GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox rebuild is still on track, but they’ve reportedly missed out on making what would have been the biggest free-agent addition in team history.
Manny Machado, one of the two 26-year-old superstars on this winter’s free-agent market, is going to the San Diego Padres, according to a report from ESPN's Jeff Passan, passing over the White Sox and their vision of the future in favor of a deal worth a reported $300 million over 10 years.
BREAKING: Free agent star Manny Machado has agreed to a deal with the San Diego Padres, league sources tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 19, 2019
BREAKING: Manny Machado has agreed to terms on a deal with the Padres. According to a league source, it’s for 10 years and $300 million - the biggest free-agent contract in the history of American sports.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) February 19, 2019
The White Sox pitched Machado on being front and center in the transition from rebuilding mode to contending mode and starring in a situation where the organization’s highly rated prospects would rise to the major league level and grow around him to form a perennial contender.
Well, the Padres pitched the same thing, with an equally loaded farm system and an equally bright future. It was reported that Machado would end up taking the richest offer, and the Padres — who handed out a nine-figure contract Eric Hosmer last offseason — might have simply outbid the White Sox and everyone else vying for Machado’s services for the better part of the next decade.
A big-time acquisition might have seemed to be a year early for the rebuilding White Sox, and it’s true that even adding a player the caliber of Machado might not have made them a playoff contender in 2019. But as general manager Rick Hahn has mentioned several times this offseason, it’s out of the White Sox control when superstar talents like Machado become available, and the South Siders were looking to capitalize on the opportunity to make Machado the “finishing piece” of this project, even if it hasn’t reached the finish line quite yet.
It will not at all be surprising to see detractors pop up on social media, those complaining that the White Sox aren’t willing to spend big money for the game’s most elite talent. Hahn said during SoxFest that he hopes to dispel of what he called a “false narrative” surrounding the franchise, saying: "We’d love to disprove that during the coming weeks. We certainly have extended offers that would ruin that narrative, if accepted, but we're not there yet. So if for whatever reason we fail to convert this time around, perhaps that narrative will exist for another year, but we look forward to proving that one false like we have the others."
And that’s the biggest takeaway now that the White Sox will head into 2019 without Machado or potentially Bryce Harper, the game’s other top free agent who the South Siders were pursuing: These opportunities will come again, and they’ll come soon. Whether that’s via a trade utilizing the farm system’s remarkable depth or via the next round of free agency, which is jam-packed with star players, remains to be seen. But there are many “Plan Bs.” And the team’s commitment to being in the mix for the best players in the game moving forward is something Hahn hammered home during SoxFest.
“We belong at the table in these negotiations, we belong as part of negotiations for premium talent,” he said. “And regardless what happens over the next several weeks with either of these two players, we plan to be at the table and continue to attempt to convert on these guys.”
Machado is obviously a game-changer for the Padres. He’s a four-time All Star, a two-time Gold Glover and a three-time top-10 finisher in American League MVP voting. He’s fresh off a career year that featured a .297/.367/.538 slash line, 37 home runs, 107 RBIs and a trip to the World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who acquired Machado in a midsummer trade with the Baltimore Orioles, where he spent the majority of his first seven seasons in the majors.
While the Padres play in the National League West, far away from crossing paths with the White Sox, South Side baseball fans are going to start to harbor quite a bit of resentment toward that franchise. Before they beat out the White Sox for Machado, the Padres pulled off a trade with Hahn’s front office that brought Fernando Tatis Jr. to Southern California. Tatis was just 17 years old then, but he’s now the No. 2 prospect in baseball.
Machado would have been a very nice addition to help steer this rebuild into the final phase. But the White Sox long-term plans never hinged on him, and the White Sox will move forward, full steam ahead.