On Wednesday, MLB Trade Rumors published a list of the largest contracts in each MLB team's history. As could probably be assumed, the list was full of face-of-franchise studs- Giancarlo Stanton, Clayton Kershaw, Troy Tulowitzki, Alex Rodriguez (twice!)- as well as a fair share of major albatross contracts- Albert Pujols' Angels deal, Vernon Wells' Blue Jays disaster, and the Twins' extension of Joe Mauer. One thing that stands out is most franchises have by now given out a mega deal, with 22 of 30 teams (including financial lightweights like the Rays and Marlins) having inked a player to a deal of at least $100 million.
A few teams, however, are still yet to give out a deal of that magnitude. Fewer still have yet to give out a contract of even $70 million- only the Athletics, Indians, Diamondbacks, Pirates, Royals, and White Sox have never doled out the kind of money it takes to sign good but flawed players like James Shields, BJ Upton or CJ Wilson in free agency.
Of those teams, the White Sox stand out as quite unique. Despite playing in one of the largest media markets in MLB, the White Sox have never signed a player to a deal larger than Jose Abreu's 6 year, $68 million contract before the 2014 season. To make matters worse, the White Sox are distinguishable from this group in a more dubious way- they are the only team that has failed to make the playoffs since the 2008 season.
Now, this is not to say that the White Sox' problems would have been solved had they broke the bank on a player in the past- signing Josh Hamilton, for example, prior to the 2013 season would have just made that awful team more expensive and marginally less bad. Having said that, as a team that has on multiple occasions proclaimed themselves some variant of "all in" for contention only to fall short, operating a Chicago team like it plays in Oakland or Kansas City really seems to be an organizational failure. Rather than plugging talent voids like mid-to-large market teams on the cusp of contention often do, the White Sox have been content to run out options such as Brent Morel, Gordon Beckham, Tyler Flowers, Conor Gillaspie, and Micah Johnson as everyday players when offseason options along the lines of Adrian Beltre, Chase Headley, and Russell Martin could've been had at rates that should not hamstring a big market team.
The 2015-16 free agent class represents a golden opportunity for the White Sox to reverse this trend of frugality. Arguably the best class in the history of MLB, there are numerous players who could greatly increase the probability of the White Sox ending their playoff drought in the near future. The dream would be Jason Heyward- an elite defender and solid hitter who is only 26 and would wonderfully complement the White Sox young, cheap core- but for those same reasons he will be highly sought after by other organizations. Other options, like Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon, and Ben Zobrist replace a positional black hole with a certain degree of star power, something that will undoubtedly translate to a good amount of wins in the near future.
If the Sox do not expand payroll and add one of the big FA bats, however, I do not have much confidence in their chances in 2016. The White Sox have thin talent outside of the core and cannot really afford to deal from strength to fill weakness with cheap players as doing so will create another weakness that they cannot address internally. If the White Sox are truly comitted to winning in a "3 year window" as Rick Hahn has claimed, they really should be spending money on a major FA. Of course, Jerry Reinsdorf's money is not my money, and I do not know what the White Sox' revenue streams look like. However, it certainly seems to be a tad misleading to proclaim a year like 2015 an attempt at contention when the season opened with a league-median payroll and massive holes at multiple positions on the diamond. Besides, revenues are undisputedly up across the board in MLB and the '15 White Sox had an opening day payroll slightly below that of the 2008 squad. If things do not change this offseason, I fear that 2016 will be more wasting of a talented core by not adding supplemental talent.
Follow The Catbird Seat on Twitter @TheCatbird_Seat and Ethan at @spaldingballs.