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Outfielder market tilts further toward White Sox after Chris Davis signing

Baltimore is closed to Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton, while Royals sign Ian Kennedy to bolster their rotation

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

We've crossed the midpoint of January, and Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton remain on the board.

However, one of their supposed landing spots looks like it's no longer in play.

The Baltimore Orioles had been tied to both outfielders at various points through the winter, but the interest didn't ring genuine, as it was suspiciously coordinated with the twists and turns of their courtship of Chris Davis. And that trend crossed the finish line right alongside the news cycle.

On Friday, the Orioles reportedly offered Cespedes a five-year deal worth up to $90 million.

On Saturday, the Orioles signed Davis to a seven-year, $161 million contract.

Relatively speaking, that's a staggering result, as Davis' return to Baltimore was largely presumed. The re-signing hit a snag when Davis declined a seven-year, $150 million deal and the Orioles withdrew it, but there wasn't another team to make the Orioles sweat.

Even then, Davis emerged from a one-team market with an even bigger contract. Sure, it has a lot of deferred money -- he'll receive only $119 million over the first seven years -- but Scott Boras is some kind of sorcerer nevertheless.

At any rate, this development takes away the only team that could spend $161 million of any kind on a player without running into complications, luxury tax or otherwise. The New York Post's Ken Davidoff made a list of logical suitors for Cespedes -- it pretty much applies to Upton -- and all of them have at least one hang-up.

  • Angels: Luxury tax.
  • Tigers: Big payroll, and would prefer a lefty.
  • Cardinals: Matt Holliday for one more year.
  • Mets: Financial.

Davidoff also listed the White Sox, but didn't have a good reason why they couldn't or wouldn't pursue Cespedes. He merely says, "For now, the Chisox are playing the 'We'll strike if the market drops' card."

(Not mentioned at all: Texas, which has also been sniffing around for a bargain.)

The market sure seems immensely favorable at this point, especially with Cespedes. Upton could benefit from a one-year contract (or one-year opt-out), since the market of potential outfield free agents is much thinner next year. Cespedes? Not so much, because his original international signing contract allowed him to be a free agent without draft-pick compensation. He'll be hard-pressed to be similarly unencumbered the next time around, and if he re-enters free agency with a slightly worse year and a draft pick attached to him, he could be back right where he started.


While the Sox continue to ride the snake, the Royals handed out their second $70 million contract of the winter. Unlike the four-year, $72 million commitment to Alex Gordon, the five-year, $70 million deal for Ian Kennedy seems more like settling (although there's an opt-out after two years).

Kennedy has posted a 3.92 ERA spanning 369 innings over his last two seasons with the Padres. However, that's only good for a 92 ERA+, and while Kauffman Stadium plays large, so does Kennedy's former home, Petco Park. He's still given up 47 homers during this time despite that head start.

Still, there are a few things to consider:

  1. The Royals have a way better outfield defense than the Padres.
  2. Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland worked with Kennedy back in their Yankee days.
  3. These are the Royals.

That last point overrides all my initial reactions. After all, they made a similar signing last year with Edinson Volquez, and all he did was pitch well enough to start Game 1 of the World Series. Earlier in the week, Jeff Sullivan posted a thorough consideration of Kennedy and came away with the following:

I’m not sure there’s anything more to be said. For every negative, there’s a positive; for every positive, there’s a negative. What we’re left with is something on the order of a league-average starter, with ball-in-play upside and ball-in-play downside, and the market has so far rewarded pitchers like this, so Kennedy shouldn’t be punished too much. Mike Leake has age on his side, and his own fastball has improved, but Leake probably has the bigger home-run problem. To add Ian Kennedy isn’t to add anything sensational, but there’s probably not a team in baseball he wouldn’t make at least a little bit better. Soon, we’ll find out where he goes. The fans, probably, will come away underwhelmed. Still, he’s likely to do more good than harm. He’s an addition you like more during the year than during the offseason. There’s not much point in winning the offseason.

Don't we know it.