The math is starting to add up for the White Sox to spend some serious money this offseason and (perhaps?) show the world with at least one blockbuster signing. Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports cited a source in his league update on Friday saying the White Sox are poised to make a splash in a big way.
— Matt Enuco (@Matt_Enuco) December 8, 2018
Bryce Harper has been the object of desire for the Sox this winter with stories of Jim Thome being dispatched to Vegas on their behalf, leaked photos of the Harper’s name on a ribbon screen at the United Center and constantly vacillating odds for the Sox to land Harper hitting the airwaves out of Vegas, ironically. Depending on the day and who you ask, the teams in on Harper dodge in and out of view. The Washington Nationals have declared they are out of the Harper-sweepstakes after signing Patrick Corbin last week, and the Yankees (whom you can never count out) have feigned interest in signing the slugger. But the two teams consistently linked to Harper are the White Sox and Phillies.
The only issue for the White Sox is that the Phillies have “stupid” money to spend, but would Harper be interested in Philly? Heyman writes that,
Bryce Harper is believed to be their top target. But one Harper confidant says he believes Harper is “lukewarm on Philly, as a city, anyway.” That’s easy to believe as Philly doesn’t overwhelm visiting players. It is beloved by players who play there a long time (i.e. Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins) but it is something short of glitzy. So if you come in nine games a year it isn’t going to wow many …
Philly has a strange gravitas that once you’re inside its orbit it tends to yank you in and never let you go. Even though Harper has played in the NL East the past six years and visited Philly numerous times, it is a city that opens up once you live within its boundaries. Another way of sweetening the deal for the Phillies is pitching him on a place that is only a few hours north of D.C. and the possibility of Mike Trout returning home to Philly/South Jersey in the next two years.
What do the White Sox have? Money and a top-three media market with a historic deal on the horizon. The Phillies have the media deal in hand with the cash to spend now, while the White Sox must count on negotiating a deal after they sign one of the two big free agents available this offseason. It’s not really a question of whether the Sox will rake in the media-money, but how much.
Both teams are young and closing in on their competitive window. The Phillies should have won the division last season, and their offense was virtually absent the entire season. They traded Carlos Santana, their big free-agent move last offseason, last week for Jean Segura, shedding $20 million of the $35 million they owed Santana from the payroll. Even though there is no salary cap in Major League Baseball, the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) that kicks in on payrolls a shade over $200 million has the same effect. The Phillies are lightyears away from reaching this threshold.
But so are the White Sox. The Sox and the Phillies had the two of the lowest payrolls last season, and with money of little concern to either club it seems we’re in for a bidding war. The White Sox check the same boxes as the Phillies in terms of a young core with a bright future ahead. The Sox have the glitzy prospects, but the Phillies young players that have pushed their way into the limelight and already witnessed success. And what if there is an element of sticking it to the Nationals in the NL East? Harper strikes me as having that competitive bone.
Winter Meetings start Sunday in Las Vegas and the rumors will begin flying early. There is going to be a lot of media manipulation given the high stakes of signing a player out of this historic free-agent class. But the good news is that the White Sox are in the mix.