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One week ago, infielder Manny Machado and the Padres agreed on a 10-year, $300 million contract. Thus ended months of pursuit from other teams, including the White Sox and Phillies. The offer the White Sox reportedly made to Machado was for $250 million over eight years, though it had vesting options and incentives that could have brought the total to $350 million.
White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s net worth is $1.6 billion and the White Sox franchise itself is worth $1.5 billion, according to Forbes. Executive vice president Ken Williams doesn’t want to hear anything about the club being cheap, however. He said, per Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times, “It’s a shame if it’s being portrayed that we were on the cheap on this thing. That’s really interesting because, holy s—, that’s a quarter of a billion dollars we offered with a chance to be higher than what he’s getting.”
The White Sox were virtually nonexistent in negotiations with Bryce Harper, who signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies on Thursday. The club could have had either player — or both — if it truly wanted to, but Williams said, “Harper [was] well out of our range. With Machado we extended ourselves as far as we could without jeopardizing what we’re going to need to do in the future.” Williams added about Machado, “People are lost on the fact that on a yearly basis our offer was more than San Diego’s. The average annual value was 31 [million] and change. So it was about years guaranteed.”
As the Phillies recognized, rebuilding teams don’t just pray that they develop a Machado or Harper of their own; those teams also go out there and acquire them via trade or sign them as free agents. Allocating $30 million or so annually for 10 years wouldn’t be “jeopardizing what we’re going to need to do in the future” because Machado and Harper are the future. They’re both 26 years old. And unless Mike Trout or Mookie Betts actually reach free agency — they almost certainly won’t — the White Sox won’t have the opportunity to add a generational talent like Harper and Machado for a long, long time. To willfully limit oneself in the pursuit of these stars is indeed to be cheap. According to Cot’s Contracts, the White Sox are currently rolling with an $84 million 25-man roster payroll. They could have signed four Manny Machados at $30 million per year and they still would not have brushed up against the $206 competitive balance tax threshold.