In a style similar to every shopping season since Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally knocked down the door to MLB free agency in 1975, MLB clubs roaming the aisles for a good buy can be expected to wine and dine the brightest players in grand style.
The courting ritual is always a fascinating study; player meets agent, agent meets team, player meets team, team makes its pitch. The mystery comes with never really being quite sure what might tip the scale in favor of a relationship.
For instance, when lefthander Mike Hampton left the New York Mets to sign an eight-year, $121 million deal with the Colorado Rockies in 2000, Hampton famously said the Denver school system was the reason he signed what was MLB’s richest deal at the time.
We all laughed. But not the Rockies. They dumped him two years later, but thanks to a deferred payment provision in the deal, they did not make their final yearly payment of $1.9 million to him until last Saturday.
The point is, sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t and sometimes there’s no way for the team to know if its wooing was worth it until it’s too late.
Which brings us to Manny Machado, who along with Bryce Harper will likely earn the most lucrative deal of this free agent season. Think along the lines of 10 years and between $300 and $400 million.
On Monday, Machado was scheduled to meet with the Chicago White Sox, the start of a three-city road trip that continues Wednesday in New York with the Yankees and Thursday in Philadelphia.
One wonders: What can the White Sox possibly offer Machado that appeals to him? After all, the team lost 100 games last season and hasn’t been .500 since 2012. This wouldn’t be a reclamation project as much as a salvage mission.
Well, maybe we know what part of the plan is. The White Sox traded for first baseman/designated hitter Yonder Alonso on Saturday. In the first of a two-year deal with the Cleveland Indians in 2017, Alonso hit 23 homers with 83 RBIs in 145 games. Nice stick, good addition to the lineup.
But that’s not the most intriguing aspect about Alonso, even though he was an All-Star in 2017 and the geeks seem to love his metrics.
The guy not only is Machado’s buddy, he is his brother-in-law. Machado is married to Alonso’s sister, Yainee.
Of course, before understanding how truly significant this might be, we’d have to know how much Alonso likes his sister. But in terms of what the White Sox may have to offer, figuring the money is competitive to anything the Yankees and Phillies can dish, wouldn’t the promise of family harmony be an interesting bullet point on their presentation?
The White Sox have promised their fans something to feel good about this season. Let’s face it, much like the Mets in New York and the Angels in Los Angeles, the Sox have to work a little harder in Chicago to overcome the allure of the Cubbies.
One might feel compelled to blow off this interesting all-in-the-family dynamic as inconsequential – except that it’s not. The talk is there’s value in the acquisition of Alonso in the Machado courtship.
“Fundamentally this is a baseball deal,” said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn. “We feel this makes us better. We like how Yonder fits in between the lines and in the clubhouse and helps further what we’re trying to accomplish in 2019 and beyond. The potential ancillary benefits to it in terms of his relationships with others really can’t be part of pulling the trigger in making the decision to acquire a big league player, especially a veteran one with this type of contract commitment.”
But until Machado says it doesn’t matter to him, White Sox fans can always hope family comes first and he’d love the opportunity to play with Alonso for a few seasons.
It was certainly work the risk for the White Sox. All it cost them, along with the added payroll, was one of their numerous Minor League prospects, outfielder Alex Call.
If this doesn’t work out for the White Sox, and Machado ends up in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles or elsewhere, they understand the acquisition of Alonso would not be enough to calm the nerves of their fans.
The White Sox seemed prepared to give Machado want he needs financially to make him happy, although ESPN reported the other day it didn’t expect them to spend more than the $325 million the Marlins used as Giancarlo Stanton bait in 2014. But they have already given his wife the Christmas present of having the chance to hang out with her brother this summer.
Some players like being courted with cabernet and porterhouse. Others pretend they love a school system. And there are those who just want as much cash as they can milk out of a sap.
Last season, the All-Star Game was in Miami and Machado was not named to the American League team. But Machado went to the game to support Alonso, who was on the AL team representing the Oakland A’s. During the Home Run Derby, Machado was photographed holding his one-year-old nephew.
Maybe Machado will come to the understanding money is money and there will be more than enough no matter where he signs. And if that happens, maybe he’ll figure home sweet home is where his sister’s brother and his best friend will be together.
And wouldn’t that be a nice story.