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The Mourning After: Life Without Manny

by Jordan Lazowski

Alright White Sox fans, we’ve slept on it – Manny Machado will not be on the South Side next season or beyond. Personally, I’m feeling better than I did yesterday. But I’d be lying to you if I said it didn’t hurt.

We are White Sox fans, so we know what it feels like to get kicked around a bit. So, just like my article on Kopech’s TJ, let’s look back at the bitter end to Machado Mania, and what it means moving forward.

Why It’s So Frustrating

The first reason is the offer itself. In general, 8/$250M is not a bad deal. It’s a higher AAV than what the Padres offer. That being said, it was known from the start of the offseason that Machado would ask for $300M guaranteed, a level the White Sox were either unable or unwilling to hit. The “creative” contract, trade of Yonder Alonso, and signing of Jon Jay were not-so-subtle clues to how this would end. At the end of the day, if the money isn’t there, the money isn’t there. That’s not on Rick or even Kenny (as much as many fans want to blame them). This one falls on the ownership group and Jerry Reinsdorf.

If this was the end, this could probably be stomached a little easier. The bigger frustration were some of the comments from Kenny Williams yesterday immediately after the rumors came out that the Padres had gotten Machado. Here are some for your viewing (dis)pleasure:

The most frustrating one is the second one about the construction of a World Series roster. In essence, Williams gets the idea of rebuilding incorrect – you spend NOW while you don’t have to pay all of your young players. Just like any rebuilding team, you won’t be able to keep all your stars forever – Moncada, Eloy, Kopech, Giolito, Rodon, Lopez, and Cease, among others, won’t ALL be White Sox players for life. This is the reality of a rebuild, and this is what Williams completely misses in this statement.

I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt – maybe this was just an unfortunate slip of the tongue in what was no doubt a rough conversation with the media. However, this statement both worried and frustrated me.

The final knife in the back of White Sox fans came from Bruce Levine late last night:

Just like the $300M threshold, opt-outs are crucial when dealing with high-profile free agents. They want the guarantee that they can go find a championship elsewhere if things aren’t working out on their current team. The Padres’ offer reportedly has an opt-out after year 5. This fits exactly into their window of contention – if the Padres aren’t competitive in the next 5 years, their rebuild has failed and they don’t want Machado’s contract on the books anyway. But, the assumption of GM AJ Preller is that this team is now ready to win a championship in the next 5 years. Change “Padres” and “AJ Preller” to “White Sox” and “Rick Hahn”, and it’s the exact same story. And that’s why it’s so frustrating.

(Update: Rick Hahn has come out and said the organization does not have a “philosophy” against opt-outs in contracts. This does not change how important opt-outs are, or the fact that the White Sox did not include one in their deal.)

The reality is that there is no team more similar to the White Sox than the Padres in terms of the state of their rebuild. One team stepped up, met the demands, and understood what it would take to get it done: $300M, 10 years, and a nice opt-out halfway through. The other is left with Yoan Moncada at 3B and Yolmer Sanchez at 2B. There are many teams I would’ve been okay losing out to. The Padres were not one of them.

Alright, I’ve vented again. That felt good. Now, let’s move forward.

Does this Mean the Rebuild Fails?

In short, no. But, as I mentioned on our podcast yesterday, a lack of willingness to spend is how rebuilds stall – look at teams like the Pirates, for example.

This is from 2017, but the takeaways are the same – here is how each playoff team built its roster:

Screen Shot 2019-02-20 at 11.19.11 AM

Two big takeaways here:

  1. The Astros were the World Series Champions. Their roster is built on a combination of draft picks, free agents, and trades (both of MLB and MiLB players). So, we can’t rely on just prospects to come up and bring the trophy back to the South Side. Money needs to be spent, and prospects have to be traded.
  2. There is only one team that is incredibly homegrown – the Twins. We know the rest of that story: lose the Wild Card Game, have a brutal 2018 season, and then go out and spent money to add to their core. Again, money needs to be spent, and prospects have to be traded.

Not all of the prospects the Sox have accumulated will pan out. In addition, not all of the ones that do pan out will be on a World Series roster for the White Sox. The rebuild hasn’t failed, but the White Sox missed an opportunity to advance the cause. They will need to find new ways to be creative.

So, Now What?

Alright, so let’s find some ways to spend the money! Bryce Harper or bust!

Okay, since that won’t happen, let’s attempt to be logical about it. There are several avenues the White Sox could explore to use the $250M+ that they were willing to guarantee Machado:

2020 Offseason

  • Paul Goldschmidt, 1B: This seems logical only if Abreu isn’t with the club for the coming years. Goldschmidt would be 32 heading into 2020, and would serve as a “win-now” type move, albeit a good one.
  • Scooter Gennett, 2B: This would be if the White Sox were committed to Yoan Moncada at 3B. Gennett has turned the corner recently and would be entering his age 30 season. 30-33 would fit well within the window of contention.
  • Xander Bogaerts, SS: Entering his age 27 season, this is the closest the Sox would get to another young impact player they could lock up long term. Bogaerts has been a staple in the Red Sox lineup, so there’s no guarantees he even hits free agency.
  • Nolan Arenado, 3B: In other words, Manny Machado 2.0 with less “character issues” for those concerned fans. Even less likely to hit free agency, and even more likely to demand more than Machado’s contract. Would be entering his age 29 season in 2020.
  • Anthony Rendon, 3B: Rendon is my favorite option here. He would be entering his age 30 season, and has been nothing short of excellent in Washington. Again, age 30-33 fits perfectly within the contention window.
  • Marcell Ozuna, OF: Had a bounce-back 2nd half after a BRUTAL first half last season. He’s a dependable corner outfielder who would be entering his age 29 season in 2020.
  • Nick Castellanos, OF: Brutal with the glove, great with the bat. If nothing else, just sign him so I don’t have to watch him hit .600 against the Sox (this isn’t even that much of an exaggeration). Would enter his age 28 season in 2020.

2021 Offseason

2022 Offseason

2022 projects to be one of the best years in recent history, with players like Nomar Mazara, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, and Michael Conforto, among many others, heading towards free agency. I’m not sure how great of an offseason this will end up being, because many of these guys will end up extending their deals with their current squads. Plus, if the Sox are waiting until the 2022 season to finally close the deal with an impact guy to get the team competing, the rebuild is stalled. It wouldn’t be a failure yet, but an impact guy or two over the next couple offseason to at least get the team competing is required. If it takes a 2022 impact guy to finally turn the corner, then so be it. But, as we sit here today and look at this team, there needs to be competitive play by 2022 for the rebuild to even have a shot at being considered a success.

Final Thoughts

The reality of the situation is that the White Sox need to learn something from this loss – the way they have been structuring contracts will not work in the future when other names come around. In addition, being out on Bryce Harper because they are worried about driving the price up only to see him sign with the Phillies is another questionable statement. They have things they need to figure out, and hopefully this is a rude awakening for them. These types of free agents are rarely available (we might have to wait until 2022 to even have a shot at seeing this again).

I don’t blame you if you aren’t willing to give them the benefit of the doubt in terms of figuring it out – they haven’t exactly earned fans’ trust and loyalty. Many fans have suggested not going to games, not watching the team, or even choosing a new team to deal with this situation.

Here’s my take: we are all so pissed today because we all love the White Sox so much, and man do we want to see them win and succeed. It SUCKS missing out on yet another free agent and having to settle for a replacement-level guy. This team means so much to us that it will actually be impossible to “quit” this team in any sort of way – and that’s what makes baseball and White Sox fans so great.

So, spend some time being pissed. Maybe don’t watch the Spring Training game against the Padres this week. I can’t say we will all feel better about this with time, but we will all move past it. There will be something new for us to look at next week. But most importantly, we will move past this together as a fan base that needs to once again pick itself up and go – as best we can – enjoy the game we all love.

The future is still bright. The road there just won’t be as easy as we thought. But hey, when has anything been easy for Sox fans? We’ve done it before, we will do it again.

South Side or Die.

Photo Credits: USA Today and NBC Sports Chicago

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Arenado is not Machado 2.0. Take a look at his numbers away from Coors, they are average at best. His glove would travel of course, but we’re talking a .250-.260 hitter, 15-20 homeruns if he played elsewhere.

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