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Why today’s comments from Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams are a big deal

To hear them say it, top free agents may not arrive this season, after all ... or ever

Boston Red Sox v Chicago White Sox
Keeping the band together: It isn’t the 1990s anymore, Jerry — do something.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Yeah, so shocking Kenny, a superstar third baseman who is easily a Top 10 baseball player got exactly the contract he was asking for all along. What a novel concept.

Looks like Kenny wanted to keep his press conference going into the twilight hours in Arizona, via mouthpiece Bob. Real realistic vesting options for a third baseman in his mid-30s, White Sox.

Oh yeah, because op-outs are not important at all in the quest to sign superstar free agents.

You are right Brett, the Padres and White Sox sat down on Thanksgiving, the Padres felt like risking it by choosing a little dark meat and a lot of cranberries, and ended up with the most satisfying meal. Meanwhile the three stooges, Ricky, Kenny, and Jerbear got a nice slice of white meat with mashed potatoes and no gravy — nice, conservative, and, of course, tasteless.

The comments made by White Sox top brass should scare fans. Kenny Williams, the hoarder of the spotlight he was supposed to let go years ago, mentioned the Sox were not willing to meet the magical $300 million mark for guaranteed money. Instead, they wanted to lowball a superstar, offer dumb vesting options that probably had no real shot at converting, and did not offer any opt-outs. Oh, but they were super creative, right, Rick? Well, how creative can the team been when the organization doesn’t even believe in opt-outs.

The reason fans should be scared is because these limitations Jerry Reinsdorf put on Rick and Kenny will never attract big time, superstar free agents. Bryce Harper, presumably, will garner more guaranteed money than Machado. Welp, the White Sox are out on him already. However, Rick did say that money that Machado turned down will be spent elsewhere — but is it going to be worth it? Well, let’s look at next year’s free agent crop.

As of now, the top free agents after the 2019 season, in no particular order are: Paul Goldschmidt, Scooter Gennett, Nolan Arenado, J.D. Martinez, Anthony Rendon, Chris Sale, Xander Bogaerts and Gerrit Cole.

With the ($300 million) financial restrictions, the White Sox are out on Arenado and likely out on Anthony Rendon (as probably the most underrated player in baseball). With the idiotic philosophy of not employing opt-outs in contracts, the Sox are out on everybody else, besides maybe Scooter Gennett.

However, it is probably even worse. Does anybody here expect other 2019 free agents like Gennett, Marcell Ozuna, Yasiel Puig, Khris Davis, Madison Bumgarner, Justin Verlander, Josh Donaldson (if he returns as the Top 15 hitter he was) to accept deals without opt-outs. And if Stephen Strasburg opts out, will he accept a deal that does not include opt-outs? Doubtful, especially with a strike looming.

So who are the White Sox left with in free agency next year, now that we know what financial restrictions they’re working with? Well, not much, really.

Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, Nicholas Castellanos, Adam Eaton and Zack Wheeler will be available and could conceivably fit the White Sox financial parameters. Gregorius and Hicks are coming off of career years, but have blossomed late.

As you can see in the home run video chart above, Gregorius sure does love that close right-field fence in Yankee Stadium, as does Aaron Hicks. Castellanos will be entering his age 28 season in 2020 and has been a great hitter as a Detroit Tiger. His gap-to-gap power leads to a lot of doubles in Comerica, and some of those should turn into homers with the Sox. However, how many defensive liabilities can the Sox sustain in the outfield? We all know Adam Eaton, and I for one do not want the main follower of Drake LaRoche back. Meanwhile, Zack Wheeler is finally coming off a healthy season, but he cannot be trusted to be healthy for long, with only one season under his belt with 30 or more starts and an fWAR of 7.9 over four seasons.

OK, 2019 is a bust. Well, what about 2020?

In using the same financial parameters, the White Sox will be out on J.T. Realmuto, Matt Carpenter, Justin Turner, Andrelton Simmons, Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, George Springer, Giancarlo Stanton (if he opts out), Jacob deGrom, Robbie Ray and James Paxton, and they certainly will not give top dollar to relievers like Blake Treinen and Sean Doolittle.

So, who are the Sox looking at in 2020? Mike Zunino, although top dollar for a catcher probably won’t happen if the Sox believe Zack Collins and Seby Zavala are the answer. Starlin Castro? Dear lord, no. Jason Kipnis, Zack Cozart, Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Brantley, Jake Arrieta, and Marcus Stroman? Those players were more name than production in 2018, let alone in 2020.

Realistic options include Joc Pederson, who the White Sox could just trade for now. Jackie Bradley Jr. is a fantastic center fielder, but has yet to find a good bat since his 2015-2016 seasons. Trevor Bauer has said he will only sign one-year contracts, and that does not fit the Sox’s M.O. whatsoever. Maybe they bring back regressing José Quintana, or Kyle Hendrick, who will be throwing mid-80s by that time? Does Yuli Gurriel or Jake Lamb tickle anybody?

The unfortunate thing is, every single player mentioned above is better than every member on the White Sox 2018 roster, even if you add one or two more seasons for some players. The fact that Reinsdorf will not open his checkbook for Machado means most of the players above have no chance of coming to the South Side. The additional fact that opt-outs are not a part of the White Sox’s backwards contractual philosophy is a joke, and likely leads to future free agents flatly ignoring White Sox offers.

If we are to take Hahn’s and Williams’ words at face value, the prospects better work out. Not only for the organization’s sake, but for any invested fan who watched Chris Sale win the World Series with his patented slider.