The White Sox acquisition of All-Star first baseman Yonder Alonso from Cleveland is all about luring Manny Machado to the South Side.
The Chicago White Sox added one All-Star on Saturday, but their focus is still squarely on another who happens to have a family connection to their newest player.
The White Sox acquired first baseman Yonder Alonso in a trade with the Cleveland Indians, in exchange for Minor League outfielder Alex Call. The 31-year-old Alonso hit .250 with the Indians last year, with 23 home runs and 83 RBI.
That doesn’t mean the White Sox are done shopping for this offseason. Alonso happens to be the brother-in-law of prized free agent shortstop/third baseman Manny Machado, who’s married to Alonso’s sister, Yainee. Chicago GM Rick Hahn was busy during the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas last week pitching both Machado and Bryce Harper on the possibility of joining the White Sox.
Convincing either of those two to join a team that lost 100 games last year and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2008 is going to be a challenge, and Hahn could use all the help he can get. That’s what makes the trade for Alonso important. If Alonso can persuade his brother-in-law to join him on the South Side, Hahn’s job would be a lot easier.
It’s a job that Hahn brought him to Chicago to perform. Chicago already has their own All-Star first baseman in Jose Abreu, who becomes a free agent after next season.
Hahn says the fact that no deal emerged with either of the top two free agents during the Winter Meetings is no surprise.
“The pace of these things is a bit of a balancing act,” he said while preparing to head home from Las Vegas. “We’ve seen extremely high-profile deals happen as late as February and March in recent years. We’ve had high impact deals happen here. Obviously, that wasn’t the case this week…but doesn’t mean something can’t come together in the coming weeks.”
Chicago emerged as a surprise contender in the Harper and Machado sweepstakes at the Winter Meetings. They’re a team that can afford it, however. The White Sox only have $35 million in payroll locked in for the coming season. Alonso will make $8 million in 2019, with a $9 million team option for 2020 that becomes guaranteed if he makes 550 plate appearances.
Their AL Central rivals in Cleveland seem to be going in the opposite direction. Cleveland has already parted ways with Alonso, All-Star catcher Yan Gomes and Edwin Encarnacion this offseason, and are rumored to be shopping starters Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. Cleveland has won the division the last three seasons, but if they go through a rebuilding phase, Chicago’s rebuild could be expedited with Harper and/or Machado.
It’s a possibility Hahn and the White Sox are excited about. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf is 82, and would love to see the team competing before long. The fact that they’re in the discussion for Machado and Harper is a sign of the changing priorities of the team. Hahn, now with the resources to chase top talent, is ready to accept that responsibility.
“We’re excited to be discussing impactful moves for the long-term,” he said. “It’s been a tough couple of years on everyone associated with the White Sox. It’s good to have a seat at the table on some large, impactful moves.”
The next step in that process: turning the White Sox into a family reunion.