The White Sox arrive at this offseason in the same position they are at every offseason: at an impasse. They have a very good, and very cheaply signed core that says "Find the missing pieces and win now," and a level of organizational depth that says many things, like "Hmmm...what's going on here?" and "Maybe build from the ground up for a while," and "Where are the hitters?"
After making moves to secure payroll flexibility throughout their "rebuild," the Sox opened a lot of eyes by actually using some of it to secure lineup solutions last offseason. It mostly didn't work, but the spirit was there. With the team slightly closer to respectability and a number of big, expensive bats available in free agency, this winter will reveal a lot about whether the Sox are truly going to be aggressive in pursuing playoff contention with this Sale, Abreu, Quintana, Eaton, Rodon unit, or whether they're going to try to catch lightning in a bottle with a median payroll forever.
There are other holes to fill this offseason, like trying to lasso a member of the crop of big-ticket corner outfielders who could replace Avisail, and put Trayce, Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche in some sort of timeshare for COF/DH plate appearances, and maybe there are smart ways to spread the money around everywhere, but I will choose tie up all my emotions in this one bellwether.
Here is a preview of the personal, intimate contempt I will show the Sox for various possible moves.
Signing Jason Heyward for a truly absurd amount of money--$200 million-plus.
Not only have you shelled out an obscene amount of money and taken a crazy risk for the sake of patching our fraught relationship, but you have shown that you have truly embraced change by reaching for an elite, all-around talent at its peak both for performance and price, and outbidding other hungry and competitive organizations (like the Cubs) to get it. I am charmed to pieces by this potentially franchise-paralyzing romantic gesture.
Improbably winning a vicious bidding war for Yoenis Cespedes--$140 million and for enough years that the younger Cuban players on the team will talk about "Watching Yoenis when they were growing up" while Cespedes is still under contract.
You're really going for it! It's invigorating to see you like this. You've never been more alive! Let's be honest, this was not the best decision, but we're not focusing on that! We're not focusing on that. What's important is that you feel confident about it. And hey, maybe it will work! It really could. And if it doesn't, maybe that won't be obvious until 2017. Let's live for today!
Locking in on the third-best target the whole way, signing Justin Upton for ~$120 million and being strangely convinced you got the best player available.
Well, this was a sound purchase. Good value. All the amenities are here. Well done.
It's just that....Oh, nothing. No, this is fine. Great, even. Very satisfied. Yes, you're right, he would work with that rotating DH plan we talked about. This will be good.
Yeah, it is the biggest contract in team history but, ha, maybe don't toot your horn about that too much. What? Nothing. No, you're right, it is a lot of money. Way to go.
Signing Alex Gordon after he declines his player option with the Royals
Oh wow, the Royals are going to be so pissed. Hahaha, that's amazing.
Is...is...that why you did it? Were you thinking about this team's needs at all? Were you thinking about having three left-handed outfielders? Was this really the best way to bolster the offense and fit Trayce in for playing time? A corner outfield defensive specialist? DID YOU EVEN KNOW THAT'S WHAT ALEX GORDON IS GOOD AT?!?! "Hurr Durr the Royals are good, let's take their players," is that about what the offseason plan is?!
No, no, it's fine. He'll probably be consistent and effective for three years and work out better than other free agent signings because good process is never rewarded.
Eagerly snatching up Dexter Fowler after the Cubs let him walk
Is this the first step of some sort of larger plan? Like, a very large plan? Sexter is a good player, and I look forward to tweeting "SEXTER" a lot, but I had hashtags queued up for Jeff Keppinger, too. Man can't live on "Sexter!" tweets alone, or revamp an offense with a career 107 wRC+ outfielder.
However, if putting center fielders at every outfield position, and shortstops at every infield position is the product of self-loathing brought on by the past three years of watching this defense, well, then at least we're finally thinking on the same level in some regard.
So the Cubs just let Fowler walk? Oh, so they could go after Heyward? Hmm, makes you think, doesn't it?
Jumping on the Colby Rasmus bandwagon and giving him a multi-year deal.
Hells yeah! Back to the bad-old days of clocking dingers and waiting until we're circling the bases to think about the other stuff. What a breath of fresh air it will be until you realize we can't go back, you stopped being that team a long time ago, and for the love of God are you just seeking out the least consistent players you can find?
Signing Gerardo Parra to a low-cost, two-year deal
If a clever team did something like this, I would give them some benefit of the doubt. But it's you, so I don't.
You signed someone else who probably can't hit. Maybe you can get a head start on being disappointed that a low-probability outcome didn't come to pass under your watchful guidance.
Saying "we still believe in Avisail" during SoxFest
Nothing? That's what you think this relationship needs? Nothing. Everything just seems fine to you? Seven years without a playoff berth and now you want us to wait around until you're wasting time trying to develop another massive right fielder who can't pull the ball.
After the last game, the Score guys were showing that someone called in to complain about Avisail's jersey not being tucked in and I thought "Good. Good! Let them get pillaged with every stupid complaint this entire populace can muster because they deserve it!"
Banking on a bounceback year from Steve Pearce
You're dumber than a pile of sticks and twice as cheap. I hate you.