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White Sox thinking big picture with Machado?

MLB.com @philgrogers

CHICAGO -- This is turning into Manny Machado Week around Major League Baseball, and if anyone tells you they know how it's going to end, they're lying.

The Orioles have been besieged with interest (and trade offers) since the Winter Meetings when they let teams know they are considering dealing the 25-year-old, who has been a top-five American League MVP Award finisher in two of the last three seasons. He'll be a free agent at the end of the season, so this is all about 2018 for teams.

CHICAGO -- This is turning into Manny Machado Week around Major League Baseball, and if anyone tells you they know how it's going to end, they're lying.

The Orioles have been besieged with interest (and trade offers) since the Winter Meetings when they let teams know they are considering dealing the 25-year-old, who has been a top-five American League MVP Award finisher in two of the last three seasons. He'll be a free agent at the end of the season, so this is all about 2018 for teams.

Well, most teams.

The White Sox have aggressively pursued Machado since they got a whiff of his availability, which needs some explanation. They aren't scrapping their rebuild just because they're working to outflank the Cardinals, D-backs and Red Sox (among others) to land Machado. They're still thinking about trying to be a consistent winner in 2020 and beyond. But Machado won't turn 30 until '22, so time remains on everyone's side here.

The White Sox have perfectly set themselves up to be a major player in next offseason's free-agent market, as they only have $10 million on the books for 2019 and just $4.5 million committed for '20. They can definitely compete financially for the likes of Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw (if he opts out of his deal) and Machado.

Video: Footer discusses Machado to White Sox rumors

But can they sell themselves with a cold call? Can they convince a player coveted by power teams to entrust his future to a cast of new teammates, including Yoan Moncada, top prospect Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert (No. 3) and Michael Kopech (No. 2).

Historically, the only way to do that is to come in with an offer like Tom Hicks' Rangers made to Alex Rodriguez at the Winter Meetings in 2000 -- one that might have been twice as big as the next closest one.

It's unlikely the White Sox will be doing that next December.

So why not give Machado a chance to see from the inside what they're building and then decide if he wants to stick around for the full ride?

That's the kind of creativity it is going to take for them to add a brand-name superstar to their collection of Futures Game All-Stars. I'm pretty sure that's exactly what general manager Rick Hahn would say if he was going to publicly discuss his interest in Machado, which he probably never will.

The exception would be if he and O's executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette are able to agree on a trade.

These teams make good trade partners, as the White Sox both have players who could help the Orioles compete immediately (especially outfielder Avisail Garcia, who hit .330 last year and is under control two more years) and a collection of young arms that could help now and in the future. Hahn isn't likely to trade his top prospects, like Kopech and Lucas Giolito, but he's accumulated a wealth of promising arms.

That's one of the things Machado would be impressed with if he is in Arizona next spring. The White Sox may have more pitchers who can hit triple digits than any one staff in history.

As a bicultural superstar -- born and raised in Miami, but loyal to his family's history in the Dominican Republic -- Machado would be the perfect centerpiece for a White Sox team loaded with Latin American talent.

Like Jose Abreu (only controlled through 2019), Machado would be a great resource for Moncada, Jimenez and Robert. He'd also provide a new brand name for the team to market as it waits for the young talent to mature -- as well as for Hahn to start importing more proven players.

It would be interesting to see how the White Sox would handle Machado's reported desire to move back to shortstop. I'd guess they'd say fine, even though it means that Tim Anderson would need to move to center field or third base.

That might be the best thing for Anderson, as he received a rating of minus-8 Defensive Runs Saved last season, 17th among 18 shortstops who played at least 1,000 innings. He's better than that but struggled in his first full season after making a positive impression in his 99-game debut in 2016.

It would be fun for everyone to see how Machado looks at short after six seasons as the Orioles' third baseman. He's made just 49 career starts at shortstop but is entering only his age-25 season. There should still be plenty of life in his legs.

With increasing housing options in the South Loop, White Sox players seem to enjoy their experience in Chicago. They'd love for Machado to be able to experience it for himself before listening to their pitch about the next 10 years.

There's some risk here, of course. Machado won't come cheaply from the Orioles, who aren't expected to give any teams a window to try to sign him long term before making a trade. The White Sox can't be sure they'd get back the same kind of return at the Trade Deadline next July if the long-term fit doesn't work out.

Machado could get hurt. He could prove not to be as productive as expected. But it's hard to imagine that, if healthy, he'd not be in demand at midseason. The guy's a stud.

Who wouldn't want him?

The White Sox are willing to work a little harder not just to get him, but also to keep him.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.

 

Chicago White Sox, Manny Machado