TCS Morning 5: The intrigue of the South Side

1. Mid-January 2016, where minor clarifications on the White Sox seemingly incomprehensible public stance on free agent target are the juiciest rumors over the whole weekend.

Ofman's rumor reporting is always met with surprise when it extends beyond his local focus, primary example being his report that the Dodgers were shopping Yasiel Puig near the end of the 2014 season, but in hindsight he's never doing anything beyond claiming to confirm what a sound assessment of the league would already suggest. "The Cubs were trying to trade Alfonso Soriano in 2011," well yeah of course they were, " the Dodgers thinking about trading Puig really at any time their front office team is awake makes sense. Ofman also said the Cubs wanted to keep Starlin Castro in November, and ah well, this is not the best example.

But that the now repeatedly reported three-year limit for Sox free agent offers could maybe move a year in negotiations, well, sure, of course it could. It barely makes sense as a posturing stance as is. And the Cespedes interest has only been suggested by the dozens of reports connecting the Sox to Cespedes, and the very round number of reports where the Sox are interested in Justin Upton, whose intrigue with the South Side seems to be unrequited.

2. Jim Margalus' comment about the outfield market being a battle of attrition the Sox are waging really strikes true if you scan the league and try to imagine who the actual competitors are. After the Nationals and Giants opted for lower level outfield moves, you could realistically rule out the entire National League save for the Cardinals (The Dodgers breaking their year-long pattern to add yet another outfielder or the D-Backs finding another fortune are pretty fringe). The AL Central save for the Tigers seems impossible at this point, while only the Rangers, Angels, looking feasible out of the AL West. The Orioles are purportedly bidders, while the Blue Jays are negotiating extensions with Bautista and Encarnacion. The Red Sox are permanently moneyed and do seem to have a more aggressive posture with Dombrowski in the fold. There are other teams certainly capable of changing tack and signing Upton or Cespedes, but the field with which the Sox would be competing with for these marquee talents feel unnaturally small.

3. To that end, Bruce Levine lists the Nationals, Rangers, Cubs, Mariners, Indians and White Sox as the only teams with "any kind of fit" for Fowler. Granted, this isn't Levine saying these are the only teams reported to be in negotiations with Fowler, but it's a salient point. Since that piece was written, the Nationals added Ben Revere, and while we don't have to take it as gospel, the consensus was that the Indians and Mariners have already completed their offseasons - the latter making an exception to bring back Iwakuma when he was suddenly available again. 

In many ways, Fowler leaves me lukewarm, but - *cues the studio audience who drone along in unison* - he would be so much better than Avisail.

4. Speaking of the strangely barren free agent landscape, the first hints of a new home for Alexei Ramirez emerged over the week.

San Diego seems like an unnatural fit, but before a third of the league committed to a hard tank, more than the most immediate win-now contenders signed veteran placeholders to preserve appearances on the MLB club. For the Padres, Ramirez could at least provide an opportunity to flip him for a playoff contender who needs a shortstop if he burns hot in the first half like he did in 2014, but that this is the only publicly visible nip on him in mid-January suggests I need to withdraw my earlier objections to the Sox conception of his value.

5. Ken Rosenthal reminds us that several important players' status for 2016 is still up in the air. While Aroldis Chapman and his potential domestic violence suspension have been widely publicized in conjunction with its effect on his trade value of late, Jose Reyes and Yasiel Puig are also facing discipline of some sort.

We have limited information on all of these, but there is at least the hope that Puig's incident was the least ugly of the three. It seems like an extreme long shot, but there used to be speculation about Puig as a trade target for the White Sox. I had assumed this was a non-starter once it looked like Upton and Cespedes were really attainable, but if Cespedes is too expensive and the White Sox refuse to surrender their comp pick, maybe this comes back in the table after Puig's eligibility to play is clarified. 

Also, going to go ahead and speak for everybody and point out that the staff doesn't want domestic abusers on the White Sox.