LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Winter Meetings came to a close with the rebuilding White Sox, unexpectedly, at the center of the biggest buzz — heated trade speculation surrounding Orioles star Manny Machado.
For many in Sox nation, Machado, 25, has been that dream addition to the left side of the infield — be it at third base or his preferred position at shortstop — who would have arrived just as the rebuild is crystallizing in a year or two. Machado becomes a free agent after the 2018 season and is expected to command a whopping contract in the $300 million to $400 million range.
Those are big, big bucks for an organizaton that has never spent more than $68 million on one contract (Jose Abreu).
“Dare to dream,’’ Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Wednesday, when asked if it’s conceivable to add a long-term piece with limited years of contract control.
“Is it conceivable? Yes,” Hahn said. “We like good players who fit into the long term, yeah.’’
Good players? Machado is a great one, but he would probably would cost the Sox two controllable starting pitchers, according to what the Orioles would want in return. And one of them would include either right-hander Lucas Giolito or prized right-hander Michael Kopech but not both, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.
The Sox won’t deal Kopech, their top pitching prospect. But at least one report characterizes the Sox’ offer for Machado as the strongest among numerous teams. Hahn, as expected, declined to comment Thursday morning before boarding a plane for Chicago as the meetings were wrapping up, calling the story that gained momentum through the night “the elephant in the room.”
“Obviously you guys know me, know us well enough to know I’m not going to comment on any individual trade rumors or anything specific to conversations that we may or may not be having,” Hahn said. “However, you also know us well enough to know everything we have done over the last year-plus has been aimed at putting us in the best position for the long term. Nothing has changed in terms of what we are trying to accomplish.”
A drawback for the Sox in such a deal is they would have Machado for one season at great cost before he reaches free agency. The Orioles, who will continue to field offers while in no rush to make a deal for Machado, don’t seem willing to grant a potential trade partner a negotiating window to sign him long term.
“I don’t see that as a viable option,” Orioles general manager Dan Duquette said Thursday.
Should the Sox attempt to corral Machado with an extension, the cost would be well beyond anything they have spent on one player.
“Sometimes you need to be creative,’’ Hahn said. “Sometimes you need to perhaps take a risk.’’
Perhaps the Sox trade for Machado, and he falls in love with them. Perhaps they flip him to another team mid-season if that doesn’t happen.
“It’s probably slightly easier after a player has been part of this organization, understands what we’re about, to extend him as opposed to meeting him cold as a free agent and trying to sell him on the organization,’’ Hahn said Wednesday.
As for the economics of an extension, the Sox figure to have almost nothing in contract obligations on the books beyond Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia in 2019. So they have that going for them.
But it’s still a dreamy proposition for the Sox, even though they are one of numerous teams to have discussed Machado, considered one of the game’s elite young players, with the Orioles. The Cardinals, Yankees, Giants and Red Sox are also on that list, but the White Sox offer is the strongest, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.
So many things would have to fall right, and it would be an aggressive gamble for the Sox. It could depend on how aggressive they are willing to be at a time when it might not be necessary.
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