GLENDALE, Ariz. — Manny Machado is not coming to the White Sox.
The months of dissecting every social-media post and every non-update update has ended in Machado agreeing a reported 10-year, $300 million deal with the San Diego Padres.
Kenny Williams was shocked. Rick Hahn was "pissed off." And White Sox fans are taking the opportunity to be very, very angry on social media. Barring a surprise splurge on Bryce Harper — who's still on the market but likely to command more than what Machado is reportedly receiving from the Padres — the White Sox active winter will end in nothing but a couple "almosts" on the two biggest free agents, a missed opportunity to add a premium centerpiece to the final stage of the rebuilding process.
OK. So what's next?
It's likely there will be no traditional "Plan B." It won't be as simple as just moving on to the next best free agent in hopes of scoring a consolation prize before Opening Day. These two players offered an opportunity for the White Sox to add someone who would impact the team for years to come, someone who meshed perfectly with the long-term plans on the South Side. While there are still a lot of jobless players out there, there's none who fit the description of Machado and Harper.
But that doesn't mean there never will be again. More opportunities to add that type of player are coming. Next winter's free-agent class is loaded, currently set to feature the likes of Nolan Arenado, Gerrit Cole, Chris Sale, Xander Bogaerts, Anthony Rendon, J.D. Martinez, Paul Goldschmidt, Justin Verlander, Josh Donaldson, Madison Bumgarner, Didi Gregorius and Marcell Ozuna. Yes, there's been chatter about some of the biggest names on that list potentially inking extensions that would allow them to avoid the same kind of drawn-out free agency that Machado and Harper have gone through this offseason. But there will still be a lot of All Stars available, including some of the best players in baseball.
Hahn talked earlier this offseason about the decisions of Machado and Harper holding no bearing on the team's continued aggressiveness in future offseasons. But without either, you'd have to think that the White Sox would be especially hungry for another opportunity to add a premium talent into the fold. And it could be an easier sell, too, with the team a year closer to contention.
The trade market, too, could provide avenues to adding this type of player in the future. The White Sox farm system is loaded, and there's no way all of their highly rated prospects will fit on a major league roster, especially at certain positions. That's not to say they'll all pan out and there will be a backlog of All-Star caliber players at Triple-A Charlotte. But Hahn could deal from an area of depth to acquire the kind of player he was pursuing this offseason. With so many teams across baseball interested in stockpiling minor league talent, the day could come where the White Sox are able to offer attractive prospect packages that would have no negative impact on the major league roster in exchange for one of the game's top talents.
"Certainly anything that happened here over the last few months or certainly over the last few hours is not going to deter us from continuing to be aggressive at the top of the market," Hahn said. "We're not going to convert on them all. I wish we converted on this one, but it's not going to stop us from continuing to try."
But the biggest point here is that the broad answer to "where do the White Sox go after missing out on Manny Machado?" is: the same place they were going before.
As nice as it would have been, as impactful as it would have been for Machado to spend the better part of the next decade in black pinstripes, his decision to head to San Diego does nothing to change the course of the White Sox rebuild. The future-focused plans that were the centerpiece of the team's pitch to Machado remain intact and remain strong. The future remains bright.
Want a premium talent added to the White Sox roster? There's one coming in April in the form of Eloy Jimenez, the No. 3 prospect in the game who's expected to be a fixture in the middle of the White Sox lineup for a long time. Not long after he arrives, Dylan Cease will make his way to Chicago. Then Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal. Michael Kopech will be back in the starting rotation in 2020. Dane Dunning will join him.
Would Machado have cranked up the brightness on that future? Yes, of course. But his absence from those plans doesn't leave the White Sox without hope for the future. Quite the contrary.
"I know right now the trajectory remains good with or without any individual addition," Hahn said. "We’re going to be better Opening Day than we were at the end of last season. We will be better at the end of this season than we will be on Opening Day. The trajectory continues to point upward and we’re going to continue to be aggressive in the future to add players like this."