VP Ken Williams: It’s a shame if White Sox are portrayed as cheap

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Ken Williams, with Rick Hahn (right) and Rick Renteria, talks on the back fields at Camelback Ranch on Feb. 13. (John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams was doing what he often does during spring training Thursday morning, moving from back field to back field to watch players, mostly future pieces the Sox’ rebuild is constructed around.

It had been nine days since Manny Machado spurned the Sox’ $250 million offer over eight years — with vesting options and incentives to possibly increase the deal to $350 million — to sign with the Padres for $300 million guaranteed over 10 years.

“I was going to say it has already passed for us, but [general manager] Rick [Hahn] and I were talking about it yesterday, and it ain’t [bleeping] passed,’’ Williams told the Sun-Times. “It’s a shame if it’s being portrayed that we were on the cheap on this thing. That’s really interesting because, holy s—, that’s a quarter of a billion dollars we offered with a chance to be higher than what he’s getting.’’

A few hours later, Bryce Harper, whom the Sox also had targeted, would sign with the Phillies for 13 years and $330 million. It wasn’t known Thursday morning what Harper would sign for, but the Sox were already out on Harper, Williams said. It wasn’t for a lack of like for Harper.

“I really dig the guy,’’ Williams said. “He and I clicked in the meeting. He expressed that to [agent] Scott [Boras] after the meeting. I have a respect for the guy, the way he plays and goes about it. It’s an infectious personality and style of play.’’

Harper would’ve been an instant face of the franchise. But the Sox realized they were out, knowing he would command more guaranteed cash and years than they were willing to give Machado.

Sox Twitter went on another tear Thursday, calling out the organization for not going higher on Machado and “giving up” on Harper. That was the general consensus, anyway, from a fan base seeing rare opportunities for two 26-year-old stars go by the boards.

“Whomever you’re speaking of, there is nothing I can say that will make them feel better,’’ Williams said. “Rest assured that no one is feeling what Rick and I are feeling because every single day since June of last year, this is what we had planned for, the pursuit of both Harper and Machado. Harper [was] well out of our range. With Machado, we extended ourselves as far as we could without jeopardizing what we’re going to need to do in the future.

“People are lost on the fact that on a yearly basis, our offer was more than San Diego’s. The average annual value was $31 [million] and change. So it was about years guaranteed. So there is an argument that could be made that our offer was the better of the two. It certainly had more upside for him. All he had to do was basically stay healthy.’’

All the Sox had to do was dig a little deeper. But Williams said the long-range cost was too much.

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“Our fans would have been much more disappointed in our inability to keep this next core together,’’ he said. “We would have overextended ourselves had we gone to an uncomfortable level.’’

The Sox’ potential stars — Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Tim Anderson, Carlos Rodon and Yoan Moncada — are years away from arbitration and big paydays, and this fact remains: The richest contract ever signed by a Sox player is Jose Abreu’s $68 million deal.

There was a sense from the beginning of this pursuit that the Sox were not the destination of choice for Machado or Harper. Williams argued that the Sox are a team the stars would want to play for.

“I believe we got in the room with Machado and Harper, and if we were able to afford it, they absolutely wanted to come here,’’ he said. “That was expressed to us. That’s all I can go by.’’

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