White Sox

So much for dreams of Bryce Harper to the White Sox? One national writer says Harper's a lock to go somewhere else

So much for dreams of Bryce Harper to the White Sox? One national writer says Harper's a lock to go somewhere else

CARLSBAD, Calif. — The White Sox are reportedly interested in bringing Bryce Harper to the South Side. But just two days after one national writer set fans buzzing back in Chicago, another might have dashed their dreams, calling Harper a virtual lock to go to the Philadelphia Phillies.

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale wrote Wednesday from the GM Meetings in Southern California that “it’s hard to find an executive, scout, or rival agent who doesn’t believe that Harper will eventually sign with the Phillies.” He outlined the potential suitors, pointing to the Cubs’ financial situation, the New York Yankees as a better landing spot for Manny Machado, the Los Angeles Dodgers as uninterested, the San Francisco Giants as “changing course” and the St. Louis Cardinals as not a high-profile enough destination.

No, he did not even mention the White Sox.

Nightengale did mention the Washington Nationals, who reportedly had their 10-year, $300 million offer rejected by Harper and Scott Boras, Harper’s agent who spent about an hour talking about how good his client is at hitting a baseball Wednesday. He’s right in that regard, that Harper sure can hit.

But alas, no talk of the White Sox.

If the “changing course” Giants and supposedly low-profile Cardinals have little shot at landing Harper, what shot do the White Sox have? They’re in rebuilding mode and despite their Chicago home rarely have enjoyed the same high profile as all the other teams discussed here, if ESPN’s annual forgetfulness is any indication.

MLB.com’s Jon Morosi was the one who set off this recent rash of “Harper to the White Sox” fever with his report Monday that the South Siders were interested in the guy who’s about to get the biggest contract in baseball history. But his argument for why the White Sox would be a legit candidate hinged almost entirely on their having one of the game’s lowest payrolls. No mention of the high hurdles they’d have to clear to land Harper, like outbidding some of baseball’s biggest spenders and getting Harper to buy into a pitch of planned success over those of win-now guarantees.

Yes, Boras said Wednesday that Harper would be open to hearing from any club, and surely that’s true.

"I think Bryce is open to a lot of opportunities, he's listened to a lot of things," Boras said. "I think owners do a great job in forecasting the benefits of their franchise, and many have done a very good job of talking about what they need to improve on. So as we go through this, I think he's going to hear everything from everyone and certainly make an informed decision."

Remember, though, that Boras’ job is to get his clients the biggest possible paydays, and he’s very good at doing exactly that.

None of this is to say that the White Sox aren’t willing to spend big. General manager Rick Hahn has talked repeatedly about the economic flexibility the ongoing rebuilding process has afforded his front office, and he’s spent a year and a half talking about how the White Sox have succeeded at smashing preconceived notions. He’s talked about being opportunistic in this much-discussed free-agent market and about being willing to make additions that give the White Sox a better chance at long-term success. It’d be pretty difficult to argue Harper doesn’t do that.

But it might not be the right time for any of that to come to fruition. The White Sox are fresh off a 100-loss season, with significant injuries befalling many of their highly rated prospects and perhaps, depending on how things play out, altering the timeline of when the contention window opens on the South Side. The future is undoubtedly bright, but is that all that’s necessary — along with the monster contract, of course — to make Harper or someone else of his caliber pick the White Sox over current championship contenders?

The Phillies weren’t a playoff team last season, but with Harper added to the already exciting young mix they have at the major league level, they’d be a World Series contender. If the White Sox add Harper to their 2019 roster, are they even a playoff team? There would still need to be player development and/or other moves to take place to get them to elite status. The waiting game has been a hard thing to sell to fans, even if they’ve done a good job buying in. It seems it’d be a hard thing to sell to one of the game’s best players, too.

The White Sox won’t be out on Harper until they’re out on Harper. But if the Phillies are as much of a slam-dunk destination as Nightengale believes them to be, can anyone else say they were ever in?

White Sox reportedly 'remain strong factor' in the race for Manny Machado

White Sox reportedly 'remain strong factor' in the race for Manny Machado

The Padres emergence into the Manny Machado sweepstakes has altered the landscape from the White Sox perspective (at least from the outside).

It may have even caused some White Sox fans to lose a bit of hope. Here's Ken Rosenthal to the rescue, reassuring that the White Sox "remain a strong factor" in the chase for Machado's signature.

Is this new? Is this news? The White Sox have been in on Machado since his three-city tour that included the Yankees, Phillies and White Sox back in December so them being a strong factor isn't much of an update.

The fact that the White Sox front office and ownership appear to be aligned in Machado being the first choice ahead of Bryce Harper is relevant. It is also relevant that the Padres and Phillies may "not see it as convincingly." We're still playing in vagaries at this point, but this is more encouraging news than hearing the Padres offering a big amount of money for Machado, adding another very serious suitor to the list.

This update comes after Rick Renteria said "don't be surprised" if Yoan Moncada is the White Sox starting third baseman come Opening Day.

The mixed signals and vague reported updates will continue until Harper and/or Machado pick their destinations. Until then, White Sox fans can take this as a mild bit of positive news.

 

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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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