White Sox

White Sox won't worry about rebuilding unknowns if game-changing opportunities — like adding Bryce Harper — arise

White Sox won't worry about rebuilding unknowns if game-changing opportunities — like adding Bryce Harper — arise

CARLSBAD, Calif. — The White Sox don’t need Bryce Harper to achieve their rebuilding goals. But they sure as hell will take advantage of an opportunity if one presents itself.

General manager Rick Hahn has been talking about being “opportunistic” for months now, his word for looking into acquisitions that don’t necessarily fill an immediate need but would line up with the team’s long-term plans.

Harper coming to the South Side didn’t seem like an idea even worthy of consideration until this week, when MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported the White Sox were interested in the services of the top free agent on the market, a guy who is expected to command the biggest contract in baseball history. While the odds might not figure to be in their favor — other deep-pocketed clubs can pitch the ability to win a championship right now — the White Sox sure seem willing to spend, with Hahn spending more than a year discussing the team’s recent string of shattering preconceived notions and trumpeting the current financial flexibility as a win during this rebuilding process. He said earlier this week that no one should be surprised to see the White Sox linked to some of the game’s best (and most expensive) players.

A question this writer has had leading up to this offseason, however, is whether a big addition right now would be entirely worth it. After all, how much of that contract would be spent still waiting for a team to form around the big-name addition? There’s still plenty of player development and other acquisitions to be made before the White Sox look like the perennial contender they plan to be. Harper is as good as they come in baseball, but would even he alone turn the 2019 White Sox into a playoff team?

But Hahn explained that an “opportunistic” move would be a smart one. The White Sox don’t expect to be rebuilding forever, of course, and even if 2019 wouldn’t end in a playoff appearance, the move would be made for the long term, for the many playoff seasons that would follow during the course of that contract, once the organization’s highly touted prospects reach the major leagues.

In other words, he’s not worrying about the unknowns when it comes to making such a move because the known would mesh with, not be in place of, the carefully laid rebuilding plans.

"The opportunistic ones are the easy ones, actually,” Hahn said Wednesday at the GM Meetings in Southern California. “Those are the ones where you see how it aligns in the short-term and potentially the long and you feel a level of excitement about the immediate benefit as well as how it fits in your potential long-term plan.

“You don't know exactly how it's going to come together in two years, three years, but when you see pieces that conceivably can be part of a championship club that are available to you now at a price that makes sense and is economically reasonable, you feel a level of excitement moving on that.”

Hahn is confident, too, that the prospect of winning in 2019 wouldn’t end up being the deciding factor for a player the caliber of Harper.

“I don’t think for any long-term commitment the deciding factor is going to be our ability to win immediately,” he said Tuesday. “With any major investment, it’s going to be a long-term commitment with a belief on both sides that this union is going to produce multiple championships over the long term. The timing when that first starts is going to be relevant, it’s going to be a part of any conversation. But I don’t think ‘Are you going to win a championship in ‘19 alone?’ is going to be the deciding factor.”

That doesn’t change the fact that the White Sox will be pitching planned long-term success while teams like the Cubs, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and even the Philadelphia Phillies can pitch rosters that can go on dynastic runs right now. But it shows the confidence the White Sox have in their plans, a confidence they hope can turn into buy in from one of the game’s best players, be it this offseason or sometime down the road.

There’s plenty of mystery in any rebuilding effort, and 2018 injuries to a large swath of the organization’s list of top prospects didn’t help when it comes to forecasting when the White Sox contention window will open. But Harper is expected to get a contract that will last many years. Same goes for Manny Machado, the other superstar in this free-agent market. If the White Sox get the opportunity to add one of those guys, they’ll take it with no concern that doing so wouldn’t line up with the planned fruits of the rebuild.

Manny Machado's agent has had ENOUGH of these contract rumors and we can't blame him

Manny Machado's agent has had ENOUGH of these contract rumors and we can't blame him

MAKE IT STOP.

To recap: today's Manny Machado rumors started with a somewhat head-turning report that his sitting offer was 7-years and $175 million. 

That settles it. Buster Olney is trustworthy and the White Sox have offered that much money and baseball's impending work stoppage is moving on as planned, full steam ahead. 

Ha! Just kidding. That is of course not where things went from there: 

Uhhh, sure! Everyone has heard everything and yet no one knows how much money Manny Machado is about to get over how many years. This prompted Machado's agent to tweet out this piece of art:

"I have known Bob Nightengale and Buster Olney for many years and have always had a good professional relationship with both," Lozano said in a statement. "But their recent reporting, like many other rumors in the past several months, have been inaccurate and reckless when it comes to Manny Machado. I don't know if their sources are blatantly violating the Collective Bargaining Agreement by intentionally misleading them to try and affect negotiations through the public or are just flat out lying to them for other reasons. But the truth is that their reports on the details of the White Sox's level of interest in Manny are completely wrong.

"I am well aware that the entire baseball universe -- fans, players, teams and media members alike -- are starved for information about this free agent market for all players, including Manny. But I am not going to continue to watch the press be manipualated into tampering with, not just with my client, but all of these players' livelihoods as they have been doing this entire offseason. The absence of new information to report is no excuse to fabricate 'news' or regurgitate falsehoods without even attempting to confirm their validity, and it is a disservice to baseball fans everywhere when the media does just that.

"Moving forward, I will continue to respect the CBA's prohibition on negotiations through the media and hope that others would do the same."

It is extremely amusing that a power broker like Dan Lozano 1. is faking outrage about negotiating in the media 2. acting like leaked reports that perhaps sway team perception is a thing that has never happened before Machado. 

White Sox Team of the Future: Second base

White Sox Team of the Future: Second base

What will the next championship-contending White Sox team look like?

That's what we're setting out to determine (or at least make a guess at) this month. Ten members of our White Sox content team here at NBC Sports Chicago put our heads together to try to project what each position on the diamond would look like in one, two, three years. Basically, we posed the question: What will the White Sox starting lineup be the next time they're capable of playing in the World Series?

That question can have a bunch of different answers, too. We didn't limit ourselves to players currently a part of the organization. Think the White Sox are gonna make a big free-agent addition? Vote for that player. Think the White Sox are gonna pull off a huge trade? Vote for that player. We wanted to see some creativity.

A first-round draft pick isn't assured to rocket through the farm system. Jake Burger, the White Sox first-round pick in 2017, hasn't played above Class A Kannapolis, thanks in part to a pair of Achilles tears last year. Zack Collins has spent two and a half years in the White Sox system after they spent a first-round pick on him in 2016. Carson Fulmer, the first-round pick in 2015, did move quickly through the system, but his long-term major league future is a question mark after he struggled mightily at the big league and Triple-A levels in 2018.

Nick Madrigal might be different.

In fewer than 40 games as a pro after the White Sox used the No. 4 pick on him last summer, Madrigal played at three different levels and showed what made team brass call him "the best all-around player in college baseball." It's why he's our second baseman of the future.

Madrigal has more than a couple things going for him. He's touted as a Gold Glove type defender on the middle infield. He doesn't strike out, like at all, doing so just five times in 173 minor league plate appearances. He reaches base often (a .353 on-base percentage) and hits for a high average (.303 batting average). He has plenty of experience playing winning baseball, earning a College World Series championship with his Oregon State teammates in 2018.

All that makes his future not only look bright but makes his future look near.

The White Sox, of course, aren't putting a timeline on when Madrigal could reach the majors. They don't do that with any of their prized prospects. But Madrigal seems to be on the fast track, whether that's just because he was advanced from playing high-level college ball for so long or because he's just really good. He's likely to play at the Double-A level in 2019, and if he succeeds there, who knows? Rick Hahn always says the good ones have a way of changing the team's plans. Could Madrigal rapidly reach the bigs and help the rebuilding White Sox transition from rebuilding to contending in the next year or two?

Regardless of when he arrives, the White Sox are obviously high on Madrigal's abilities. The question is which position he'll be playing when he gets to the South Side. The good news for the White Sox is that Madrigal brings versatility on the infield. He spent time at second and short at Oregon State. He almost exclusively played second base in the minors last season.

“I’ve worked on different positions throughout my life in the infield,” Madrigal said when meeting with reporters in September. “When my dad hit me ground balls, I made sure to take them from both sides of the bag, just to make sure I had that in my back pocket. I’ve played a lot of shortstop my whole life.

“When I was really young I caught, so I feel like I’ve played almost every position on the field and I feel comfortable doing that.”

Last time he caught, he was 11., so let's focus on the middle infield. The White Sox are talking about moving current second baseman Yoan Moncada over to third, not necessary because Madrigal is on the way, but that's part of it. Of course, if Manny Machado picks the White Sox, the entire infield alignment could be thrown into disarray.

But Madrigal seems to have the stuff to be the second baseman of the future. The question then becomes how quick can he get here?

Other vote-getters

Yoan Moncada. Moncada is obviously the second baseman of the present, and the guy who isn't too far removed from being the No. 1 prospect in baseball is very much a part of the White Sox long-term plans. Fans might have soured on his potential after his 217 strikeouts last season, but the White Sox see it as a step in his path to big league stardom. Where that will be, though, is not set in stone. As mentioned, the team has discussed moving him to third base, in part because Madrigal is on the way and could provide an elite glove at second. Moncada made 21 errors at second last season. Should Machado arrive on the South Side, however, Moncada might get the opportunity to stay at second. Or he might go to third anyway. Or he might stay at second if the White Sox don't get Machado. They're undecided.

Starlin Castro. Here's creativity in action. One of our voters sees the second baseman of the future arriving as a free agent after either the 2019 or 2020 season (he's got an option for 2020). Currently a Miami Marlin, Castro's been a Cub and a New York Yankee, too. He's already logged nine big league seasons and has done so to the tune of a career .281/.321/.411 slash line. That might not leap off the screen, but considering the White Sox could be loaded elsewhere on the diamond, Castro could be a nice piece to finish off the lineup, if need be. He's only two years removed from a career-best .792 OPS and his fourth All-Star appearance. Is Castro at the top of folks' free-agent wish lists? Probably not. But he certainly could be an under-the-radar move that helps complete a contending roster.

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