MLB Notes: Sox 'Serious' About Harper, Machado

The White Sox will be active in pursuing those who fit their timeline.

Bruce Levine
November 13, 2018 - 7:27 pm
Bryce Harper

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

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(670 The Score) The GM Meetings have concluded, but there was plenty of news coming out of the gathering, and the pace of MLB free agency is expected to pick up soon enough. Here are some notes and observations from around the league.

White Sox ready to pounce

While outsiders often roll their eyes at lower-profile teams pursuing big names in free agency, the White Sox are genuine and focused in their desire to add a high-profile star like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.

"The White Sox are serious about going after any big-time free agent who fits into the framework of their rebuild," an industry source said. "That video (welcoming Bryce Harper) that was on United Center LED board last week was no mistake. Chicago has some of the best young players in the game coming through their system. They will not sit back and hope they can win with homegrown talent only."

Tick tock

The pace of play will be a hot topic at the MLB owners' meetings this week. Cutting more time off games and pushing the pace of play is important to commissioner Rob Manfred.

"Our game time was down four-and-a-half minutes," MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem said last week. "This was largely attributed to the changes we made last year by shorting the inning break and mound visit rule. Games were about three hours (3:01:30). So it is going in the right direction."

Casting a vote for Maddon

The Braves' Brian Snitker won the National League Manager of the Year award, garnering 17 of the 30 first-place votes. I had a ballot and voted for the Cubs' Joe Maddon in first place, followed by the Brewers' Craig Counsell and Snitker in that order. I was the only one who voted for Maddon.

While Snitker led the Braves to the NL East title and Counsell was outstanding in handling his club and directing them within one win of the World Series, my take was that Maddon was a central figure in leading the beleaguered Cubs to 95 wins despite receiving next to nothing from free-agent additions Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood, who represented two-fifths of the team's rotation on Opening Day. The Cubs also lost closer Brandon Morrow for the second half of the season and watched as star third baseman Kris Bryant missed 60 games and had his power zapped by a shoulder injury. The Cubs front office made some key in-season moves in adding left-hander Cole Hamels and second baseman Daniel Murphy. After that, Maddon used those players seamlessly and did what I believe was his best job in his four seasons in Chicago.

Clubs taking control of content

MLB Advanced Media has turned the online product of MLB from a $1-billion industry annually to $13-billion industry annually in the past decade.

MLB.com was never supposed to control all of the content that the 30 teams put out. The product grew under MLB Advanced Media guru Bob Bowman like crazy.

Nowadays, most of the clubs have hired large departments with many youngsters to handle the video and commercial aspects of the brand for in-house production. The plan is that the New York-based MLB.com office will still help run the writers who cover the teams and hand off most everything else to the 30 clubs.

"It was always going to be this way," a top MLB official said. "This just took longer to get to the individual teams because of the great success we have a had with the At Bat app. We all have made a ton of money from this site, and our franchises have doubled and tripled in value over the past 10 years."

MLB.com is downsizing its personnel base, as evidenced when more than 100 workers were let go last fall. That downsizing has continued recently and included the exits of Cubs beat writer Carrie Muskat and Rays beat writer Bill Chastain. Both did quality work.

Streaming windfall lines the pockets of MLB clubs

The Walt Disney Company owns more than 70 percent of MLB streaming rights going forward through its stake in BAMTech, a source said. BAMTech is a subsidiary of MLB Advanced Media that oversees the streaming technology and distribution. MLB will retain a small percentage of this joint venture.

For the right to that content, Disney paid each MLB club $68 million over the past two offseasons. Disney is recouping that money in the form of your viewing habits on your iPhone, iPad, computer, etc. Disney controls such video content and the streaming marketplace.

"They will do well on their direct-to-consumer approach," an official said.

The Cubs and MLB franchises of their stature are now worth almost $3 billion, that source estimated. The Cubs were purchased by the Rickets family for $845 million in 2009.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.​