1. Bask for a moment in this rare attention being paid to the White Sox activity in the free agent market.
It's not done yet, and they seem curiously abandoned the pursuit of the best option, but by all reports the White Sox have at least recognized their moment of opportunity, deftly identified their flaws, traded brilliantly to shore up holes in their roster while holding onto their top prospects and navigating within ownership's payroll restrictions, and are steps away from expanding their payroll beyond previous limits to secure a top four option in an incredibly strong market for corner outfield help.
So far all the shining moments of deep faith in the capability of this Rick Hahn-led front office have taken place while there are not any actual games being played, and even if they sign a big money right fielder, there are quibbles about the way they have assessed the shortstop position and doubts at the end of the rotation, but Hahn is very close to achieving the aggressive and competent offseason I did not dare believe was possible. This is a good feeling.
2. So, Cespedes or Gordon? Gordon has the higher floor for the next two year. He's nearly guaranteed elite defense in left field for next season, has been 122 wRC+ or better four out of the last five years, gets on base as well as anyone in the current lineup, is left-handed, and might be a better bet than Cespedes for the next two years, which is what will really matter given that's how long the window with Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie is.
However, the Sox outfield situation is not awaiting some quickly-arriving influx of talent. They might very well need Cespedes for the next six years to plug a spot in the outfield, and he has both a higher offensive ceiling going forward than Gordon's mid-30s offer, and versatility to cover centerfield in a pinch, which could allow the Sox to more easily keep Avisail Garcia on the roster if need be. While he struggles to maintain a league-average on-base percentage, Cespedes is unfairly maligned as strikeout prone, and maintains a pretty much identical career mark to Gordon (20.8%).
To some degree, he just seems like the most high-value target and it would be nice to see the Sox be aggressive, and shading younger is never a bad way to go in free agency. Cespedes is also a former teammate of Jose Abreu and they have a positive relationship. And yeah, there's also that draft pick.
Justin Upton still seems like the best option on the market, but it would be hard to spit at the logic or the spirit behind signing Cespedes or Gordon and the good things it would portend for the immediate future of White Sox baseball.
3. After all, reiterating again, this is coming at a unique moment of opportunity for the Sox. As Mike Petriello of MLB.com wrote Tuesday, the Sox late-season swoon in 2015 dragged a team that was a few patches from being decent into protected pick territory.
This is not to say that free agency is a great option, or that the Sox are going to get their money's worth in free agency. I certainly wouldn't bet on Yoenis Cespedes holding up over the second half of whatever contract he signs with whatever team. But you don't get surplus value at every roster slot. The whole point of getting production on below-market deals--like the Sox have all across their rotation, and with Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton--is to enable what parts of the roster will inevitably require an overpay and over-commitment to fix. The Sox have repeatedly and a catastrophically failed to develop an impact bat to fill corner outfield and will have to pay for it. It won't look pretty financially, but it happens. Learn to enjoy it.
4. None of these rumors seem to be brewing very good things for Avisail Garcia. At best he is at risk of being pushed into some sort of sickly DH platoon with Adam LaRoche, where he might even wind up being the superior of the pair (Bad player in his physical prime > Formerly good player who is now needs to retire). At worst--or maybe still best for him--he's on his way to getting run out of town.
As many have pointed out, this isn't the fairest thing for Avisail, who really only had 2015 to play a full year in the majors, and was always projected as someone with a raw approach that would need work to put it together. This is true, and really where the tragedy of his 2014 injury comes to play. Garcia was set to have two years of playing time on a bad team where starts and stops, or simple lack of progress would not be heavily scrutinized. Now, the team has simply advanced beyond being able to bet a starting spot on him figuring out ow to produce.
The Sox haven't totally exhausted the possibility that Garcia can play, and a rebuilding team would be wise to pick him up as a post-hype option and give him an opportunity, but not every prospect is owed unlimited plate appearances until all hopes of their potential are extinguished, despite what Dayan Viciedo and Gordon Beckham might lead you to believe.
5. In the name of premature greed, Tom Fornelli was speculating about the Sox need for another veteran at the back of the rotation to guard against flops from John Danks or Erik Johnson, who was unimpressive in every respect but results in his MLB audition in 2015. Danks has 40-grade stuff and a shoulder that's been supposedly prime for reinjury at any time, and Johnson's 92 mph velocity returning isn't as encouraging if its serving as his outpitch too. They could both have fairly bad years if things break wrong. They're also at the end of the rotation and behind three studs.
As firm as my belief is that owners should incur more financial risk for their vanity projects, I have no illusions on anything significant being left in the cupboard for rotation help if a big-time outfielder is signed, and the latter is assuredly the bigger priority. The Sox will likely be dumpster-diving for Don Cooper reclamation projects if they're doing anything in this regard, and as flimsy as the idea of him ever contributing seems, Jacob Turner might already be part of that. Speculating on some of the names available like Mat Latos, seems baseless without knowing who matches up well with Cooper's rigid approach.