Next year at SoxFest, if the stars align, a gargantuan contract is offered and a certain free-agent shortstop/third baseman believes his baseball future belongs on the South Side of Chicago, the White Sox will introduce Manny Machado as the grand prize to their rebuild to a frenzied crowd of Sox fans at the Hilton Chicago.
If it happens (and we’ll get to the “if” in a moment), you’ll be able to credit chairman Jerry Reinsdorf for giving Rick Hahn the enormous funds to make it happen.
But you’ll also be thanking their new catcher Welington Castillo for being the White Sox ace in the hole in luring Machado to 35th and Shields.
“He’s my friend. We are tight,” Castillo told NBCSportsChicago.com about Machado. “I called him a few weeks ago. We were texting and I was doing FaceTime with him.”
So, were you FaceTiming him about possibly signing with the White Sox next offseason?
“Just to play around, I said, ‘I hear that you’re going to go to Chicago.’ He said, ‘That’s what I hear, too. That’s a rumor.’ I said, ‘Hey, I want you to be in Chicago, too.’ He said, ‘I’m going to play whatever they want me to play.’”
Shortstop? Third base? I don’t think the White Sox will mind where. The larger question is how?
With big-spending teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers potentially in the mix next winter for Machado, who could command a contract of $300 million or more, how will the White Sox be able to compete considering the largest free-agent contracts they’ve ever signed were to Jose Abreu (six years, $68 million) and Paul Konerko (five years, $60 million)?
Hahn revealed in a SoxFest seminar on Friday that the White Sox have actually made multiple offers to players in the past that exceeded $100 million.
Asked about signing big-time free agents next offseason in the media session earlier in the day, Hahn let it be known that money will not be an issue.
“I can certainly assure you that the resources will be available,” Hahn said. “Can I assure you we’re going to be able to convert on every target? No. Unfortunately, it’s a going to be a robust and competitive market. I get that question a lot, and I get it, because it would seem to break with our past practice to be aggressive or to be at the top of the market.”
That’s mythbuster No. 1. Hahn then listed a few more.
“I would say over the last 18 months we’ve sort of busted a lot of the myths about how the White Sox go about their business. There was certainly a lot out there that the Chicago White Sox would never rebuild. Obviously we did. There was a lot written a year ago that we would never make a trade with the Chicago Cubs, even if it made us better. And obviously we did.
"Additionally, people touted that we would never incur a significant tax or penalty in order to sign a player like we did with Luis Robert. Each of those steps along the way reinforced this process and put us closer to being in position to win championships. Being competitive in free agency and targeting big-ticket items and hopefully converting on them is going to be the next logical step when the time is right.
"Anyone who doubts that this organization will break from past perception or past process, I think the evidence is there over the last year that the old standard has fallen apart.”
When Machado becomes a free agent, he’ll be asking a lot of questions.
“How much money are they offering?” That’s probably No. 1. After that, he’ll likely want to know about the culture, climate and talent inside each clubhouse. That’s likely the biggest reason the White Sox tried acquiring Machado this offseason, to give him a first-hand look at what the White Sox are all about before he hits free agency.
But he’s got a close friend in Castillo who admits he had “a lot of offers” from other teams but specifically chose to play for the White Sox, partly because of their young talent.
“I know this team is going to be good, really soon.”
The other factor in his decision was Rick Renteria, who managed Castillo when he played for the Cubs.
“I like everything (about Renteria). He has the players’ back. You want to give everything you have for him,” Castillo said.
Will the White Sox be able to sign Machado next winter? Who knows?
But with the franchise trending in the right direction, and with waves of talent either in Chicago or starting to knock on the door, they’ve got Machado’s close friend already in his ear.
Castillo signed with the White Sox to catch baseballs. Helping to reel in Machado would be his biggest catch of all.