TCS Morning 7: Possibly, maybe Ian Desmond, probably not

1. As we enter Year 36 of the 2015-16 MLB offseason, and as the White Sox draw ever closer to beginning Spring Training with three--a third of the lineup!--regular members of the potential Opening Day lineup coming off seasons with a .675 OPS or lower, we began to see some testing of whether Sox fans can talk themselves into any potential improvement.

Ian Desmond is a better player than Tyler Saladino, and it sure would be nice to see the Sox improve the team in any way that is available to them. In a recent previous life he was a competent fielder at short with a plus power bat that made his offense above-average, and that's an instant impact player. Plus, he would help keep Tim Anderson from getting rushed to the majors in 2016. Tim Anderson should not get rushed to the majors in 2016, and it seems like they're really considering not letting him.

However I would want no part of having to go back in time to the beginning of the offseason and having to explain that the Sox were going to punt their team option for Alexei Ramirez, watch him sign elsewhere, and then using that savings to kick more money and a draft pick for a different shortstop entering his 30s with his own downward spiraling bat. For an offseason perhaps overstuffed with deep pondering on whether potential improvements are worth the investment, Ian Desmond is an odd target for which to suddenly spring into action.

That's not how decisions are made. All those superior options we dreamed on are gone and the Sox are where they are, and on the off-chance that Desmond wouldn't be their final major move, there's no need to go through these gymnastics for clear upgrade that's part of a larger push to compete. If it is the final move, then it seems like an overly steep bet on Desmond's bat making a recovery.

I'd probably take another outfielder, to be honest.

2. Speaking of "another outfielder," beyond Dexter Fowler's production looking more sustainable going forward than Desmond's, it's worth referring to that 'three black holes' note again. Saladino has the potential floor of a dreadfully awful hitter with merely average defense. Avisail has the potential for bad offense and some of the worst outfield defense and baserunning in the league, and Adam LaRoche has the potential to be an unplayably bad hitter at an offense-only position.

The worst-case scenario for Saladino is the most tenable situation and it's the only one Desmond can address. By contrast, Fowler would provide assured stability if one of the Garcia or LaRoche situations bottoms out, and would allow them to shift Garcia to DH, or to the bench, as needed. Per usual, the Sox are never plugging just one hole, and acquisitions that acknowledge that serve them better.

3. Or, maybe they're just not in on Desmond after all.

Or, it's better said, different members of White Sox management have different positions on how to publicly summarize their interest in, and pursuit of Ian Desmond. It's not a reach to say reporters reporting different things from the Sox on the same day likely have different sources, the question is who is being more transparent and who is posturing?

4. Here's some chum for the "Get Fowler AND Desmond crowd"

Some observations on this:

The Tigers seem over-inflated based on name value and reputation, which makes sense as that would drive betting.

The Royals are way on top, but really, if the Royals are still as good as last year's club without significant deterioration, the Sox are playing for the Wild Card anyway.

The AL looks like a cluster with few truly terrible teams, but I'd be surprised if we really had another year where no teams collapse their way into the cellar at any point.

At least people realize the Twins are not good.

5. Todd Frazier turned 30 years-old Friday. I remain unconvinced that they really have room, or any kind of legit excuse to ease their way into a contending window incrementally. As good as their core is, there's no guarantee of continued production throughout their contracts. Tim Anderson and Carson Fulmer are very promising, but there's not a prospect glut rising through the system that promises a better competitive window in the near future, as reflected by all of the recent farm system rankings (BP, BA, Law, etc.) placing the White Sox in the bottom third of MLB. Therefore, the only benefit of holding off on free agent signings to patch holes is cost savings, and if that's never used to enable larger investments, it's no benefit at all.

6. Keith Law posted his Top 100 prospects yesterday, which you can read here if you have Insider.  I don't always agree with Law, but he certainly has plenty of insight, and he is willing to defy the prospecting world orthodoxy if he feels strongly enough about a player.  Tim Anderson weighs in at #45 as the White Sox' sole representative.

I bring it up because this is the first new information / opinion I've seen about Anderson in a long time.  While Law covers the usual talking points ("Great athlete! Raw! Tools! Approach! Needs more time!") he goes as far as to say that Anderson could probably hack it in the majors right now, specifically saying he thinks he could hit for average and play above-average defense at short as we sit here today.  While Law and everyone at TCS agrees that Anderson's ceiling demands that he be allowed to have more time in the minors to maximize his abilities, I was pleasantly surprised to see someone with a scouting background say Anderson is ready to handle shortstop defensively already.  It is a sharp contrast to some of the assessments I had been reading recently that are still ambivalent about his ability to stay at short.

7. Carson Fulmer remains divisive -- scouts / analysts who think that he can stay a starter tend to have him ranked very highly, while the ones who believe he is a reliever leave him off the Top 100 entirely.  I don't blame anyone for erring on the side of caution with a prospect, but if the White Sox think the guy can be a starter, the organization's track record on this particular issue is such that I will give them the benefit of the doubt.