GLENDALE, Ariz. — After just being jilted by an elite free agent, he sat wondering what it was that made a coveted player chose another team over the one he represents.
Kenny Williams had a dark black White Sox coat and sunglasses, covered in the shade provided by the roof over his golf cart. With microphones and real phones around him, he tried to put on a strong face after one of the biggest disappointments for the team in their current rebuild.
“Well I’m wearing my shades so you guys don’t see the shock in my eyes,” admitted the White Sox executive vice president not long after reports surfaced of Manny Machado’s choice to join the Padres instead of Williams’ team.
He wasn’t alone.
Rick Hahn didn’t envision this when he was talking with the All-Star infielder’s representatives last night when it became apparent that a decision was near.
“Based upon the meeting we had with the agent, which (owner) Jerry (Reinsdorf) attended, knowing the improvement to the proposal we made last night, and knowing the very strong elements, certain elements of that proposal, I went to bed feeling like we put forth a really solid effort, and there was a very real chance of converting,” said the general manager.
Unfortunately for Hahn and his team, the feeling was wrong. Reports surfaced around 10 a.m. — Glendale time — that Machado had taken a 10-year, $300 million offer from the Padres.
“For me, trying and falling short isn’t sufficient, so I’m going to take the next few hours to continue to be pretty pissed off about this,” said Hahn when talking to reporters shortly after.
It was the first major venture into the free agent market since the White Sox started rebuilding in late 2016. Their pursuit of Machado, along with Bryce Harper (who has still yet to sign), is arguably the most aggressive in the Reinsdorf-era of the franchise.
As a four-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove winner, hitting a career-high .297 for the Orioles and Dodgers in 2018, Machado figured to increase the White Sox chances of competing in 2019 for wins instead of just development of young players.
Hence the team, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, offered an eight-year, $250 million guaranteed deal with incentives that could push the deal over $300 million.
Yet it wasn’t good enough. Machado chose San Diego’s offer. A franchise was stung, a fan base is frustrated, and now the White Sox have to move on having finished second in the race for the infielder’s services.
“I think we can quickly move on from it. I think we have to quickly move on from it,” said manager Rick Renteria, who was apart of the White Sox pitch to Machado going back to December. “We wish him the best, but I think our guys are preparing with each other, and everybody that’s in that room is doing what we need to do to put ourselves in a better position as an organization, as a club.”
Right now, that’s what many thought it would be following a 100-loss season in 2018 – the continued development of young players and the call-ups of young stars. Outfielder Eloy Jimenez – the No. 3 prospect in baseball according to MLB.com – will likely be in the majors by mid-April, with others like Dylan Cease perhaps coming up later in the season.
The White Sox farm system is also ranked third in the league by MLB.com, all reasons that Hahn was able to refocus after the frustration of missing on Machado.
“The good news is that tomorrow I get to come back through those doors and I get to look around at what’s in that clubhouse and who’s showing up on the minor league side of mini-camp, and I get to have conversations with our scouts about who we’re looking at in the amateur-wise,” said Hahn. “I can pretty quickly get refocused on the fact that very bright days remain ahead for this organization.”
It’s getting past the shock of the dark ones like Tuesday that can prove difficult.