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Inbox: What's the latest on free-agent pursuits?

White Sox beat reporter Scott Merkin answers fans' questions
FILE - In this Dec. 7, 2016, file photo, Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn speaks at a news conference in Oxon Hill, Md. While several teams are debating their plans ahead of Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline, there are no such questions about the direction on the South Side of Chicago. The 46-year-old Hahn, a proud graduate of the University of Michigan and former player agent, is selling everything that makes sense while stockpiling prospects for his rebuilding project. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File) (Cliff Owen/AP)
January 10, 2019

CHICAGO -- Here's this week's White Sox inquiries.What is the realistic possibility that the White Sox sign both Manny Machado AND Bryce Harper? What if the two premier free agents said they would sign with us only if we took them both? -- Bryan, Big Spring, TexasI never really thought

CHICAGO -- Here's this week's White Sox inquiries.
What is the realistic possibility that the White Sox sign both Manny Machado AND Bryce Harper? What if the two premier free agents said they would sign with us only if we took them both?
-- Bryan, Big Spring, Texas

I never really thought both players would end up on the same team, and this is not an NBA sort of situation where players go together to form a super team. With that said, the White Sox are positioned payroll-wise to make significant pushes for Machado and Harper, which they already have, and handle the large amount of money needed to sign both.
Merk, I'll save everyone time: When are we signing Machado? -- @MikeSox56
I know the answer, Mike, but I can't tell you. I'm kidding, of course. Most teams are reporting to camp around Feb. 13-14, so there's still some time for negotiations involving both players. But I'm going to guess Machado will pick a team prior to SoxFest from Jan. 25-27.
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In an effort to convince Machado to sign, will the White Sox hire his dog to check the quality of the grass in center field? -- @JJHantsch
There's no confirmation the Machados even have a dog. First baseman/designated hitter Yonder Alonso (brother-in-law) and outfielder Jonathan Jay (friend) have received a great deal of publicity for their personal connection to Machado, but they both help the White Sox at this stage of the organization's rebuild regardless of Machado's decision.
For the outfielders not already inked into the 2020-22 lineups (presumably Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert), who is the most likely to play as a regular for the Sox: Blake Rutherford, Luis Alexander Basabe, Micker Adolfo, Luis Gonzalez or Steele Walker? -- @junkcycle
This isn't meant to be a cop out, but they all have chances to contribute. I believe Adolfo, at 100 percent, has a chance to be a star. I've felt that way since I first saw him playing during instructional league action a few years ago.
Does Rutherford have a shot at right field in 2019? -- @jrj360guy
Rutherford had a great season in 2018, flashing some extra-base power with 25 doubles, nine triples and seven home runs to go with 78 RBIs at Class A Advanced Winston-Salem. But the White Sox have stuck fervently by the plan not to rush any prospects, including Rutherford, who I don't see being in the Majors in '19.
Have there been any rumblings in another starter? A guy like Giovany Gonzalez or Brett Anderson makes a lot of sense from the outside looking in. -- @dbh1127
If his great progress continues from last year, Dylan Cease will join Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez, Ivan Nova and Lucas Giolito sooner than later in the 2019 rotation. Other pitchers will be added to compete with Manny Banuelos, Dylan Covey and Jordan Stephens for that fifth spot, even if it ends up coming through the non-roster variety.

Would the signing of Machado be a sign that the Sox think they can be a contender in 2019 in the same way that the Bears' signing of Khalil Mack was an indicator that the Bears felt they were ready to contend this past season? -- Sol B., New York
The Bears did go from a stretch of four straight last-place finishes to winning the division, and Mack played a huge role in that transformation. So anything is possible. Let's be realistic in that the White Sox lost 100 games in 2018, so that's quite a jump, and the Twins and Indians still have solid rosters. But that goal of the White Sox being competitive put forth by general manager Rick Hahn at the end of last season receives a serious boost with the addition of Machado or Harper -- or dare I say both.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.