1. Proving that trolling can be productive, my completely unhelpful interruption of Nick--who was not talking about the White Sox--got me headed down a path.
The White Sox have missed the playoffs seven years in a row, and without a big accompanying youth movement either, there's been a lot of just trying to mine enjoyment out of the brights spots for their own sake. Jesse Crain achieving his true apex form for an awful 2013 team right before his shoulder gave out on his career comes to mind, and many relievers over the years are like that: Donnie Veal finding the feel on his streetsweeping slider for a few weeks in 2012, Sergio Santos looking like the most terrifying force in the world in 2011.
Looking back, I have a particular fondness for the high moments of legacies that have since grown tarnished. Jake Peavy's tenure is mostly looked upon as a costly boondoggle full of bad luck, injuries and mismanagement, but the last great Sox push for the playoffs in 2012 was led by 32 starts and 219 innings of Jake Peavy, putting up a 126 ERA+ after suffering a catastrophic injury in June 2010. Carlos Quentin never regained his 2008 form, but he recovered from plantar fasciitis and posted a 122 wRC+ through 2010-11, and was clearly the second-best hitter on the team other than mid-renaissance Paul Konerko. Finally, John Danks, resigned to albatross status after his shoulder surgery, put together a three-year stretch from 2008-10 that was every bit as good as what Jose Quintana just accomplished.
All three can be directly tied to an event or decision that set the franchise back, but it's only the good ones who can really disappoint you like they did.
2. The latest influx of Cuban talent comes from the brothers Yulieski and Lourdes Gurriel, whose shocking defection probably will not be a boon for what were seen as improving US-Cuba baseball relations. In what was supposed to come off as an embittered statement, Cuba state media wound up perfectly distilling free agency by calling the defection "an open attitude of surrender to merchants of professional baseball for profit."
Yulieski, 31, is pretty much regarded as the best player in Cuba, per Ben Badler, and just put up a nutty .494/.586/.861 line with two strikeouts in 215 plate appearances. He's well-regarded at third base but Badler thinks he could fill in at second as well. His brother Lourdes, 22, is more of a prospect, but would be an elite one at third base or shortstop.
As Badler reminds, the process for Cuban free agents getting cleared to sign is long and unpredictable, and a scenario where neither signs before the 2016 season is over. For Lourdes, who escapes the bonus pool restrictions if he waits until his 23rd birthday, Badler says the only thing that would lead him to sign before then would be incompetent representation.
Not every Cuban star is Jose Abreu, Yasiel Puig, Aroldis Chapman or Yoenis Cespedes, but those guys have helped strip the fear away from the Cuban market. Abreu doesn't eviscerate the Serie Nacional or international competition and settle for $66 million if he comes out in 2016, and the less said about what Alexei Ramirez would have earned, the better for the mental health of the Sox fanbase. So while the Sox have made a reputation for staking out the Cuban market, I wonder if the appeal, or the sense of advantage is still there for them in a world where Hector Olivera got $62.5 million.
3. Mau Rubio at 2080 Baseball listed Carson Fulmer among their 10 non-roster invites in Spring Training to watch. Rubio groups Fulmer with other White Sox fast-track sensations like Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon, and expects Fulmer to start in Triple-A to begin 2016.
Whether Fulmer is up for relief help late in the season or put in the unseemly position to try to patch up the rotation is probably dependent on Erik Johnson not flopping and the health of others.
4. Taking an even dimmer view of the back-end of the White Sox rotation, August Fagerstrom at FanGraphs notes that not only are Johnson and Danks projected to be bad, but if Fulmer isn't ready, Jacob Turner, Scott Carroll and Chris Beck provide an even grislier backup plan. Combined, FanGraphs has them projected to be the worst 'back-end and depth' group in baseball.
To remedy, Fagerstrom recommends signing Yovani Gallardo. Jim Bowden projected Gallardo to get four years, $56 million at the outset of free agency, before this became the longest offseason of our lives. If that didn't also make Gallardo the priciest acquisition of the offseason, he also would require them to give up the 28th pick. Gallardo already is not the best target for investment; he's only 29 but his strikeout rate has dropped significantly over the last three seasons to sub-John Danks levels, and while this is certainly a meager internal crop, the Sox are typically loathe to pay market value for league-average-ish pitching and prefer to rely on their ability to find it under couch cushions and floor mats in their basement.
In an ideal world, a win-now year sees the Sox pay up for the certainty of Gallardo eating innings and Fowler getting on base and playing competent defense rather than relying on fringe prospect dreams, but as it stands I would just be thankful if they do the latter.
5. 39-year-old Freddy Garcia officially called it a career over the weekend, and it was a damn good one. He threw over 2200 innings in 15 MLB seasons, made two All-Star teams, and earned a World Series ring with the 2005 Sox after a 228-inning, 116 ERA+ campaign. Nicknamed "Big Game," Garcia was on the bump to start games when the '05 Sox clinched the AL Central, the ALDS, and the World Series itself. He navigated his game through transformations from a fireballing young gun, to a command/control veteran who pitched to contact with the Sox, and came back from a career-threatening shoulder injury to live on five years longer than anyone would have bet on him as a junkballer.
At the end of his career, with no trace of his best fastball left, and his team's back against the wall on the road, he pitched six innings of two-run ball in Game 4 of the 2013 NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chavez Ravine. It was the last time he appeared in an MLB game.
He left the game with the lead.