By: Mark Lester
On Tuesday, All-Star shortstop Manny Machado signed a 10 year deal with the San Diego Padres for $300 million, the biggest pro-sports contract in American history. The deal came after several months of speculation and “guarantees” that Machado would end up in the Bronx. But for almost all of that time period, the White Sox were in the thick of the Machado sweepstakes, and for a short time, Vegas had the money on Machado going to the South Side. But, unfortunately, that’s not how it played out.
Chicago offered Machado an 8 year, $250 million contract, or 31.25 million per year. The contract didn’t offer an opt-out. And yet, the 10 year, $300 million deal that Machado wanted and got from San Diego was just too much for the 62-100 Sox, even though the latter would’ve come with a lower annual cost, at $30 million per year. His San Diego contract also comes with an opt-out, so Machado could very well leave San Diego having been paid $150 million for 5 years.
Executive Vice President of the White Sox Kenny Williams said after the signing that he was shocked Manny didn’t choose Chicago, yet he also stated that the White Sox were not willing to go to the $300 million mark for a big free agent. So, bad news Sox fans: the White Sox won’t sign a high profile free agent ever again, or at least as long as Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams are in the front office.
There are people who will say the typical things after losing out on a big free agent: “He’s overrated,” “The Padres overpaid for him,” “I’m glad we’re not wasting that much money on him,” and so on and so forth. But there’s really no way for me or anyone to make a convincing case that the White Sox didn’t lose big time in their failed acquisition of Machado. He’s a top 15 player in all of baseball, easily. We haven’t seen anyone that good in the black pinstripes for awhile now. And sure, his performance has been declining over the last few seasons. But he’s 26 and he’s in the prime of his career, and there’s no reason in my mind that he can’t bounce back over the next few years. Projections from 538 say that in this upcoming season alone Machado’s WAR should improve from 2.8 in 2018 to around 5 in 2019. And while that certainly won’t get the White Sox into the playoffs, they’ll still have a one of the best farm systems in the game coming up. Having a generational talent in the infield with several major league talents bound to come up to the show very soon, including top prospect and future star Eloy Jimenez, certainly won’t hurt the White Sox’s chances of actually contending in the future.
We’ve all heard the rhetoric against giving All-Star free agents big 10-year contracts, and based on the luck of some of those teams, those arguments are justified. But we’re talking about the White Sox, a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since the Bush administration, a team that just lost 100 games, a team that hasn’t even cracked .500 for 6 years. Attendance has been steadily declining for the last decade. The White Sox should be desperate for someone that will not only make the team better, but someone who’ll at the very least put butts in seats.
Sure, Machado would cost a lot of money. What big free agent doesn’t? But he fills a need, he’s definitely better than what they have at the moment, and they have the money. So why not sign him? Sure, their in the middle of building a team, but wouldn’t having a core from the get-go make that process a whole lot easier? The answer to that question, of course, is an easy yes.
I’m gonna put this issue behind with one more thought: the Padres and the White Sox are both very similar teams. Neither have made the playoffs or even contended for a long time. Both have long histories of mediocrity and have been hopelessly depleted of talent for years. But only the Padres went all in and put forward the necessary effort to curb that trend, and regardless of whether or not the Machado deal works out for, the White Sox will still be stuck without a leader or a direction.
The White Sox just took a weak cut at Machado expecting to hit a home run, and acted surprised when they didn’t get what they wanted. If that’s their strategy going forward, then I have no reason to believe that we’ll ever see a Chicago playoff team that isn’t named the Cubs.