When the dust from this offseason settles, the only thing that might be weird about the winter is how long it took to unfold.
Look at the landing spot for the biggest corner bats and consider:
- The Cubs made a big play for Jason Heyward.
- The Orioles re-signed their guy, Chris Davis.
- The Royals used back-to-back World Series appearances to expand their budget and re-sign their guy, Alex Gordon.
- The Tigers made a big splash to maintain Mike Ilitch's vital signs with Justin Upton.
Not one of these outcomes is anywhere near off-the-board crazy, and the contracts have been appropriately generous, more or less, after plenty of early hand-wringing.
The White Sox remain one big move -- or a couple of calculated moves -- from finishing their offseason. Yoenis Cespedes has been at the front of everybody's brain and the subject of obnoxious hashtag abuse, and if the Sox manage to land him, you can slot him at the bottom of that above list and go 5-for-5 with of-course results, especially since the Sox were never connected to Upton the way they had reported interest in the others. If that happens, the only complaints will be rather shallow ("The pursuit was too stressful!").
Yet getting to the finish line doesn't seem that straightforward, because it's hard to figure out Cespedes' stock based on his place in the rumor mill. The Orioles put a price tag on him -- which was more than Upton had received publicly -- but it appeared that it was only to try to drive down Davis' demands.
After the Orioles made their decision, Jon Heyman started warming up the car for Cespedes with the Tigers:
there's a lot of interest/activity in cespedes. no chance he has to settle for very short deal. rare power/speed/arm combo.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 17, 2016
the tigers are at least giving some consideration to cespedes, joining chisox, mets, astros (@pgammo) & surely more— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 18, 2016
positionally, cespedes is actually a better fit than davis for detroit. current LF candidates: gose, collins— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 18, 2016
Which made sense, since the Tigers traded for Cespedes and he thrived with them. Then the Tigers surprised everybody by opening and closing the news cycle with Upton in classic hot-n-ready fashion.
The fact that the Tigers opted for Upton instead of Cespedes makes me wonder. They had Cespedes, he performed well for them, and they generally have the kind of success with their veteran acquisitions that the White Sox don't. We don't know if the Tigers had their choice between the two outfielders for a similar price, but if they did, should that be telling?
Another reasonable alternative is that Upton's representatives were willing to work quicker. The way Cespedes' name has been thrown around makes me wonder if Roc Nation is a lot more ruthless and/or reckless in its attempt to land the best contract.
Case in point: Now Heyman's at it again, banging the drum for a different target:
angels absolutely must sign cespedes. they have mishmash in LF, lack offense at 4 positions. YC had .909 ops vs rhp in '15— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 19, 2016
I'd say there's a faint whiff of desperation with how much Cespedes is having his name bandied about, but a lack of action and traction hasn't hurt the holdouts...
Chris Davis, Ian Kennedy, now Justin Upton. Apparently having a soft market with no rumored bidders means you’re getting PAID.— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) January 19, 2016
... so I can't imagine that Cespedes will really have to settle (no draft pick compensation, after all). At this point, the only thing I feel somewhat certain about is that, whenever Cespedes signs somewhere, ol' Heynongman will be the one to get the scoop. He deserves at least that much.
And if Cespedes signs elsewhere than the Sox -- and the Sox don't have a compelling combination to counter with over the next fortnight -- they'll deserve the extra scrutiny SoxFest crowds have in store.