White Sox haven’t been known to be big spenders on free agents. Could that change this offseason as they look to add to their young team?
The MLB offseason; it’s a period filled with speculation and an abundance of click bait. An offseason full of bottomless talent such as this one tends to amplify the abstract gossip that each free agency contains. All these notions bring one common thought here on the south side, where do the White Sox fit in?
By now it’s no secret that two names, in particular, emit a certain attraction more so than the rest of the free agent class, those names being Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. They’re a once in a generation type talents, yet to enter their primes at twenty-six years of age, seeking record-breaking contracts the league has never seen.
As for who is more valuable between the two, that’s an argument that seems almost statistically unfeasible to prove. In both of their seven years in the league, Harper sports a 139 career OPS+, with a 27.4 bWAR, while Machado has delivered a 121 career OPS+, with a 33.8 bWAR. There is a case to be made for consistency as Machado obtained a better offensive bWAR four of the past seven seasons, but when both have performed at their highest levels, Harper’s MVP 2015 season slash line of .330/460/.649 is incomparable to anything Machado has ever achieved.
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As we’ve dove through the commencement of the 2018-19 free agency, the Sox have already been tied to the pursuit of both of these young stars. The main facets that enable them to be in contention are not only the young talent stored within their farm system but having around only $20 million in committed payroll pre-arbitration.
So does one signing of either Harper or Machado put the White Sox in immediate contention in the American League? Absolutely not. But it does completely change the narrative of where they are at as a franchise. In the eyes of GM Rick Hahn, it could put the front office into win-now mode, possibly going after the likes of all-star starters Patrick Corbin, or J.A. Happ in order to bolster up a rotation that had the worst starting pitching bWAR in the AL last season.
Essentially, the pursuit of obtaining either Machado or Harper is going to control whether or not the franchise shifts into a win-now mode or slaps another year on the rebuild considering the bulk of prospects that have yet to see the Majors. If the outcome ends up being the ladder, expect this franchise to offer short-term contracts to rentals such as Jon Jay, or former Sox left fielder Melky Cabrera to fill out an outfield that had a -6.4 bWAR (last in the AL) this past season.