The White Sox are reportedly interested in some of the biggest names on the free-agent market. Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Nathan Eovaldi have all been linked to the South Siders' apparently aggressive approach this winter.
The team's financial flexibility created through its ongoing rebuilding effort has seemed to put them in the arena with baseball's biggest spenders, and reported interest in guys expected to receive some of the biggest contracts in baseball history would have to come along with a willingness to hand out such a contract.
But there's a big gap between wanting to add an elite talent (and being willing to pay them) and convincing them to sign on the dotted line. So how are the White Sox planning to close that gap?
The biggest challenge, from the outside looking in, would appear to be the fact that the White Sox still have a ways to go before their rebuild yields a championship contender — and that's if everything goes according to plan. Other teams that would figure to spend big to lure the likes of Harper and Machado have the added benefit of boasting playoff-ready rosters. The New York Yankees, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cubs: These are playoff teams or near-playoff teams without those big-name additions. Add 'em and you've got an instant championship contender not just in 2019 but for years to follow. The White Sox have an incredibly bright future thanks to their loaded farm system, but that's merely planned success, not the demonstrable evidence that they've already built a sustainable winner.
Rick Hahn is convinced that the future is so bright that it's capable of luring the big names to the South Side. The money, of course, will play a big role, one would assume the biggest. But Hahn thinks he's assembled enough talent that everyone in the game knows what's happening with this organization.
“I don’t think it’s that difficult for people that have closely been following the club or are well informed about what we’ve put together," Hahn said earlier this month at the GM Meetings in Southern California. "Over the last couple days being here, we’ve heard from people about what our future holds and the kind of team they see us putting together. Agents, part of their responsibility is informing their players, and when we’re given the opportunity, we do our best to inform the individual target about, as well. But it’s no secret what we’ve been trying to do over the last two-plus years, and it’s no secret about what potentially is coming in our future here. I’ve heard, Kenny (Williams, team president, has) heard, other people within the organization, Ricky (Renteria, the White Sox skipper), from numerous players about the excitement about what’s coming down the pipe here.”
Surely he's got a point. The White Sox remain among the highest-ranked systems in the game, and their prospects pop up throughout the rankings of baseball's best. But it's not like the Yankees, for example, are pitching these guys to play alongside a bunch of 34-year-old vets for one last ride at a title. Giancarlo Stanton is 29, Aaron Judge is 26, Gary Sanchez is 25, Miguel Andujar is 23, and Gleyber Torres is 21. That group of guys has already had big league success, winning 100 games during the 2018 regular season. The White Sox top five prospects — Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal — have played in a grand total of four big league games, all by Kopech, and Jimenez and Kopech are the only two of that group to play above Double-A.
But in Hahn's eyes, that isn't as big a hurdle as some believe it to be. Long-term success is the driving force when it comes to a long-term contract, he said. Of course, a team like the Yankees or Phillies are also built for long-term success. But Hahn likes the White Sox outlook and thinks big-name free agents and their representatives will, too.
“I don’t think for any long-term commitment the deciding factor is going to be our ability to win immediately," he said. "With any major investment, it’s going to be a long-term commitment with a belief on both sides that this union is going to produce multiple championships over the long term. The timing when that first starts is going to be relevant, it’s going to be a part of any conversation. But I don’t think ‘Are you going to win a championship in ‘19 alone?’ is going to be the deciding factor.”
And so the pitch is this: money and winning. And Hahn thinks the White Sox have a convincing argument to make in both arenas.
"(The amount of young talent), as well as our flexibility, our commitment from ownership to the front office through the coaching staff about what we’re trying to do for the long term," he said, "I think is a compelling story.”
Is it a story Harper or Machado or Eovaldi or Dallas Keuchel or Patrick Corbin or anyone else on this winter's free-agent market wants a role in? That remains to be seen.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.