We've been discussing recently what the White Sox should not bother doing. They should not bother trying to wade into the morass of the free agent catcher market if Tyler Flowers (who naturally followed up Monday night by going 0-3 with 2K) is going to tease at being a league-average hitter. They should not pay up for two starting rotation upgrades if they can get Carlos Rodon to be one of them for the small price of the rookie minimum and the biggest draft bonus in franchise history.
But where should they spend the monies? Obviously.../glances at Tuesday night's box score...somewhere.
1B/DH - This is certainly not my favorite idea. The White Sox are just climbing out from under a deal they offered to an aging, bat-only player to provide instant offensive infusion. This is kind of like stopping for drive-thru right after being released from the hospital for a coronary event. Sure, Adam Dunn couldn't stay productive through his age 31-34 years, but we've got a real good feeling about 36-year-old, post-knee surgery Victor Martinez! Not that the low strikeout rate isn't encouraging, but we've seen better plans than "hope 36-year-old replicates surprise career year" fall apart.
Martinez understandably offers some immediate promise of plus-production, but Mike Morse is coming off a strong year in San Francisco and probably wouldn't command the same bidding war. Billy Butler's death cycle would likely drive his price down if his club option is declined, but it's also likely a real death cycle. Michael Cuddyer has thrived in the spacious territories of Coors Field when he's been healthy, which has become exceedingly rare. If you sign someone who can only do one thing, it's a real bummer if the skill dissipates on arrival.
LF - Dayan's terrible and De Aza's gone. Jared Mitchell and Trayce Thompson are both busts. Marcus Semien has gotten a trial in left, but so far can't make contact against MLB pitching. Moving Micah Johnson to the outfield would require some time. Time to go shopping!
Nelson Cruz would be like signing a DH without realizing it. He's 34 and coming off a shockingly banner campaign on a make-good deal in Baltimore, and siphoning off a portion of his value by blundering around in left field for much of the year. Paying for his recent success has many of the same risks of Martinez. Cruz's game and build would seem to age worse, but he's also a bit younger.
Recently horribly injured Melky Cabrera seems like the best fit available. He proved productive when not dealing with a tumor on his spine, only recently turned 30, and proved himself over 620 plate appearances this past campaign. I offer him my most enthusiastic endorsement, which is fairly stoic and uninspired compared to the average human.
SP - They only need one, and they only probably need them to be a No. 4. This is a good way to enter the free agent starter market, if you must, since "ordering a No. 2 and getting a No. 4" is a frequent result, as if the market were a mismanaged Wendy's.
"Betcha I can get Edinson Volquez to throw strikes," is something I can see Don Cooper saying in meetings, and also during pool games at his local dive, or to his relatives at BBQs. "Betcha I could get Brett Anderson to throw 200 innings," is something Herm Schneider might scrawl near the end of his nightly journal entries.
Brandon McCarthy is hard to resist, even if bringing in a pitcher having renewed success with a cutter kind of feels like ordering drive-thru when there's a pound of ground round in the fridge at home.
Francisco Liriano didn't make many happy memories in his last go-round in the Windy City, but has entered another stretch of having found "it," as eight of his last nine starts have been quality. 32-year-old Ervin Santana has likely pitched his way into an upper tier with his last two seasons, but could be a fine centerpiece to the Sox off-season and provide a lot of insurance in case a member of the Sox core underperforms or is injured.
Of course, so would Max Scherzer. Just sayin'.
RP - This groundballer-emphasis is cagey and smart, but someone capable of a damn strikeout would be nice. Also, the only guys who have actually improved their status for 2015--Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam--fill out the undervalued groundballer quota just fine.
The Sox will be as motivated as ever to commit the cardinal sin of paying for a closer rather than someone who can close, but probably can't outbid the Yankees for David Robertson. Unfortunately with bullpens, after the absolute top tier, there's not much difference between the questionable risks and full-out dumpster diving.
The Tigers can likely afford to pick up Joakim Soria's $7 million option unless he annoys them out of the notion. Sergio Romo and certainly Koji Uehara likely have bouncebacks in them (Koji hasn't even been bad at all), but are highly visible.
From there it's a cadre of half-baked ideas. Sergio Santos probably isn't getting his club option picked up, since he's been DFA'd this year, but he still strikes people out. Luke Hochevar was a great reliever pre-Tommy John and the Royals certainly won't need him. Jesse Crain might be good if he ever pitched again.
Andrew Miller is the best of the lot if the Sox have been properly traumatized by their LOOGY situation this year.
In sum, I would probably rather see the Sox pay to get plus production in a couple of areas--above-average starting, Melky Cabrera--than struggle to find average in a handful of guys, but an organization with shallow depth doesn't always make that easy. It's thrilling and exhilarating to be entering free agency with money to spend, which will soon--with luck--be replaced by the burning, horrid regret of money spent.