Where there's smoke, there's fire? Chasing big free agents all part of White Sox plan

Vinnie Duber
NBC Sports Chicago

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - For all the heat Rick Hahn has taken on Twitter over his comments that "the money will be spent" and "we belong at the table," there the White Sox were as the annual avalanche of hot stove rumors came sliding down the side of Camelback Mountain on Monday in the Arizona desert.

That's not to say that Hahn has suddenly delivered on his promise to reel in a premium free agent to team with the White Sox exciting young core. And the skeptics were as loud as ever after vice president Kenny Williams arrived at the GM meetings and teased a busier than usual offseason ahead for the South Siders.

But the suggestion that the White Sox will end up players for the likes of Anthony Rendon, Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler or others - as was all described in one rumor or another Monday - is hardly crazy. This has long been the goal: to get a seat at the table, to spend the money and most importantly, to convert.

That last part, obviously, is the whole ballgame, and Hahn was the first to say, when Manny Machado opted to spend the next decade in San Diego rather than on the South Side, that it doesn't matter how close the White Sox got. They didn't get the player, and that counted as a loss.

Hahn also said, though, that all this would happen again, that the White Sox would remain aggressive in their pursuit of top talent.

"(Losing out on Machado) does not change the fact that we are going to once again be in this market when the time is right and hopefully, at that time, convert," Hahn said the day Machado picked the Padres over the White Sox.

"The money will be spent. It might not be spent this offseason, but it will be spent at some point. This isn't money sitting around waiting to just accumulate interest. It's money trying to be deployed to put us in best position to win some championships."

Hahn has long said that he's hoping to smash the commonly held belief that the White Sox aren't willing or able to pay top dollar to land a top-of-the-market free agent, admitting at the same time that reputation will stick until the team proves it wrong. The ultimately failed pursuits of Machado and Bryce Harper last winter were not the only opportunities to add that type of player to the rebuilding effort, and the list of the top free agents in baseball right now prove that true.

Rendon plays the same position as Yoan Moncada, but Hahn showed he wasn't shy about pursuing that type of player last winter, chasing Machado while Tim Anderson had shortstop spoken for. Cole and Strasburg are expected to earn record-setting contracts as frontline starting pitchers, and Hahn has stated starting pitching is on his shopping list. Yasmani Grandal would look good behind the plate. Nicholas Castellanos would look good in the middle of the order. Perhaps the trade market, with J.D. Martinez and/or Mookie Betts potentially getting sent out of Boston, holds the key to the White Sox quest for a top-of-the-line player.

"No one should be surprised about seeing us involved with potential impact names," Hahn said during last year's GM meetings. Considering everything he's said since, that holds true today, too.

"We belong at the table in these negotiations, we belong as part of negotiations for premium talent," Hahn said at SoxFest way back in January. "And regardless what happens over the next several weeks with (Machado and Harper), we plan to be at the table and continue to attempt to convert on these guys."

Fans still smarting from the way the Machado saga played out can choose to hold onto their preconceived notions until proven wrong. Hahn knows that will happen. But he's followed through on his plan to build an exciting young core and followed through on his plan to create the financial ability to land big names. The missing piece of the puzzle is reeling in the big fish.

Time will tell if he can do so while fishing in this winter's free-agent pond. But that he's serious about trying? There should be no debate on that. Expect to keep seeing the White Sox as frequent players in the rumor mill this week and as the winter moves along. Expect the White Sox to keep talking about their quest to bring in that caliber of player.

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Where there's smoke, there's fire? Chasing big free agents all part of White Sox plan originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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