Chants of "Manny, Manny" rang out from the crowd at the Hilton Chicago shortly after White Sox general manager Rick Hahn was introduced during SoxFest opening ceremonies Friday evening.
That moment came about an hour after a reporter humorously asked Hahn what number Manny Machado will be wearing once he signs — the first question at Hahn's press conference. Much like the last few days, or the last few months for that matter, the free-agent pursuit of Machado remains at the center of the White Sox universe.
Hahn eloquently addressed Machado and Bryce Harper free agency without specifically getting into details. He admitted there would be disappointment if the White Sox didn't get across the finish line on one of the two All-Stars, but he also provided perspective. At the start of the offseason, Chicago was not even thought to be in the picture for either player because of the rebuild that is now entering Year 3.
"At one point, Las Vegas posted the odds of the six or seven most likely clubs to land either one of these guys, and we weren't even listed," Hahn said. "The fact that we are now sitting here in a potential position — or at least in a position where, if we don't convert, people are going to be disappointed — I think is an important step forward for this organization.
"We belong at the table in these negotiations. We belong as part of these negotiations for premium talent, and regardless of what happens over the next several weeks with either of these two players, we plan to continue to be at the table and continue to attempt to convert on these guys. When we started this process a little over two years ago, we made it very clear that we were going to try to accumulate as much premium talent as we possibly could. It was never going to be about one player, and it's not going to be about any singular free agent."
Jose Abreu talked with Machado when he visited Guaranteed Rate Field on the Monday after the Winter Meetings in December, and the first baseman tried to impress upon Machado how great the organization is and how much pride the White Sox take in baseball and in the community. Abreu is not alone in that push to bring Machado to the South Side.