As MLB free agency plows its way into January, we step out the box for a moment to congratulate the Chicago White Sox for the effort they’ve already made to get Manny Machado.
Not every team would be willing to sign just about every member of Machado’s friends and family list in order to give the guy a sense he’d be as good as home in their clubhouse.
First, the White Sox acquired first baseman Yonder Alonso from the Cleveland Indians on Dec. 14. Alonso is not only a pretty good hitter and glove man, he just happens to be married to Machado’s sister.
And then on Monday, the Sox signed veteran free agent outfielder John Jay to a one-year, $4 million deal. Not only is this Jay’s sixth team in five seasons – he travels the nation as much as Hertz – he is one of Machado’s best friends in the world.
Now, either this is one of the greatest coincidences in the transactional universe or the White Sox are making it clear they want Machado to be the one smiling in the family portrait, known elsewhere at the Sox’ 2019 team photo.
Jay, 33, is not going to win the AL Central for the White Sox, nor is he going to be responsible for the turnaround from a 100-loss season in 2018. He is a serviceable reserve outfielder, a dime-a-dozen guy who hit .268 last season while working himself from Kansas City to Arizona.
But you could make the argument the White Sox really needed Jay. According to FanGraphs, the Sox had the worst outfield in the Majors last season. And who are we to quibble about solid metrics?
Despite these moves, we have a feeling, for some strange reason, that Machado’s signing is going to come down to money and the length of a contract that would keep him in Chicago long after Jay and Alonso have retired.
Now, USA Today is reporting that the White Sox have already made a long-term offer to Machado. Machado met with the White Sox, Yankees and Phillies on a brief wine-and-dine tour in December.
Four sources have told the newspaper the deal is in the comfortable neighborhood of $200 million, which sounds strange since Giancarlo Stanton is in the midst of a $300 million deal, the same money Bryce Harper reportedly turned down from the Nationals on the final day of the regular season. Would Machado agree to devalue himself to that degree?
Just in case that’s not enough for Machado, the White Sox are also talking to agent Scott Boras about Harper, although they have not acquired any members of his family to use as a lure.
Aside from Alonso and Jay, the White Sox have been adding other parts, as well. They have traded for starters Ivan Nova and Alex Colome and signed catcher James McCann and closer Kelvin Herrera.
The pursuit of Machado and Harper is truly fascinating. You wonder why any team, in this era of apparent financial conservatism, would commit $300 million to either guy.
Are they that much better than everyone else simply because they are comparatively young?
Does hitting .249 last season with 169 strikeouts and a lifetime average of .279 mean Harper, 25, is worth that kind of money? He’s not a box-office bonanza like The Rock and Tom Hanks.
Does Machado’s .282 lifetime batting average in his seven seasons, once combined with his famous temper tantrums, mean this 25-year-old is worth that money, too?
Ask the Phillies. They think so. Their owner, John Middleton, told the media the team is ready to spend stupid money – his words, not ours – to make a splash. They have already signed outfielder Andrew McCutchen and reliever David Robertson for a combined $73 million.
In Machado’s case, we will find out soon. The Yankees are barking like a bloodhound hot on his trail. If we are talking family, the Bronx Bombers were his favorite team when he was growing up.
New York singed Troy Tulowitzki last week – and informed Machado they would do so – to play shortstop in the absence of Didi Gregorius (Tommy John surgery). But they are only paying the former All-Star $550,000, the major-league minimum. The Yankees will spend that on wine to get Machado.
If the White Sox are serious, it’s going to require a huge departure from its past. Jose Abreu’s six-year, $68 million deal is the largest check the franchise has ever written.
In the case of Harper, we have no idea. The Dodgers cleared out Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig in a deal with the Reds to clear space, financial and in the lineup.
You figure a guy with Harper’s ego, being from Las Vegas, might get a kick out of playing in LaLa Land. The Phillies seem agree. They are traveling to Vegas to meet Harper this weekend.
Remember this: In the history of free agency, only seven players have signed 10-year deals. It doesn’t happen very often.
Do you think the Yankees are thrilled they have to pay Stanton or Seattle is happy about needing to pay the bulk of Robinson Cano’s deal while he plays for the Mets. Are Joey Votto, Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols still worth it?
You know the answer and so do the teams that are dueling for Machado and Harper. But that doesn’t mean someone might just hand over stupid money and create a new family.