Manny Machado told White Sox he'll play wherever they want, and more info on free-agent meeting from Rick Renteria


Sounds like we can put the "Manny Machado will only play shortstop" talk to bed.

White Sox manager Rick Renteria stopped by Thursday's edition of SportsTalk Live and talked a lot about the team's meeting with Machado during his free-agent tour last month.

One of the juiciest bits from the skipper: "This young man has said that he will play wherever we need him to play to help us win. So I'm not worried about where he's going to play. He knows the makeup of the roster, he knows who we have on the field. I'll just leave it at that and say that this kid wants to be a participant and will do whatever it takes to help a major league ball club win championships."

One of the biggest questions surrounding Machado's fit with the White Sox was what position he would play should he decide to spend the better part of the next decade on the South Side. Machado has long been believed to prefer shortstop, even though he won a pair of Gold Gloves as a third baseman with the Baltimore Orioles. But shortstop is one of the few places on the field the White Sox have a long-term piece at the major league level, with Tim Anderson's defensive improvement there one of the brightest spots of 2018's 100-loss campaign.

Would hundreds of millions of dollars be a convincing enough argument to get Machado to slide back over to third base? Apparently he's willing to do it.

Not only does that make for an easier fit on the South Side in the immediate, it would solve a long-term question at the hot corner. Almost everywhere else on the field, the White Sox can project a young player as owning that spot for the foreseeable future: Eloy Jimenez in left field, Luis Robert in center field, Anderson at shortstop, etc. Third base doesn't have that obvious long-term solution.

It would've been Jake Burger, the White Sox first-round pick in 2017, but he suffered a pair of Achilles tears last year, making his ability to stick at third base an even bigger question than it was already. There has been talk of Moncada potentially moving to third base, in part to make room for Nick Madrigal, last year's first-round pick who has been described as a potential Gold Glove caliber defender at second base.

But if Machado picks the White Sox and is willing to take over at third, well, problem solved.

Renteria discussed other aspects of the team's meeting with Machado, reinforcing that they pitched the 26-year-old superstar on the organization's long-term future. He also said that Jose Abreu played a role, something he revealed to reporters Wednesday but expanded on Thursday.

"Anybody that plays the game knows that players talk among themselves," Renteria said. "They talk about, 'How's the team? What is the coaching staff like? What are your teammates like?' Things of that nature. I think Pito being there put a personal touch to it.

"I'll share a little bit. All three of us were sitting there and they were conversing, and I was in the room as the conversations were going on. It was just a give and take, a little bit of just getting to know each other. And as the conversation continued to evolve, I could see that they were enveloped in conversations and I wanted to give them time to get to know each other. So I left. I left and let them continue to talk.

"I think that that conversation went very, very well, from what I gather. So we'll see how it continues to go."

Interesting. If anything, it's another example of how highly the White Sox regard Abreu, who Renteria described Thursday as someone who "wants to be a lifelong White Sock." Abreu is in the final season of his current contract, presenting questions about what kind of role the White Sox see him playing in their long-term future. His presence and involvement in the pitch to Machado could be an indication that they'd like him to stick around for a long time, too.

And Renteria was also asked about those infamous Johnny Hustle comments that Machado made during the postseason. While never really considered a deal-breaker, there was plenty of curiosity about how Machado, who said hustling wasn't his "cup of tea," would fit with Renteria, a manager who benched players rookie and veteran for failing to run out ground balls, line outs and pop ups during the 2018 season. Renteria stuck by that practice when asked about it during the Winter Meetings, and he said that it was discussed with Machado when the White Sox met with the free agent.

"It was addressed, it was asked about that comment. When you listen to this young man, maybe it was taken out of context or he misspoke. The reality is, when you look at this kid in his eyes, this kid wants to play, he wants to perform, he wants to go out and help a major league ball club," Renteria said. "He knows where I stand, we talked about it at length with everybody that was there.

"He knows I've pulled players, we talked about it. I've pulled players, any number of players, during the season, but not because that's what I want to do. As we move forward, I want to have a conversation as opposed to just yanking a guy, and I want my players to talk to each other. I want my players to talk to the guy who doesn't do something and maybe say, 'Hey listen, White Sox, we don't play that way. We play this way.'"

Again, like the small bit Renteria revealed Wednesday, this was hardly a play-by-play of the meeting. But it was interesting insight, and at the very least, it answered a couple of the biggest questions surrounding how Machado would fit on the South Side.

Machado is still undecided, of course, and it seems unlikely he'll make a shocking entrance at SoxFest on Friday night. Bryce Harper, the other mega free agent out there this winter, has also yet to make up his mind. It's easy to forget sometimes that the White Sox are still pursuing Harper, too, with all the intense focus on Machado.

Does Renteria think either will pick the White Sox? He's hoping at least one of them does, knowing how much better it will make this team in the short and long terms.

"Those are the two young men that are out there right now that everybody is interested in," Renteria said. "I'm saying that anything is possible. I do think the organization, the front office, everybody has done their best to present a united front in terms of who we are as an organization. I told Rick, 'Man, if I was on the other side of the table, I'd have signed.'

"Those two young men have a tremendous decision to make because they're talking about an extended period of time in which they're looking to be a part of an organization. But they also need to want to be a part of an organization. If they want to be a part of the organization, we want them to be here and we welcome them. But there's a lot of hope still left for any number of options."

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