With the Baltimore Orioles in town for a four-game series, all focus has been on superstar Manny Machado and his soon to be free agency following this season.
Many in Chicago media are in a frenzy with the possibility of the Chicago Cubs either trading for Machado before the trade deadline or signing him in the off-season. The White Sox are rumored to heavily pursue Machado in free agency, and base on their previous history, the team could be legit contenders to sign Machado.
As the White Sox continue with their rebuild, their plan is to build a contending ball club through their farm system and then add to the team with high-quality free agents. Machado is currently their top target and the team has made it apparent as they nearly traded for him this past offseason. Machado is one of the top five best players in the majors as he is both a perennial All-Star and Gold Glover. He also will be entering free agency in his prime as he will only be 26 years old heading into the 2019 season.
The White Sox for some reason have garnered a negative stigma for being a team that will not spend big money to sign free agents. Team owner Jerry Reinsdorf has been viewed negatively by fans during his ownership. A deeper dive into history will actually show that the team has indeed spent big money on free agents, but have chosen wisely on when to spend it.
The first big signing came in 1997 when the White Sox lured away slugger Albert Belle from the rival Cleveland Indians. Belle signed a five-year $55 million deal making him the highest paid player in baseball at the time. The season prior, he had hit 48 home runs, drove in 148 runs, and finished third in MVP voting. Belle’s tenure with the White Sox only lasted two seasons as he had a unique option in which the team declined making him a free agent. The organization made the right choice as Belle would retire from baseball two seasons later due to a hip ailment.
In the winter of 2000, the team made another run at that year’s premier free agent as they strongly pursued the services of former Mariner Alex Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was seen as the game’s best player at the age of 23. By the end of the 2000 season, Rodriguez had already hit 148 home runs. The White Sox were one of six teams rumored to be interested in him but lost out when the Texas Rangers signed Rodriguez to a then-record 10-year, $252 million deal. The deal would handicap the Rangers ability to compete and trade Rodriguez to the New York Yankees following the 2003 season.
In the winter of 2010, left-handed power hitter Adam Dunn was seen as the best free agent slugger available. The team not only signed Dunn to a four year 56 million dollar deal, but also re-signed team captain Paul Konerko to a three year 37 million dollar deal. Dunn had a historically bad 2011 first year in the American League, but bounce back to hit 44 home runs and drive in 96 RBIs.
One of the more recent and more shocking signing the White Sox have made was the signing of first baseman Jose Abreu in the winter of 2013. The team signed Abreu to a six-year, $68 million deal outbidding the Boston Red Sox and beating out the Houston Astros who offered Abreu $70 million. The Astros viewed Abreu as a possible cornerstone to their rebuild that came to fruition in 2017 with a World Series Title. The signing paid off for the White Sox as Abreu currently is apart of an exclusive club with Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio of players to begin their career with four seasons of 25 home run and 100 RBIs.
The recurring theme with the big contracts to these free agents is that they have been proven themselves to be reliable sluggers. Abreu, Dunn, Konerko, and Belle all hit 30 or more home runs during their contracts with the team. Rodriguez went on to have a historic career with both the Rangers and Yankees. The key is not to give contracts that handicap the team’s payroll to just one player who may not live up their end of the contract.
Machado fits the mold of the players the White Sox have targeted before as he has recorded three straight 30 or more homer seasons. The added benefit for spending the big money for Machado is that it will sell tickets and give the team a national superstar which will attract more attention to their rebuilding team. When it comes to spending money, the White Sox have shown that if there is a free agent they like, the cost will be no issue for the team.