White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said reports he couldn’t offer more than a three-year contract for prized free-agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes were not accurate.
Cespedes, viewed by many as the perfect final piece to a Sox offseason that has reeled in Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro, signed with the New York Mets on a three-year, $75-million deal with an opt-out after the first season last week.
“Let me make something real clear: there is absolutely no hard line, dogma limit on contract terms with free agents,” Hahn said before the start of SoxFest Friday. “The reason we didn’t sign any of the players that thus far have signed elsewhere, at the end of the day was not about any contract term limitations. We had numerous conversations with various parameters, various structures, right up until the day or day before these players wound up choosing their ultimate destination.”
Alex Gordon returned to the Kansas City Royals for four years, $75 million and Justin Upton signed with the Detroit Tigers for six years, $132 million. The Upton deal was probably out of the Sox’ range, but they likely lost out on Gordon and Cespedes in large part because of their desire to stay with their current clubs.
Hahn said he likes the Sox roster as is, giving a vote of confidence to 24-year-old right fielder Avisail Garcia – who inexplicably heard a few boos when announced at player introductions Friday — while suggesting the possibility remains strong he will add a player or two before Opening Day. The free-agent market for outfielders and infielders is moving slower than usual this offseason.
“It’s frustrating from the standpoint that we haven’t been able to convert on any targets, but it’s been atypically busy for January,’’ said Hahn, who historically has most of his business done by SoxFest.
“There still is the possibility we are going to have changes before camp or Opening Day,’’ Hahn said.
Switch-hitting free agent Dexter Fowler would inject a good on-base percentage bat into the top of the lineup, but Fowler would cost the Sox a draft pick, likely around the 28th player.
“The draft pick has real value,’’ Hahn said.
“That said, we’ve engaged on players this past offseason that would have cost us the pick.’’
Garcia, as of today, Hahn said, is the Sox right fielder.
“There are specific things he needs to work on and he knows that,’’ Hahn said. “And he has the aptitude to make those adjustments. So we do believe in the talent.’’
All-Star third baseman Todd Frazier, on what the adjustment to the American League will be like in 2016: “I wouldn’t know. I think you need a little more playing time against the other league. But if you’re a hitter, you’re a hitter. They still have to throw strikes and you’ve got to hit the ball. If you can do that, you’ll be fine.”
Frazier hit 35 home runs for the Reds last season.