at Harper. According to a report from December 2016, Harper was seeking a 10-year $400 million deal in free agency.

Manfred even called out Dan Lozano and Scott Boras — the respective agents of Machado and Harper — by name.

“Do I wish, if I had my way, that Scott Boras would find a way, or Dan Lozano – whoever, whatever agent – would find a way to make a deal with some club sooner rather than later? Yes, I do," he said.

"But we negotiated a system that allows the market to operate, and I have every confidence that for (top) players...the market is going to clear before we get to playing real games.”

Clark responded to Manfred's comments on Monday.

"Commissioner Manfred's latest comments and his attempts to shift blame and distract from the main issues are unconstructive and misleading at best," Clark said. "Players' eyes don't deceive them, nor do fans'."

MLB's current collective bargaining agreement expires following the 2021 season. It sure is going to be a long few years until then.

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