Transactions have trickled in slowly since the close of the Winter Meetings, but there have been a few non-White Sox transactions (or very-close-to-transactions) this morning.
1. The Cardinals have evidently reached a 5-year, $80 million deal with Mike Leake. The deal makes sense, given the hits that St. Louis' rotation has taken over the last few months. Even evil wizards like the Cardinals have to consider how to replace ~400 quality innings that go poof when John Lackey signs with a division rival and Lance Lynn needs Tommy John surgery.
This is yet another reminder as to just how much money the White Sox save by generating their pitching internally. Leake has always been a strange pitcher: skipping the minors entirely, and consistently outpitching his peripherals. He doesn't have much margin for error, but then again he is younger than most free agent starting pitchers, and he's a very good athlete. I was prepared to pan pretty much any deal he reached, but since the Cardinals signed him I assume he will pitch to a ~3.40 ERA at 180 innings per year for the length of the contract.
It also makes the John Danks deal look slightly less bad, as he is now a mediocre innings eater. He's not as good (or as young or healthy as Leake) but this contract puts Danks into perspective. He and Johnson should be fine as a 4-5 for a team situated as the White Sox presently are, or rather, they don't qualify as big enough problems worth addressing given the other issues they face.
It's also interesting seeing the Cardinals prioritize health/durability over effectiveness, as Scott Kazmir is still out there. Given the composition of their pitching staff I totally get it, but it is also a contrast to the Dodgers' strategy of stockpiling the effective-yet-brittle arms of the world.
2. Old friend Alejandro de Aza is rumored to be close to a deal with the Mets. Leave it to the Wilpons to spoil the goodwill of a serendipitous World Series push with otherworldly young pitching, but here we are. de Aza is a fine player, as he hits the more valuable side of the platoon, plays plus defense in corners and can cover center in a pinch. But for a fanbase that fell in love with Yoenis Cespedes, this is a poor substitute.
I suppose the Mets can still succeed by patching holes with depth and competence, something de Aza can do, but this feels like a missed opportunity unfolding in slow motion.
EDIT: As this was drafted, it looks like Heyman confirmed a 1-year deal here.
3. Heyward signed with the Cubs weeks ago, and yet we don't seem to be any closer to the next free agent outfielders in line signing anywhere. The quiet, weak and pathetic optimist in me is starting to wonder if the White Sox identified there wasn't as much helium in the OF market as originally thought. After all, despite Greinke and Price securing massive deals, Cueto had to settle for much less. It could be that there is less money for Upton and Cespedes out there (particularly with a team like the Mets artificially poverty-stricken and the Royals, recently linked to Gerardo Parra as a Gordon replacement, seemingly opting out of spending on such luxury goods) and the White Sox were biding their time for the free agents to concede as much.
We have a few more pieces of evidence that Rick Hahn is Really, Really Good despite his constraints. Maybe I should be more optimistic. Probably not, but Cespedes, Upton, and Gordon are all still out there, the Giants may have spent their budget, and other teams with outfield needs (KC, NYM, STL, potentially Baltimore and see below) have evidently quit on the bidding.
Gordon is a step down from the Justin Upton/Yoenis Cespedes tier, and if they're willing to pay his price and give up the draft pick to get him, it's worth wondering why they won't go the extra mile for one of the other two. But it still offers the potential of the Sox getting a huge upgrade over Avisail Garcia and launching themselves as true division title contender.
4. Evidently the Reds were trying really, really hard to get a better return than they did for Todd Frazier. While they were attempting to pry Tim Anderson away from the White Sox, they were also trying to build something around Danny Salazar from Cleveland. Granted, Cody Allen is a strange fallback piece, perhaps attempting to fill Chapman's shoes should someone decide to trade for him after all.
For all that I liked Montas and Trayce a lot, Danny Salazar is a lot more valuable than either at this point. Also in the linked piece from Terry Pluto, once the Indians turned to Plans B and C in the forms of Rajai Davis and Mike Napoli, Cleveland has likely exhausted their resources. If that is the state of their budget (and jeez, look at their roster), that is yet another team that entered the offseason as possible bidders, albeit an unlikely one, for the big outfielders that is bowing out.
The Indians are an interesting juxtaposition for the White Sox in their misery. Unlike Chicago, they have fielded numerous playoff teams in my lifetime, without ever winning a championship. The White Sox have '05 and pretty much nothing else other than Frank Thomas. Both are extremely frustrating. I don't know which is harder on their fanbase.
5. The Rockies have matched the White Sox in extending a very talented reliever coming off of some serious health issues by re-upping with Adam Ottavino. Just because the Rockies did something similar doesn't change the fact that the Nate Jones extension was almost certainly A Good Idea.
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