White Sox

When it comes to Harper, Machado sweepstakes, can White Sox compete with team that plans to spend 'stupid'?

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USA TODAY

When it comes to Harper, Machado sweepstakes, can White Sox compete with team that plans to spend 'stupid'?

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.

Rebuild, meet overdrive: Eloy Jimenez provides best snapshot of White Sox progress yet

Rebuild, meet overdrive: Eloy Jimenez provides best snapshot of White Sox progress yet

A rebuild, White Sox fans know all too well, takes place over a lengthy period of time. Progression, development, these aren’t things easily pointed to as a single moment.

Allow Eloy Jimenez to provide an exception to the rule.

The White Sox contention window might not have been yanked open with one broken-bat homer to beat the Crosstown-rival Cubs on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. But Jimenez’s game-winner was the best single image yet of the direction Rick Hahn’s rebuilding project is moving.

Surely you don’t need a refresher on the highlight seen ‘round Chicagoland by now, but take a second to realize how incredible, how unscriptable it was: Jimenez, traded away by the Cubs two summers ago, up in a tie game in the ninth inning in his first game at the ballpark he always assumed would be where he’d be playing his big league games. Well, he finally played a big league game inside the Friendly Confines — and he delivered an unforgettable moment for the team on the other side of town.

Yeah, maybe it’s perhaps a little hyperbolic, maybe it’s a pure reaction to the moment, but: Rebuild, meet overdrive.

“We’re playing in the city of champions,” manager Rick Renteria said after the game. “The White Sox were champions at one time, the Cubbies have been champions. You have a history of basketball and football. It’s the city of champions, so a lot is expected of them. They’re starting to embrace it, understand it and revel in it.”

Talk of championships might seem a tad premature for these White Sox, still under .500 even after Jimenez blasted them to dramatic victory on the North Side. But then again, that’s been the end goal of the rebuild from Day 1. Rick Hahn has said repeatedly that the rebuild won’t be a success unless there’s a parade.

Jimenez’s homer came in June, not October. But it cranked the dial even further on the blindingly bright future these White Sox are building.

Lucas Giolito is providing examples of progress every time he steps on the mound these days. Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert and Dylan Cease are doing their part, too. But no one has been as central a part of the future than Jimenez, the guy who’s supposed to be the middle-of-the-order power bat in this lineup for the next decade. The way he delivered Tuesday made for a flag-planting type moment on the White Sox journey up baseball’s mountain.

“We all knew the talent was there from the get-go as soon as the club acquired him. It was just a matter of time for him to get to the big leagues, get comfortable in the big leagues,” Giolito said after the game. “I think he's getting comfortable with the big leagues a lot faster than I would've predicted. He's a really, really good player, great teammate. Can't say enough good things about Eloy. He really delivered for us tonight, and it was a big one.”

Again, it’s June. It’s a game against a National League opponent, not exactly the kind of game that helps chew up the deficit separating the White Sox and the out-of-this-world Minnesota Twins at the top of the AL Central. But within these city limits, it’s hard to imagine a bigger stage than this.

The media swarmed Jimenez postgame, causing him to express some shock at the number of cameras and recorders suddenly thrust in his face. He’s been asked a million times what it would be like to play in Wrigley Field. When he rounded first base, the smile on his face — a permanent fixture — was enormous. He gave a huge clap when he touched home plate. Were the emotions what he’d been dreaming of?

“Yes,” was the only verbal response. The body language told a much richer story. He let out ebullient sounds that brought to mind Tim “The Toolman” Taylor. The smile nearly got too big for his face.

These were the Cubs he just beat, a team so often the comparison point for these White Sox. They’re trying to find their way through the same total rebuild the Cubs went through. And without these Cubs, the White Sox might not be as far along as they currently are. Thanks to that trade, which brought Jimenez and Dylan Cease into starring roles in this rebuild, the championship future Hahn has envisioned looks realistic. It looks closer.

The North Siders came out the other end of a rebuild champions. The White Sox have their eyes on the same result.

It might not happen tomorrow, even if the bright spots are shining through now more than ever. But it’s something the White Sox are fully chasing. This is the city of champions, after all.

“It means a lot because we’re fighting for a spot in the playoffs,” Jimenez said. “We have been playing really good and I think that was a good victory for us.”

A good victory for now. A good victory for later. A good victory, indeed.

That was a storybook ending. And it’s only the end of Act I, Scene I.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Eloy Jimenez drives to Wrigley with Chuck, then drives a dagger into the Cubs hearts

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Eloy Jimenez drives to Wrigley with Chuck, then drives a dagger into the Cubs hearts

For his first regular season game ever against the Cubs, Eloy Jimenez got a ride from Chuck Garfien which started at Guaranteed Rate Field, stopped at Wrigley Field and ended with Jimenez hitting the game-winning home run in the 9th. First, Vinnie Duber joins Chuck to discuss how Jimenez homered despite breaking his bat (2:00). On the ride, Jimenez' talks about playing at Wrigley (8:20), what Cubs fans say to him now that he's on the White Sox (10:00), how he persuaded Rick Renteria to let him pinch-hit against the Cubs in a spring training game in 2018, and homered (11:30), what his mother thinks of him saying "Hi Mom" (14:30), Jimenez sings hip-hop (17:40), why a home run against the Cubs would mean so much (24:50), his reaction when the Cubs traded him to the White Sox (27:20) and more.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: