White Sox Stuck at a Crossroads

Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field - credit City of Chicago_Chris McGuireWhen the White Sox traded for Brett Lawrie and Todd Frazier in consecutive weeks last month, perhaps fans like me got accustomed to seeing this team changing their identity so rapidly.

Now, a month later, it seems like waiting for the Sox to improve their outfield is like waiting for paint to dry.

Immediately upon trading for Frazier, the Sox made it evident that they are in “win now” mode, meaning that they are not ready for an organizational rebuild, and will prioritize the Major League club over the growth of the farm system. And the belief about a successful “win now” state of mind is that the organization will do everything it can to patch up the major holes on the big league roster. The Sox patched up two major holes at 2nd and 3rd base by trading for Lawrie and Frazier, but one gaping hole still remains.
According to fangraphs.com, there was no full-time outfielder worse than Avisail Garcia in 2015.

Sure, the kid has a ton of potential. The Sox are hopeful that Garcia will one day be able to hit, .300, knock out 25 HR, drive in 80 runs, and maybe even swipe some bags and become an above average defensive outfielder. Unfortunately, he is none of that at this point in his career. southsidesox.com pegged him as “a guy who swings and misses like a power hitter, drives in runs like a slap hitter, takes chances on the basepaths like a speedster, and covers ground (in right field) like a bat-first guy, and he isn’t any of those things.”

If you watched any regular amount of White Sox baseball last year, you can easily agree that Garcia’s performance couldn’t have been summed up any more accurately than that.

So why put Garcia back out there in 2016? Why trade three of your best prospects to upgrade one position on your roster and then leave another position untouched?

Well, all indications are that the Sox are trying to improve the right field position, but the price might be too high for them. Baseball is a business, just as much as it is a sport; and the price of a top-tier free agent outfielder might be just out of the range of what the Sox are willing to offer.

The “Big 3” (if you will) in terms of free agent outfielders heading into this offseason were Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, and Alex Gordon. Two of those three, Upton and Cespedes, are still unsigned. Right after the Frazier trade was completed, Alex Gordon was thought to be a perfect fit for the Sox. He is thought to be the least expensive of the Big 3, he would have provided the sox with a much-needed lefty bat, and his presence on the South Side would have also meant that the divisional rival Royals would have lost one of their best players.

Gordon ultimately opted to return to the Royals on a four-year deal, supporting the rumor from USA Today MLB Columnist Bob Nightengale that are only willing to offer a three-year deal to any top-tier outfielder. Interestingly enough, however, George Ofman, a reporter for Chicago News Radio 780, stated that the Sox “might go to 4 years on either Cespedes or Upton”.

In my opinion, it makes every bit of sense to give Cespedes or Upton what they want. The Sox have never been a team to spend the big bucks on free agents; but unless they want to waste another year of Chris Sale’s and Jose Abreu’s super powers, they will need to open up their wallet.
Time will tell, Sox fans. Time will tell.