Financial flexibility makes them a contender for big-name free agents, and agents will use them as such
Ken Rosenthal uncorked rumor season for the White Sox on Monday, and he didn’t back off the Manny Machado trail after sleeping on it a little.
In fact, he expounded upon the notion. After giving it part of a paragraph on his first column, he devoted a whole section to it this morning, saying the upcoming TV negotiations could be the way to justify a spending spree:
For one thing, the White Sox are coming off their sixth straight losing season, and second straight with 95 or more defeats. They have minimal contractual commitments in 2019 and beyond. And they are due to sign a new local TV contract, the kind that often prompts clubs to spend more freely.
The partnership between the White Sox, Cubs, Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks with NBC Sports Chicago includes only one more guaranteed year, sources told The Athletic. The White Sox then expect to enter into a joint venture with the Bulls and Blackhawks, be it with NBC Sports Chicago, a different media distribution partner or perhaps even a private equity firm.
It makes a fair amount of sense. While the splurge usually comes after the TV deal, the White Sox are far below their historical payroll commitments, and they’d probably want to stoke some interest in the product, given that the White Sox had the league’s worst TV ratings last year. (A partnership with the Bulls and Blackhawks doesn’t sound all that enticing at the moment, especially with the Hawks firing Joel Quenneville this morning.)
One way or another, it’s in the White Sox’ interest to establish an upswing this season. It shouldn’t be hard — throw Eloy Jimenez with Yoan Moncada, Reynaldo Lopez and (hopefully) Lucas Giolito going into their second full seasons, and maybe that’s enough to get to 70+ wins without any drastic changes. But with Jose Abreu hitting free agency after next season and Avisail Garcia potentially earlier, they’ll have payroll space for an in-his-prime centerpiece.
After the Phillies, the White Sox are perhaps the best candidate to pursue both Machado and Harper — although there’s no guarantee they will land either. At present, the White Sox have the second-lowest payroll commitment of any MLB team for 2019. With Jose Abreu entering his final season before free agency, the White Sox need a new face of the franchise. Chicago’s affinity for Machado is well-established, as it pursued him via the trade market last offseason.
I’m guessing you’ll hear the White Sox involved in a lot of rumor mills, regardless of whether they’re actually interested. There’s just so much money available.
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A couple more items:
*The Baseball Hall of Fame released its 10-player Today’s Game Era ballot, which gives former Sox like Harold Baines and Albert Belle a second chance at induction after falling off the ballot. I wouldn’t count either as likely, but they stand out on a pretty weak ballot. George Steinbrenner is the only one who really rises above the rest, but he also has tons of baggage.
*For those offseason planners who had Sonny Gray on their rosters, Brian Cashman made it pretty clear he’s available:
“We are going to move him if we get the right deal because I don’t think it is going to work out in The Bronx,” Cashman told me Monday at the GM Meetings. “I don’t feel like we can go through the same exercise and expect different results.”