When free agency begins at the end of the 2018 MLB season, the White Sox will be in a prime position to heavily target signing the superstar infielder.
Ladies and gentlemen, this year’s molasses-like offseason is, thankfully, slowly moving into the rear-view mirror. Only a few top free agents, such as Alex Cobb and Greg Holland, remain on the open market. This year’s waltz through free agency absolutely felt more like watching an infant learn to crawl. Perhaps it is a sign of things to come, or maybe the 2017-18 offseason simply set up big spending in the epic free agent class of 2018-19, which includes Manny Machado.
Why it’s a match on paper.
The timing is perfect for the White Sox. In my opinion, the Sox rebuild is a little ahead of schedule. The team is much closer to contending than many think. Machado will be available in free agency during an offseason in which Rick Hahn has plenty of money to spend. There appears to be no chance Baltimore extends their star shortstop beyond the 2018 season.
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No offense to Tim Anderson, but the White Sox need a true shortstop. Anderson would make a potentially solid super-utility player, considering his ridiculous athleticism and the fact that he’s really still learning the defensive side of the game. If he’s learning one position on-the-fly, why can’t he learn more? And, yes, I acknowledge this proposal is coming from someone whose athletic prowess peaked in high school baseball.
Why it’s a match in the batter’s box.
Machado is a beast on both sides of the ball. First, let’s take a look at his offense. He had a down year at the plate last year, by his standards, posting a .259/.310/.471 slash line. Machado’s batting average was likely a result of his .265 BABIP in 2017 than his career average of .301. He hits the ball hard, averaging an exit velocity of 91.8 MPH last season. It’s reasonable to assume if he continues to hit the ball with such power, his BABIP will trend upwards again.
Even if last year’s numbers prove to be more in the normal range for Machado, he still hit 33 home runs and drove in 95 runs. Also, he’s tearing it up this spring (.452/.500/.871) with three home runs and 15 RBIs in just 11 games. I understand it’s spring training, but it looks like the 2015-16 Machado is back.
Why it’s a match in the field.
Machado owns a career .968 fielding percentage, which likely includes some errors on plays he probably had no business being in a position to even attempt to make. Due to his range and ability to make so many plays, there will be wild throws and somewhat ill-advised attempts. According to Fangraphs, he made 57 plays out of zone (OOZ) in 2017, which was third among third basemen. Machado does not have many innings at shortstop in the majors, but given a lengthier opportunity to play there, he will likely show off his range even more.
In 2016, Machado’s OOZ at shortstop was 25 in only 380 innings of work. Projected over a full season, he would be near the top of the leaderboard, if not leading the league in that category. So, it’s okay if he uncorks an errant throw on occasion. Let’s not forget, Machado rates above average in Ultimate Zone Rating, UZR/150, and Defensive Runs Saved as well. In a nutshell, Machado is a defensive wizard, who would represent a huge upgrade over any incumbent White Sox infielders.
What the Sox need to do to make it happen.
The first thing the White Sox need to do is work with Anderson on becoming a more versatile player. He should get worked out at all three infield and all three outfield positions. This benefits Anderson and the team regardless of Machado’s free agency status. Next, ship out a few of the more expensive veterans to open up just a little more cash.
Avisail Garcia, Welington Castillo, and Miguel Gonzalez should all make nice trade pieces, as well as freeing up some spending money. Lastly, pay the man. Machado won’t be 26 until July, so a long-term, massive salary contract is not nearly as terrifying as most free agent superstars. Let’s make new memories of a shortstop wearing no.13 on his back for the Sox.