White Sox

Is White Sox adding Jon Jay a precursor to Manny Machado signing?

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By White Sox Insiders
White Sox

Are the White Sox really going to sign Manny Machado?

The 26-year-old superstar free agent still hasn't announced that he's made up his mind between the White Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees. And if he still hasn't actually reached a decision, he's now got something else to think about. The White Sox are reportedly adding Jon Jay to their outfield, a solid move under non-Machado circumstances but a really intriguing one given the ongoing Machado sweepstakes.

Jay, Machado and Yonder Alonso — the White Sox recently acquired first baseman/designated hitter and also Machado's brother-in-law — have known each other forever. They're all great friends and train together every winter in Miami. And you don't have to look too hard to find evidence of how tight a group this is.

"As a kid coming up, I’d see Jon and Yonder out there making their mark, and it gave me something to shoot for. They set the example. I looked up to those guys."

That's Machado from a February 2017 piece for the Players' Tribune titled "The Miami Baseball Brotherhood."

 

"The three of us all come from the similar backgrounds," Jay said in the same piece. "I’ve known Yonder since he was 10. And we’ve both known Manny since he was a young kid coming up. We’re from the same neighborhoods, the same culture, so it's just natural for us to stick together."

"We all play on different teams now, but everyone knows we have a special bond," Alonso said. "When one of these guys comes to town, my teammates will be like, 'Look out ... the Miami crew is here.' We’ll pick each other up at the airport! Everybody just knows how it is. Miami guys stick together."

Well, now two of the three are on the same team, and the White Sox would very much like to complete the set. The White Sox aren't going to come out and say they spent millions on two veteran players to take up two roster spots and not project to be a part of the oft-discussed long-term plan just to lure Machado to the South Side. But that sure as heck seems to be what they're doing. And if Machado does choose the White Sox over the "spend stupid" Phillies and the Yankees, his supposed preference, it will have been worth it because Machado is that potentially transformational for this team.

The White Sox have reportedly made their offer to Machado, and connecting some dots — off Bruce Levine's report that they're not willing to go past seven years for either Machado or the other mega free agent, Bryce Harper, and off Bruce Nightengale's report that it's closer to $200 million than $300 million — it could be in the ballpark of seven years and $210 million, perhaps higher. Maybe it won't be the biggest contract offer, but only the White Sox can offer Machado the opportunity to play with his brother-in-law and his good friend.

But Jay's value to the White Sox is of course about more than just his relationship with Machado, perhaps even more so than Alonso's.

Jay fills a definite offseason need for the White Sox, who opened up a big hole in their outfield when they non-tendered Avisail Garcia. While Eloy Jimenez is expected to take over daily left-field duties beginning at some point in April and Adam Engel is still incredibly gifted with the glove in center field, the prospect of choosing from Daniel Palka, Nicky Delmonico and Leury Garcia in right field didn't look quite as appealing. Jay is an upgrade, offensively and defensively.

He owns a .352 career on-base percentage, an area where the White Sox needed to improve, and was excellent with the Kansas City Royals last season, a .307 batting average and a .363 on-base percentage in 59 games before getting dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He didn't fare so well in Phoenix, with a .235/.304/.325 slash line in 84 games there. But the track record is there, and he swings a better bat than Delmonico, Leury Garcia, Engel and Palka (save the home-run aspect) did in 2018.

 

Jay is an obvious upgrade defensively, should the idea be to play him mostly in right. If that ends up being the case, the White Sox will have two 2018 Gold Glove finalists in their outfield. Of course, Jay brings versatility in the outfield, playing all three positions every season since 2014. So Rick Renteria could easily opt to mix and match Jay, Engel and Leury Garcia in center and right.

And Jay has a stellar reputation in the clubhouse. The White Sox needed an influx of veteran clubhouse presences, positive ones, of course, that could help mentor an otherwise young-and-getting-younger roster and the prospects that have already begun making their way to the South Side. Jay will help with that, and while his reported deal will only last one season, he can have a long-term impact in the short term, even if he's not the kind of guy anyone's going to pencil into a lineup of the future.

But Machado is that kind of guy.

Jay brings plenty of positives to this White Sox team, but until the Machado sweepstakes has a winner, his connection to the guy who would be the biggest free-agent splash in White Sox history is going to be a focal point.

Hey, what better way to make a long-term impact than help convince Machado to sign up for the better part of the next decade?

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