Don’t stop now, boys: White Sox need to add outfielder
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The White Sox are in the mix, perhaps at the forefront even, for a big-name free-agent outfielder.
As well they should be.
It wouldn’t make sense to add significantly to the lineup as they have with Todd Frazier at third base, Brett Lawrie at second base and Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro at catcher and stop there, would it?
Plug in Yoenis Cespedes or Alex Gordon in right or left field, and now you have a lineup that will make opposing pitchers wince just a little.
The Sox thought they did something similar last winter when they won the offseason only to lose 86 games during the regular season. The prevailing wisdom was that chairman Jerry Reinsdorf wouldn’t open his wallet again and get burned back-to-back years, but the Sox almost always kind of go for it. And with the Cubs sweeping the city away, this is no time to go halfway and settle for a “pretty good” offseason. Not with a solid core of Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, Jose Quintana, Adam Eaton, David Robertson, Carlos Rodon and Frazier to build around.
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When outfielder Jason Heyward signed a $184 million deal with the Cubs, it was assumed Cespedes, Gordon, Justin Upton and Dexter Fowler would follow in a wave of free-agent outfielder signings. The fact that most of the free-agent outfielders remain unsigned could mean their prices have dropped somewhat and could fall in line with what the Sox, whose payroll sits at around $115 million now (they shed Adam LaRoche’s $13 million and John Danks’ $15.75 million after 2016), are willing to part with.
The surprisingly slow-developing outfield market has added intrigue for the Sox, who said they weren’t done adding after Frazier was acquired from the Reds in a trade, though general manager Rick Hahn said it could take some financial creativity.
One national report has the Sox and Orioles as the front-runners for Cespedes, who, because he was traded from the Tigers to the Mets last July, won’t cost the Sox a draft pick (their No. 10 overall pick is protected). Signing Gordon, Upton or Fowler, among others, would cost the Sox the 28th pick in the draft, which they received as compensation when the Giants signed Jeff Samardzija.
There is a lot to like about Cespedes, 30, who averaged 27 homers and 92 RBI over his first four seasons since defecting from Cuba. While best suited for left field, Cespedes has played 110 games in center but hasn’t played right in the majors. He is an above-average defender and plays with a high energy level and a competitiveness that make him a fan favorite.
Gordon, arguably the best defensive left fielder in baseball, has played only three games in right. He strikes out less and walks more than Cespedes and Upton but hits fewer homers and, at 32, would be a bigger risk for a long-term deal. He says he’s not closing the door on returning to the Royals, for whom he has played his entire career.
Upton, 28, hasn’t been linked to the Sox as much as Cespedes or Gordon. He has averaged 27 homers and 84 RBI over the last three seasons and, like Gordon, is a three-time All-Star.
Any big-ticket addition could mean a trade involving right fielder Avisail Garcia, 24, who batted .257 with 13 homers and 59 RBI while striking out 141 times and walking 36 times in his first full season. It might also mean moving Melky Cabrera from left field to right and giving him more at-bats at designated hitter. There are moving parts to any scenario, but the Sox showed early on their desire to improve a lackluster offense when they non-tendered catcher Tyler Flowers.
They still have one more bold move to make.