Failing to land Manny Machado — or Bryce Harper — would be a double doink for the White Sox

If the idea is to make Manny Machado’s comfort zone so big he won’t think twice about choosing the 100-loss White Sox over the 100-win Yankees, the Sox may as well go for broke.

After acquiring Machado’s brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso, and signing one of his best friends, Jon Jay, the next logical move for general manager Rick Hahn is calling the Cubs’ Theo Epstein about the availability of Machado’s cousin, Albert Almora Jr. And when he runs out of family and friends, perhaps Machado’s personal trainer could use a job on the South Side.

The recruitment of Machado has been the most interesting saga of the White Sox’s offseason, one that could end up with the biggest free-agent splash in franchise history or with a major thud if neither Machado nor Bryce Harper signs on the dotted line.

Coming this far, there’s no turning back for the Sox, who’ve raised expectations so high that entering spring training empty-handed will be a double doink no one wants to see. Alonso and Jay are the lettuce and tomato in the BLT, but Machado is the bacon.

Can the Sox bring home the bacon?

Though Harper is the preferred choice of most Sox fans, Machado has grabbed much of the attention since news of the Sox’s offer to the star infielder.

With a little more than a month before spring training, their slow-motion pursuit of Machado appears to be gaining steam with the signing of Jay, a journeyman outfielder who wouldn’t seem to be a big deal in the Sox rebuild unless he was brought in as an enticement to Machado. Jay agreed to a one-year, $4 million deal, in line for a veteran outfielder about to turn 34 with no power whatsoever.

READ MORE: The White Sox keep hiring Manny Machado's friends and relatives. Weird coincidence? »

Jay is a good guy in the clubhouse and a decent leadoff option, but he’s not exactly an upgrade from Avisail Garcia, who was non-tendered after another injury-marred season. Assuming Eloy Jimenez is called up by May, Jay likely will wind up platooning and serving as a late-game defensive replacement in the corner spots. But if he and Alonso can convince Machado to take the Sox’s offer and reunite the “Miami crew” in Chicago, he’ll be worth the relatively small investment.

The Sox have made incremental moves this winter, waiting on the big boys to make a potentially franchise-altering decision. Machado can be the face of the franchise in Chicago or Philadelphia, or just another superstar in the Yankees clubhouse. Harper can be the straw the stirs the drink in Chicago or Philly, or just another superstar in the Dodgers clubhouse. Or the proverbial “mystery” team can swoop in and make one of them an offer that blows the others away.

On Tuesday the Sox made official the signing of late-inning reliever Kelvin Herrera to a two-year, $18 million deal after acquiring Alex Colome from the Mariners. Herrera, who can close or serve as setup man, will received $8.5 million in 2019 and 2020, while the Sox have a $10 million option for 2021 with a $1 million buyout.

Herrera said the Sox remind him of the rebuilding Royals team he began his career with in 2011, the one that grew together and won a World Series in 2015. The Sox are a long way from making that assessment a reality, but he should help fix what has been a deficiency since David Robertson was dealt back to the Yankees in 2017.

But Herrera, Colome, Alonso, Jay and starter Ivan Nova aren’t enough to make the Sox a contender, even in a subpar division like the AL Central. Even the addition of either Machado or Bryce Harper might not do that in 2019. They’ll need significant improvements from Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito, two prospects from the first big deals of the rebuild. They’ll need fewer strikeouts from the lineup as a whole, and more consistency from Carlos Rodon and Reynaldo Lopez, both of whom were dominant in stretches.

And finally they’ll need strong rookie seasons from top prospect Jimenez and starter Dylan Cease, who should be up by midsummer. They seem like the real deal, but you never know until they’re in the majors.

But for now the real focus is Machado, and whether the friends and family plan will work.

psullivan@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @PWSullivan

White Sox sign outfielder Jon Jay, friend of Manny Machado »

Paul Sullivan: Will White Sox fans get over it if neither Manny Machado nor Bryce Harper comes to the South Side? »

White Sox solidify bullpen by reaching terms with Kelvin Herrera on a 2-year, $18 million deal »

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