White Sox Have Money To Spend Big In Free Agency

Owner Jerry Reinsdorf has long been aggressive in free agency.

Bruce Levine
November 06, 2018 - 3:55 pm
White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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CARLSBAD, Calif. (670 The Score) -- When it comes to the White Sox's role in this high-profile free-agent market, never say never. 

Why's that? Because the White Sox have the resolve to add premier talent that fits their rebuilding timeline and they also have the money available to do so, with just $54 million committed in payroll obligations for 2019. 

It's clear the White Sox can afford to add a mega long-term contract in the form of outfielder Bryce Harper or infielder Manny Machado, the two superstars available on the open market. What's unclear is whether Harper or Machado would have interest in joining the rebuilding White Sox.

Don't be surprised to see the White Sox make a serious pursuit of Harper or Machado. With attractive young players already on their big league roster or in the upper levels of the farm system, the White Sox have the foundation for success.

At 82, owner Jerry Reinsdorf is also anxious to get his rebuild in gear and make the White Sox a powerhouse. Reinsdorf has never been afraid to set the free-agent bar high during his tenure as the White Sox's principal owner. While the organization hasn't reeled in the star players in free agency in recent years, they've long been a heavy player on the open market. That has held true throughout Reinsdorf's ownership reign.

After purchasing the team back in 1981, Reinsdorf soon signed catcher Carlton Fisk to a five-year, $2.9-million contract that was one of the biggest of that era. Fisk helped put the White Sox on the map as they won their first division title in 1983.

In late 1996, Reinsdorf signed slugger Albert Belle to a five-year, $55-million contract, the richest in baseball history at the time. Prior to that, Reinsdorf had been frustrated with the restraint that the other White Sox owners were showing after the work stoppage between the players and owners from August 1994 to April 1995. 

More proof that Reinsdorf is willing to spend big came at the Winter Meetings in December 2000, which was a watershed time in free agency. Manny Ramirez signed an eight-year, $160-million deal with the Red Sox. New White Sox general manager Kenny Williams wanted to sign star Alex Rodriguez, and Chicago was prepared to big for him after capturing a division title in 2000 with a young team under favorable contract control.

The Williams-Reinsdorf combo never got a chance to talk to agent Scott Boras, who had Rangers owner Tom Hicks in a bidding war against himself. The result was Rodriguez signing a record-breaking 10-year, $252-million deal with Texas. He didn't get the chance, but Reinsdorf was prepared to go all in at that time.

In 2013, the White Sox signed first baseman Jose Abreu to a six-year, $68-million deal, which set a record for an international free agent.

As noise swirls about a possible White Sox pursuit of Harper and/or Machado, it's worth remembering that Reinsdorf will spend big if his top executives in Williams and Rick Hahn agree that now is the time to sign a signature player. At that point, the question will be whether it makes sense from the perspective of Harper or Machado to join the White Sox.

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