TCS Morning 5: At least these rumors are new

1. On the plus side, Cat Garcia's reporting from SoxFest strongly indicates that the Sox are not done addressing their quite incomplete roster. On the downside, it's the second of February and every rumor, even the relatively unappealing ones, are basically a beacon of light.

Ethier is a soon-to-be 34 year-old corner outfielder who is a strict platoon hitter (140 to 74 wRC+ split when he has the platoon advantage compared to when he does not). He's owed $34 million over the next two seasons--which lines up right with the Frazier/Lawrie window!--so the Sox would need to either to sacrifice cash (which they have been allergic to) or talent to pry away a guy the Dodgers should probably keep rather than Carl Crawford.

He would help the team. He tuned up right-handed pitching something fierce in 2015 (.306/.383/.517) and the White Sox should be able to find a home for that level of production. It would not be easy, since Ethier means Avisail Garcia is the right-handed half of the right field platoon, not a platoon at DH. Rather than making Adam Eaton's life in center field easier, or even pushing him out like Dexter Fowler could, Ethier would mean the Sox would be hard-pressed to field an average defender at any outfield position. The bat is a huge value add, but the Sox would lose plenty on the margins trying to accommodate it, and if the flaws they assume on the roster to add offense turn out to be fatal while Spencer Adams becomes a productive No. 3 starter in Los Angeles, we won't be looking on this very fondly.

 But, it's February. The Sox are not flush with obvious options, and it's hard to oppose a move that could add someone who can produce like Ethier at his finest, even if it's inefficient.

2. Good thing the alternative might be in play.

It's hard to know whether Fowler's extremely slow market has depressed it as much as it would seem. Four years is still a fair demand for his services, and he's more interesting to me as a multi-year add to the outfielder crop who defends, runs, and gets-on-base too well to ever be unplayable, rather than someone who has a high ceiling, or one dominant skill like, say, Ethier vs. right-handed pitching.

Fowler has seemed like the sensible resolution here since Cespedes came off the board, but he's also at the level where the Sox could be reasonably capable of pulling in similar talent in a trade without  bumping their payroll into the $135-140 million territory, and who can ever rule out how large of a factor that could be?

3. Carson Fulmer's value is  still pretty open to interpretation, as many see a volatile delivery with plenty of potential to slot him toward a career of relief work. This is likely what kept him off of the Baseball Prospectus' Top 101 list.  

Others like Jim Callis with he's the No. 38 prospect--and certainly partisan team blogs like this one, think the combination of Fulmer plus stuff and the opportunity to have the White Sox pitching coaches stabilize his delivery could not only make his path toward being a starter likely, but pretty quick. 

Scott Merkin reports that Don Cooper has implied that spot starts in Spring Training should be available for Fulmer, and if he doesn't just simply begin in Double-A, it's hard to imagine he wouldn't be there after the first month of the 2016 season.  

4. Since the acquisitions of Brett Lawrie and Todd Frazier signaled a desire to compete in 2016, much of the conversation has surrounded whether / how the White Sox  would address the other issues on their roster.  The DH slot hasn't gotten a ton of press, given that the complexion of DH could change depending on what happens with right field. 

Adam LaRoche has been good as recently as 2014, and his production has fluctuated wildly over the course of his career depending on his health. It's not absurd to think he could contribute in 2016, but every year he marches closer to 40 diminishes those chances significantly.

In fact, ZiPS projects LaRoche to finish 9th on the White Sox in wOBA next year.  Obviously the system has him behind the likes of Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, and Adam Eaton...but it also has him behind Avisail Garcia, Jerry Sands, and Dayan Viciedo.  Woof. 

5.  LaRoche is just one of many reasons why adding a platoon bat doesn't make a lot of sense for the 2016 roster as presently constructed.  As it stands, the four bench slots look to be taken by some combination of Carlos Sanchez, whichever catcher isn't starting, J.B. Shuck, Leury Garcia, and Jerry Sands.  I suppose Shuck becomes expendable if you commit to making Garcia your back-up CF, allowing Sands to pinch hit aggressively against lefties for LaRoche, but things get awkward very quickly if you have both, for example, Ethier and LaRoche on board, as they would necessitate lots of pinch hitting, but also remove a roster spot with which to carry it. 

Moreover, Robin Ventura is not without his positive attributes, but he isn't the first manager I would pick to try to navigate such a clunky roster composition.  At the very least, Sands represents a lefty mashing bat who isn't either the back-up catcher or Mike Olt.