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The wait goes on: White Sox still in hunt for Manny Machado

As the White Sox set the table for coveted free agent Manny Machado by bringing in family and friends, the big unknown is whether they’ll be willing to pay enough to ensure the guest of honor’s attendance.

According to one report Wednesday, the Sox might have to outbid only the Phillies — the self described “stupid money” spenders, who, as far as anyone knows, haven’t made Machado an offer. The Phillies do have a meeting with Bryce Harper, the other big free agent on the market, in Las Vegas on Saturday, adding to the web of mystery surrounding the pair of prized 26-year-old superstars.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Sox probably will announce the signing of a free agent not named Machado or Harper. That would be 33-year-old outfielder Jon Jay, on a one-year, $4 million contract. Jay and recently acquired Sox first baseman Yonder Alonso — whose sister Yainee is Machado’s wife — are all close to Machado. Their relationship was featured in workout videos and a Players Tribune feature titled “The Miami Baseball Brotherhood.”

Sox fans clicked away to read that article, knowing Machado might choose a team somewhat soon. For the three Miami bros to come together, though, Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf might have to increase his original offer, which already more than doubles the biggest contract in Sox history.

Free agent infielder Manny Machado arrives with his wife Yainee at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pa., Dec. 20, 2018 to meet with the Philadelphia Phillies. (Jose F. Moreno/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

Is he willing to go higher? Would he have to?

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The only known offer for Machado, which USA Today reported last week, is from the Sox and is said to be closer to $200 million than the $300 million or more Machado and agent Dan Lozano are seeking. That’s a sizable gap. It’s unclear whether any other team or teams are in the hunt. According to Hector Gomez of Z101 Digital, the team that Machado has been most enamored with, the Yankees, is out of the running, and it’s down to the Sox and Phillies. But other reports say the Yankees are still in.

“That would be wonderful for our city and organization,” Jim Thome, a former Sox and Phillie now working as a special assistant to Sox general manager Rick Hahn, when asked about Machado and the Sox. “The boys, Rick and [executive vice president] Kenny [Williams], are working hard. We’re excited. This is a fun time for us. We’re a young organization with bunch of talent and we’re hoping that gets done.”

“We’ll see what happens.”

Until it happens, the shortage of known facts surrounding Machado and Harper will probably continue to make the wait intriguing, mysterious, conflicting and even exasperating to those with their fingers crossed.

Financials aside, give the Sox props for trying to make Machado’s corner of the clubhouse more comfortable by adding Jay. The move addresses a needy outfield that has center fielder Adam Engel, a Gold Glove finalist who produced a soft .235/.279/.336 batting line last season; right field option Daniel Palka, who hit 27 homers as a rookie but had a modest .240/.294/.484 line and struggled defensively; and a swift, capable utility player in Leury Garcia. Top prospect Eloy Jimenez figures to patrol left field when he arrives, probably in late April. Right fielder Avisail Garcia, a 2017 All-Star, was non-tendered in November, although the Sox haven’t ruled out bringing him back.

Jay, who will turn 34 before the season begins, has a .352 lifetime on-base percentage, low strikeout rates and a quality clubhouse presence. But in 84 games after a trade to the Diamondbacks last season, he produced a .235/.304/.325 hitting line, well below his .285/.352/.378 career line.

The offseason additions of Alonso, relievers Alex Colome and Kelvin Herrera, starter Ivan Nova and second catcher James McCann are nice improvements as a whole, but if Machado rejects the Sox, closing the gap between 100 losses and a .500 team becomes a much taller order.

As a fallback, the rebuilding Sox could look at veteran third baseman Mike Moustakas. But if Machado isn’t on board, they might be better off seeing how Yoan Moncada looks at third base while clearing a spot for 2018 first-round draft pick Nick Madrigal at second, with Yolmer Sanchez holding that spot down in the interim.

The better scenario, of course, is Machado throwing the ball across the infield to his brother-in-law at first base.

Stay tuned.