The White Sox slashed their payroll in recent seasons as they traded away players such as Chris Sale and Adam Eaton and went about the business of stockpiling prospects. This leaves them in perfect position to grow their payroll now, to make moves like the transaction they executed Friday, when they agreed to take on first baseman Yonder Alonso, a $9 million salary dump of the Cleveland Indians.
Alonso happens to be the brother-in-law of superstar free agent Manny Machado, and both players are represented by agent Dan Lozano. This move will feed industry theory that the White Sox are laying the groundwork for a significant, aggressive strike on either Machado or Bryce Harper, the two most prominent players available.
With Harper, or with Machado, the White Sox would have a centerpiece lineup star to support their young, developing players, including shortstop Tim Anderson and outfielder Eloy Jimenez. With Machado, or with Harper, the White Sox franchise would get a jolt of adrenaline and interest, enough to draw some eyes away from the crosstown Cubs.
But to sign Machado or Harper is probably going to require an extraordinary investment. USA Today reported that the offer the Washington Nationals made to Harper was worth $284 million, when you account for how the deferred money in the proposal would have translated into present-day dollars. The Nationals may still be open to discussing that kind of arrangement with Harper, which is something of a floor in the negotiations executed by agent Scott Boras.
The White Sox really like Harper as a player. They also really like Machado, a player they attempted to trade for before the 2018 season in the hope that a year with the team would help convince him to re-sign with them.
But a well-placed source says the franchise's interest does not go so far that the team would sign either player to a record-setting contract, which is probably what will be required to land them. The interest of the White Sox is more measured and modest than frenzied, and within more conventional financial bounds.
If Harper and Machado shatter the salary ceiling with their next contracts, it probably will be done with teams other than the White Sox.