Written by David Wildman:
The White Sox have made it very clear what their plan A was this offseason. Sign one, if not both, of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. They have been aggressive, reportedly willing to offer huge sums of money to both players, and are still major contenders for the generational superstars. The idea is that with one or both of Harper and Machado in tow, the Sox would at the very least be more interesting and competitive than the 100 loss 2018 iteration. But what if the White Sox swing and miss on the two stars? Well, that puts them in a tough position.
Missing on Machado and Harper would mean that the White Sox had built their entire offseason approach on something that is no longer happening. It would mean that they sat idly by while attractive plan B options such as Jonathan Lucroy, Michael Brantley, Nelson Cruz, and Jonathan Schoop found new homes. In regards to Lucroy, the White Sox found a stopgap option at catcher in James McCann, who will eat innings behind the plate while the team waits on the arrival of Seby Zavala and/or Zack Collins. But as far as the outfield and the holes at third base and designated hitter go, there are some concerns.
Rick Hahn is on record as saying the White Sox won’t make moves just to make moves, but the Brantley, Cruz and Schoop contracts all came in affordably, and at reasonable lengths. With Avisail Garcia gone, assuming the White Sox don’t sign Harper, this leaves them with a projected opening day outfield of Adam Engel and Nicky Delmonico with Daniel Palka and Leury Garcia left to platoon right field. Not exactly attractive options. When Eloy Jimenez arrives in mid-April, he will immediately slot in as the best outfielder on the team for the remainder of 2019. This is not an ideal spot for a team that has lost 195 games in the last two seasons and has a fan base on edge after a 2018 which did not go according to plan.
Third base is perhaps an even larger concern should the White Sox miss on Manny Machado. There have been whispers of Yoan Moncada moving over to that side of the infield, much like he did when he debuted for the Red Sox in 2016, but at this point that is just hypothetical. Should Moncada switch, this creates a hole at second base. This could have been addressed by taking a flyer on Jonathan Schoop, but he has since signed with the Twins. While Mike Moustakas could be an attractive option to take some time at third as well as potentially DH, the White Sox would have been better off signing the right handed Nelson Cruz to platoon with left-handed fan favorite Daniel Palka. Cruz, like Schoop, has signed with the Twins.
As for designated hitter, missing out on Harper causes a major hole there as well. Daniel Palka would ideally be platooned with a right-handed slugger in this role, but missing on Harper would force Palka and his below average defense into an outfield role while the team likely rotated designated hitters until Eloy arrived and Palka assumed the role full time. Which once again, is less than ideal given Palka’s struggles hitting off of left-handed pitchers.
It’s difficult to fault the front office for waiting on the two big fish, who, once again, they are majorly in the mix for. But it has led to them missing on many plan B options that may have been available and made sense for the roster. A few trades could be in the works, and maybe even a signing for a utility guy on a one or two year deal, but none of the moves left to make would result in any significant improvement from 2018. Not taking at least a small step forward in 2019 would be painful and disappointing, but is the reality staring the Sox in face should they miss on Harper and Machado.
While the rebuild itself will not be jeopardized should the Sox miss on Harper and Machado, major roster issues will arise in the outfield, infield and designated hitter. The free agent market does not offer much in the way of attractive stopgap options at any of those positions, and it is unlikely Rick Hahn is eager to trade much in the way of prospect depth for temporary fill ins at those positions. Missing on the two big fish this year could lead to a 2019 that requires what is likely the last of White Sox fans patience.
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