The White Sox sure seem willing to spend and spend big this offseason if the right opportunity comes along. They're reportedly interested in Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the two biggest names on this winter's free-agent market.
But other teams are interested in those guys, too. And at least one other team is being more vocal about its willingness to shell out big bucks — making no bones about the fact it's even willing to spend "stupid."
That was the word used by Philadelphia Phillies owner John Middleton, who told USA Today's Bob Nightengale: "We're going into this expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little stupid about it."
That's a bit of a joke, of course — he added, "we just prefer not to be completely stupid" — but it shows how pricey this winter's bidding wars are going to get.
The White Sox have a ton of financial flexibility thanks to their rebuilding effort, but they're not alone. The Phillies are right there with them in terms of long-term financial commitments. Throw in the fact they're further along in their rebuilding process than the White Sox, and it makes them a prime candidate to hand out one of the biggest contracts in baseball history.
The Phillies — who Nightengale wrote just last week seem like a lock to land Harper — spent time in first place in 2018 and have an exciting roster of young players that already makes them a contender heading into 2019. Add Harper or Machado to that mix, and you're looking at a team that could win multiple championships starting in 2019.
The White Sox don't have that, and it seems to remain their biggest challenge in convincing one of the best players in baseball to sign up. They have a very bright future to pitch, but it's a planned future, not the demonstrable win-now roster of teams like the Phillies.
What could help to ease those concerns would be money and a whole lot of it. Obviously other teams are willing to spend, but few teams have the ability to spend and spend big that the White Sox have because of the ridiculously small amount of money they have committed past the 2019 season.
Rick Hahn has made a point that the White Sox have made a habit of shattering preconceived notions, doing the unexpected during this rebuilding process. But certainly no one expects him to do something "stupid."
In fact, Hahn's comments surrounding what deals the White Sox might or might not make this winter (or at any point in the last two years) seem to show the complete opposite of "stupid." His prerequisite for every potential move is that it's something that fits in with the team's long-term plans, given that there's still much player development to be done with the organization's stockpile of highly touted prospects. And signing either Harper or Machado, both 26 years old, would do that. Having one of the best players in baseball during their prime while the prospects come up and form the team around them? Yeah, that makes an awful lot of long-term sense.
But how much long-term sense does spending "stupid" make? Throwing more money than most of us can dream of at a player is a convincing argument in getting him to sign and make your team a heck of a lot better. But going overboard could handcuff what a team is able to do down the line. Harper and Machado are great players who can do a lot of things, but they're each just one piece of a 25-man roster. While the White Sox are expecting to have a lot of young, cheap players on those rosters of the future, there could be more than one "finishing piece" that's required to polish off this rebuilding effort. If you spend "stupid," are you able to afford those other pieces?
How stupid do you have to spend before the positive of acquiring a player is outweighed by the negative of not being able to acquire the next one?
Certainly the Phillies aren't going to hand Harper or Machado a blank check and bankrupt their long-term future either. They've got some smart folks over there, too. But it shows how financially competitive the bidding wars could be this winter — and what the cost could be of winning one of them.