If the White Sox were going to miss out on Manny Machado — and there was never a point where the Sox were a better bet than “the field” — there was only one way to diminish the sting:
Lose out while offering the most.
Wait, wouldn’t that hurt more? Only initially, in that there’s an inherent insult when money isn’t even good enough to get somebody to pick you, but the self-assessment that follows is healthier. The White Sox would’ve done what they could with the resources they had. If those resources weren’t enough, then the next step is to improve the things within their control, then try again.
If the White Sox went all this way with Machado only to stop short, then it would’ve all been for nothing. Not only would they have lost out on a solution for a decades-long problem, but they couldn’t even point to how well they swam in the deep end. Some may say a loss is a loss, but this consolation prize has truth going for it. Fans could blame the White Sox for a lot of things, but not their willingness to put up money. That precedent can be useful under future conditions.
But as details leak in about the deal Machado is finalizing with the Padres … it certainly appears that these three months could’ve been spent more constructively.
The reported size of the contract itself is the pre-winter placeholder for all our discussions because of the convenience of round numbers: 10 years, $300 million. Could you get him for 8 years and $250? Maybe. Would you have to go to 12 years and $350? Who knows? Everything orbited around that initial figure, which is what he apparently has agreed to.
There also doesn’t appear to be any strange backloading or an onerous amount of opt-outs, preventing a team from amassing depth at a position to compensate for a player’s abrupt exit. Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports says there’s just one after the fifth year.
If the Padres went to, say, 10 years and $350 million with an opt out every other season, with no signs of blinking during the raising portion, maybe you fold and live to play another hand.
But if you believe Ken Rosenthal’s account, the White Sox weren’t willing to guarantee market rate.
This is the offer made by a team that has a lot else going for it. “We’re winning now. You help us keep winning, and we’ll all be happy.”
The White Sox are not such a team. They have no special appeal aside from payroll space, some of it cut away by the acquisitions of Machado’s brother-in-law and close friend. The Padres also only had financial flexibility going for them. They leveraged it better than the White Sox did.
Until we hear some details that make San Diego’s offer a lot richer than it initially appears, the White Sox are going to struggle to save face. And they shouldn’t start trying to shifting the blame toward players who haven’t even gotten paid themselves.
When you screw with Eloy Jimenez’s service time to spread out arbitration years and team control windows in order to better accommodate a major investment, there’s at least a winner of the financial zero-sum game when the ink dries. When you don’t call up Jimenez for half a season, further slash the payroll, then do nothing meaningful with that prized flexibility except remind everybody that underpaid players eventually have to get more money, the good faith is damn near impossible to find.