It has been a tough week for the Chicago White Sox front office as they have been mired in criticism due to their failure to sign free agent Manny Machado.
General manager Rick Hahn has been front and center in meeting the media and reassuring White Sox fans that the money saved up for Machado will be spent. His words ring hollow not only for the team’s inaction this offseason, but what could transpire for the next few off-seasons.
When Machado signed with the San Diego Padres on Tuesday, many fans believed the team still had a chance at the next biggest free agent available in Bryce Harper. Since Tuesday, both national and local baseball insiders have stated that the White Sox will not pursue Harper and not make him an offer. Lower-tier free agents such as Josh Harrison and Marwin Gonzalez signed contracts with other teams in the last 48 hours.
What is extremely frustrating is the White Sox free agent inactivity while having the second lowest payroll in all of baseball. They currently sit at a payroll of $80 million, with 25 million coming off at the end of this season as first baseman Jose Abreu and pitcher Ivan Nova becoming free agents. If the money is not spent next season on premium free agents next season, the front office could sever any possible positive relations with the fan base.
The biggest concern looking ahead to the next few off-seasons is that this offseason was their best opportunity to land a free agent and get the most return on their investment.
Next season’s two biggest free agents could be Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado and Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale. Arenado is the best defensive third baseman in the league as he has won four consecutive Gold Glove awards. He also has been one of the league’s best sluggers as he has averaged 39 home runs and 125 RBIs.
Sale is regarded as one of the most dominant pitchers in the league finishing in the top five of Cy Young voting the last six seasons and has led the league in strikeouts per nine innings three of the last five years.
The problem of trusting the front office to utilize the money on those two possible free agents is that both will be in their thirties. In Arenado’s situation, there’s a strong possibility the White Sox could be hesitant to offer him a large contract due to his age and fear of his inflated offensive numbers playing in Colorado. In regards to Sale, it is highly unlikely the team even makes an offer due to his negative history with the front office.
Looking towards the 2020-2021 free agent class, there will be multiple MVP and All-star caliber talents available including Mike Trout and Mookie Betts.
Both will command at least $350 million contracts given their age and talent. Trout is the best player in all of baseball and Betts is the reigning American League MVP. Where there were few teams to compete with for free agents this off-season, the opposite will be the case in 20-21. Elite teams will have money available to spend including the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, and New York Mets with their own players entering free agency.
It is highly unlikely that White Sox would want to enter or even have a chance to win a bidding war against any elite spending teams.
It is hard to understand why the White Sox didn’t see the need to match the Padres offer. Both Machado and Harper are 26 years old and will be the youngest free agents to enter available for the next three seasons. Furthermore, there was no competition other than one other team this year. Fans could be hesitant in believing the money will be spent at any point.
For the White Sox fans, it was never when the money got spent, but how as many expected the team to finally sign a premiere talent. There is no excitement generated if three or four mid-tier free agents are signed compared to one big signing. Unless a massive franchise-changing trade or a signing of future free agent is made, it is extremely hard to believe that the front office will spend the money they saved this off-season.