Why the White Sox could be contenders for Harper, Machado

 
 
Updated 11/12/2018 7:39 AM
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  • FILE - IN this Sept. 7, 2018, file photo, Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper takes off his batting helmet after he flied out during the first inning of the team's baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Washington. The Nationals made an offer to Harper late in the season in an attempt to reach a deal before he became a free agent. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo disclosed the talks with agent Scott Boras at the general managers' meetings on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

    FILE - IN this Sept. 7, 2018, file photo, Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper takes off his batting helmet after he flied out during the first inning of the team's baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Washington. The Nationals made an offer to Harper late in the season in an attempt to reach a deal before he became a free agent. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo disclosed the talks with agent Scott Boras at the general managers' meetings on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

  • FILE - In this Oct. 26, 2018, file photo, Los Angeles Dodgers' Manny Machado watches his single against the Boston Red Sox during the sixth inning in Game 3 of the baseball World Series in Los Angeles. Andrew Friedman knew he was getting a player who didn't hustle all the time when he traded for Machado. Still, the Dodgers' president of baseball operations was willing to acquire the four-time All-Star infielder because his good points outweighed the bad.

    FILE - In this Oct. 26, 2018, file photo, Los Angeles Dodgers' Manny Machado watches his single against the Boston Red Sox during the sixth inning in Game 3 of the baseball World Series in Los Angeles. Andrew Friedman knew he was getting a player who didn't hustle all the time when he traded for Machado. Still, the Dodgers' president of baseball operations was willing to acquire the four-time All-Star infielder because his good points outweighed the bad.

So the Chicago White Sox are rumored to be pursuing free agent Bryce Harper. They are rumored to be after free agent Manny Machado.

Both star talents are expected to eventually agree to contracts that will each dispense more than $30 million annually, and history says that instantly eliminates the Sox on both fronts.

They do have plenty of money to spend as the rebuild progresses, but the most lucrative contract in White Sox history is the six-year, $68 million deal Jose Abreu agreed to before the 2014 season.

Going from that to 10 years and $300 million for either Harper or Machado does not seem remotely plausible, but let's go back to SoxFest in January.

General manager Rick Hahn was asked about the White Sox's willingness to eventually spend big, and his answer was both revealing and defiant.

"I can certainly assure you 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 be at the top of the market. Maybe the last time this organization did it was probably Albert Belle (five years, $55 million in 1996), well before my time.

"But 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."

Is the "time right" for the Sox to make a big splash in the free-agent pool? Personally, I think it happens after the 2019 season, but don't sell Hahn and the White Sox short this winter.

• The Sox "secretly" extended Rick Renteria, and I say congratulations to the manager, who turns 57 on Christmas Day.

Renteria has been close to a perfect fit for the White Sox over the past two seasons. Don't pay too much attention to the 129-195 record -- Renteria has been asked to teach more than win.

He has done that, and more of the same is likely coming in 2019.

When the Sox are ready to contend, and 2020 still looks like the year, Renteria will be evaluated on different terms.

• No matter what happens on the free-agent market, it has been a good off-season for the White Sox.

Top pitching prospect Dane Dunning was shut down in late June with a "moderate" elbow sprain, and Tommy John surgery was the initial fear.

Dunning was able to throw in the instructional league with no pain, and he's expected to be ready for spring training.

Zack Burdi wasn't ready to pitch until August after having Tommy John surgery, but he logged 6⅓ innings with the AZL White Sox and added 4⅔ scoreless innings with 5 strikeouts in the Arizona Fall League.

Top outfield prospect Luis Robert is tearing up the AFL. Heading into Saturday's play, the 21-year-old outfielder was riding a 14-game hitting streak and was ranked second in the league with a .386 batting average.

Limited to 50 games during the regular season due to a pair of thumb injuries, Robert should spend most of 2019 with Class AA Birmingham. If he continues to climb like he is in the AFL, AAA Charlotte is definitely within reach, and Robert should be ready to join the Sox in 2020.

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