LAS VEGAS — Is it possible there aren't many teams vying for Manny Machado?
Machado is one of the two biggest names on this winter's free-agent market, and though he might have ruffled some feathers with some now-infamous comments about his distaste for hustling, that wasn't expected to have such an impact that the four-time All Star, two-time Gold Glover and three-time top-10 MVP finisher would be left with relatively few options.
Whether or not that's why, it's being reported that the market for Machado isn't too big, which could be really good news for the White Sox and their pursuit of one of the best players in the game.
Fancred's Jon Heyman tweeted Monday that the White Sox are one of three known teams in the running for Machado, with three other "mystery teams" in the mix, too. That's still only six teams, though, with the added bonus that "the market is limited."
Manny Machado was reputed to have three mystery teams interested (beyond known yankees, phils, chisox), and he may well have. But no one seems to know who they are (that’s why they are a mystery?!) there are skeptics. One exec opined: “He’ll get paid but the market is limited.”— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 10, 2018
Now just because there might not be that many teams competing for Machado doesn't mean that competition won't be stiff. The Phillies, remember, have promised to "spend stupid" this offseason and apparently are more in on him than they are on Bryce Harper, the other biggest name on this year's market who the White Sox are also reportedly interested in. And Machado makes a heck of a lot of sense for the Yankees, who need a shortstop while Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Like they would with Harper, the White Sox would have to not only be willing to hand out one of the biggest contracts in baseball history but they'd also have to get Machado to buy into their plans of future success and the incredible amount of minor league talent in the organization. That seems like a challenge in the face of win-now pitches from teams like the Phillies and Yankees, but general manager Rick Hahn is convinced it's an attractive pitch.
Unlike Harper, though, Machado presents a couple intriguing questions when it comes to his fit on the South Side. First, would the White Sox have to shuffle their infield in order to find a place for Machado? He's stated his preference for playing shortstop, one of the few places on the big league roster the White Sox already have a long-term piece in Tim Anderson. Would Anderson need to move to make room for Machado? Or would Machado be convinced to play third base, where he owns a pair of Gold Gloves? Second, given those comments about hustling, how would Machado fit into Rick Renteria's "don't quit" culture? Renteria made a habit of benching players last season for not running out ground balls, pop ups and line outs, and you'd have to think Machado would suffer the same fate should that hypothetical situation arise.
Regardless, Machado would be a no-brainer of a long-term centerpiece for the rebuilding White Sox. He's just 26 years old and one of the most productive hitters in the game coming off a career year that featured a .297/.367/.538 slash line with 37 home runs and 107 RBIs, not to mention a trip to the World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers. When it comes to the much-discussed premium talent that aligns with the long-term plans on the South Side, it's hard to find a better one than Machado or Harper.
And now maybe the chances he comes to the White Sox look better, what with this small group of competitors.
One other thing to add: It's possible a Machado decision might not come for a while. As teams are reportedly flocking to Las Vegas to meet with Harper, Machado will reportedly take a more methodical approach and visit teams in their cities.
Manny Machado is doing the opposite of Bryce Harper and plans to visit teams in their city on his free agent tour— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 10, 2018
So buckle up. The Machado derby rolls on.