At the conclusion of the White Sox’ 100-loss season, general manager Rick Hahn cited starting pitching and the bullpen as needs to address this offseason, and the Sox already addressed that last week with the acquisition of right-handed reliever Alex Colome.
But all anyone wants to talk about is Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the biggest catches in this winter’s free-agent pond.
The Sox are known to have lines in the water for both. In fact, they sent Hall of Famer Jim Thome, a special assistant to Hahn, to meet with Harper in the superstar outfielder’s Las Vegas hometown.
“I don’t want to put out there what the impression should be of the rumors about our activity,’’ Hahn said Thursday, four days before the Winter Meetings in Vegas begin. “I will say we’ve made no secret about our commitment to putting ourselves in position to win multiple championships over the long term.’’
Reeling in Harper or Machado would, of course, strengthen that position. It was two years ago Thursday that the Sox’ rebuild began with the Chris Sale trade, so the timing for such an expensive move — Harper reportedly declined $300 million over 10 years from the Nationals — might be a little early, even though the Sox have payroll space to afford it.
“Everyone has asked over the years about when the time was right, would we spend on premium talent,’’ Hahn said, “and we’ve made it clear that was part of the plan, part of the vision. You could argue that this offseason would be premature, being two years deep into a rebuild. But we can’t control when certain talents become available, and we entered this offseason with the idea of being opportunistic. That doesn’t mean we can guarantee by any stretch that we’re going to convert on these targets.’’
Hahn did convert on a trade for Colome, who is eager for a chance to be a closer again after the Mariners used him in a setup role after he was dealt from the Rays last season.
“It’s something to prove in spring training,’’ said Colome, who saved 47 games for the Rays in 2017 after collecting 37 in an All-Star season in 2016.
He has a 2.68 ERA over his last three seasons.
“I’m confident in myself, and I know I can do the job,’’ Colome said.
Colome, 29, cost the Sox catcher Omar Narvaez, who had a breakout season offensively but had holes in his defense. Colome is projected to earn about $7 million in arbitration and is under contract control through 2020.
Colome said he is happy about coming to the Sox because of their assembled young talent. Hahn said any player should, star free agents included.
“The idea of potentially being part of a winner in Chicago has very broad appeal,’’ Hahn said.
NOTES: Hahn said first baseman Jose Abreu, who already has attracted trade interest from other teams, could be part of the team’s future even though he’s going into the last year of his contract.
u The Sox could name a replacement for trainer Herm Schneider, who’s taking on an emeritus role, in the next day or two, Hahn said.
“We are going to look at the opportunity to sort of expand and, if it’s possible, make our training staff and player-performance staff even stronger than it was under Hermie,’’ Hahn said.