Machado or no Machado, Jon Jay brings plenty to White Sox (but Machado would be nice)


Yes, it's true what you've heard: Jon Jay and Manny Machado are friends. It's also true that Yonder Alonso is Machado's brother-in-law. Together, the three of them make up the "Miami Baseball Brotherhood" the White Sox are hoping they can reunite on the South Side.

This would all seem to be a page out of the book of scandalous college basketball recruiting: signing the brother of the kid you really want, giving jobs to people around one of the highest-rated recruits in the land. It might look like that from the outside — and it's inarguable that by adding Alonso and Jay that the White Sox can offer Machado something his other suitors cannot — but the White Sox insist that's not what they're doing.

"These players are here because of what they bring specifically, both between the lines and in the clubhouse. We feel they make us better in 2019 and have the potential to have a lasting impact on what we are trying to build for the long term," general manager Rick Hahn said Thursday, discussing Alonso and Jay and their relationships with Machado. "Not going to get into the relationships they have with other players throughout the game. It’s certainly a positive, but I would say it’s by no means a reason to make a move to acquire either player."

Now Hahn nor any other member of White Sox brass is going to come out and say, "Oh yeah, we spent X millions of dollars and handed out a pair of roster spots just to convince Manny to sign with us." That's not going to happen, even if it were true.

But there's no doubting that Alonso and Jay do make the White Sox a better team, no doubting that they help fill some of the White Sox offseason needs. Even without Machado, bringing these two players in accomplishes some of the goals Hahn and his front office had when the winter began.

Chiefly, they add a veteran presence in a young-and-getting-younger clubhouse. They are mentors to young players who are going to form the core of this team when it's planned to be a perennial championship contender.

But Jay, specifically, adds even more. He's a high on-base guy who doesn't strike out often, something this lineup needed. He's a defensive upgrade in right field, where the White Sox recently non-tendered Avisail Garcia, and so a position that was slated to have Daniel Palka and his questionable glove starting there now has a Gold Glove finalist starting there. He brings versatility with the ability to play all three outfield spots.

And like Alonso — and Ivan Nova and Kelvin Herrera, for that matter — he brings a veteran presence on and off the field and winning experience that he can impart on younger players.

"His energy, his professionalism, his focus, work ethic have all received very high marks at a number of his stops," Hahn said. "(Manager Rick Renteria) has talked about the culture we want here, the culture we are trying to create in Chicago as well as throughout the minor league system, and having players that reinforce that approach to each and every game and even each and every at-bat.

"It helps move that process along and expand that culture and helps teach young guys what it means to be a big leaguer, and Jon has through multiple stops — and Kelvin, as well — has received high praise for what they’ve done in the clubhouse and their ability to not only set a tone but help mentor young players and indoctrinate them into that culture."

And Jay is all aboard playing that role on the South Side.

"I just try to be a good person every day. I try to help out wherever I can," he said. "I truly care about the game, I truly care about my teammates. I want everyone to do well. I was blessed, came up through St. Louis in a great organization, and we learned there and I learned from a lot of Hall-of-Fame players. I try to pass that down, the things they learned before my time, to players, try to keep that moving."

The 26-year-old Machado, though he's been in the big leagues for seven seasons already, might be the kind of player who could benefit from someone like Jay, who also happens to be a good friend and winter workout buddy. Machado's much-publicized postseason antics made him a baseball villain of sorts. He didn't run out a ground ball, then made things infinitely worse by telling The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal that hustling wasn't his "cup of tea." He interfered with a couple double-play turns and had Milwaukee Brewers players calling him dirty when he dragged his foot across Jesus Aguilar's leg at first base. All this after multiple instances of throwing equipment on the playing field and a spikes-up slide that injured Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

Jay and Alonso have been influences on Machado forever, but they could continue to be positive influences during the season from a few steps away inside the White Sox clubhouse.

But just like brother-in-law Alonso said he wouldn't be doing any kind of recruiting, Jay said he was going to stay out of Machado's decision-making process, that he was here to play for the White Sox, not to play with Machado — even if that would be pretty nice.

"Manny is going to do what is best for him and his family," he said. "We obviously have a great friendship, and Yonder is his brother-in-law and all that. But Manny is going to do what is best for his family. That will be up to them privately. I haven’t been involved in any of that. Those are their matters.

"Let’s see how everything shakes out. We’d obviously love to have a Manny Machado, absolutely, the guy is unbelievable. But that is up to him and his family. Who knows what is going to happen."

The White Sox can offer Machado the chance to team up with two of his great friends. The Philadelphia Phillies can't offer that. The New York Yankees can't offer that. No mystery team can offer that.

There are so many other factors to his decision, that even being able to offer that might not be enough. And so even if Machado is wearing red or navy pinstripes instead of black ones when Opening Day rolls around, the White Sox will be happy they signed Jay and traded for Alonso.

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