At least Yoenis Cespedes let the White Sox -- or maybe just White Sox fans -- down easy.
Cespedes brought the high-profile period of free agency to an end by returning to the Mets on a three-year contract, but it probably wasn't the kind of three-year offer the White Sox had in mind with that self-imposed time limit.
Really, it's about as un-team-friendly (team-averse?) as a contract will get. While the contract is worth $75 million over three years, he has the ability to opt out after one year and $27.5 million. If he can somehow come close to repeating his career 2015, he'll be positioned as one of the top free agents in a weak overall class.
That early escape seems to be key. The Washington Nationals reportedly offered a five-year, $100ish million contract, although there were supposedly deferrals that make the actual annual value harder to peg. Either way, it's now a little easier to guess at the driving forces behind the deal Cespedes accepted, and the two big ones -- a one-year opt-out and a return to the Mets -- wouldn't have made the Sox a great match. They would've had to pony up, bigger and bolder, and they didn't.
It quite sucks to see the corner outfielders all sign elsewhere while the Sox stick with major question marks. There were four free agents dancing with a limited pool of suitors with space, and all the players had something to offer the Sox. Jason Heyward had the best blend of age and well-rounded skills, Alex Gordon would've weakened a divisional opponent by transferring his OBP and defense, and Justin Upton brings massive power as a 28-year-old. None of them signed for mind-boggling amounts.
And then there was Cespedes, who I wanted to see on the Sox purely to gauge whether his ballplayer charisma could blast this team out of the era of Robin Ventura and his band of sadness merchants. Cespedes may not be the most efficient or elegant player, but he's been a crowd-pleaser for three of his four teams, and if he failed to be any semblance of fun in Chicago, then you could just go right ahead and declare U.S. Cellular Field a Superfund site.
Moreover, no draft picks would've been lost in the signing of this outfielder, which would've given the Sox a shot at salvaging maximum value from Jeff Samardzija's wreckage. It was as lined up as it could get for a money-only expenditure, what with the Sox pushing for contention in 2016 and 2017. The lack of doubling down on this front baffles me, especially if years, and not money, was truly the sticking point.
(And while it may de-baffle the situation by suggesting the White Sox just didn't like any of the outfielders all that much, that kinda makes me like this crop of free agents even more.)
Running alongside the Cespedes sweepstakes: the possibility of the National League using the designated hitter by 2017.
The strength of this scenario is hard to determine, as various outlets have weighed the idea of the "momentum" differently, and Rob Manfred pretty much gives public consideration to every issue with little consequence.
That said, if the NL did join the American League under a unified rule, I'm inclined to think it makes future bidding for an impact bat a little more difficult for teams like the Sox. The Nationals' pursuit of Cespedes was erratic because they already have three outfielders. If they had a regular DH spot, they might've approached him with more urgency, along with some other National League teams.
Tthe same can be said about Chris Davis, and maybe even more so.
So again, now seemed to be the time to strike. Yet it wasn't, and until they attempt to mine mirth from lesser free agents (with draft picks attached) or a trade, we're left to question the incumbents. We've already looked at Avisail Garcia's problems defining any potential MLB skills, and how perilous it is to rely on him while also needing Melky Cabrera to bounce back from a bad season.
Now the lack of a finishing move also makes me wonder how big of an obstacle Adam LaRoche's contract is.
At the time of LaRoche's signing, I thought the Sox prioritized him because he only needed a two-year deal, and the second year can often be eaten if a better opportunity arises. Perhaps they still are treating LaRoche as expendable, but if they can't bear to part with him, then it exacerbated the mistake the Sox made by signing him. The risk of acquiring a declining 30something bat in time for his collapse was there all along, and they needed to be ready to switch to mitigation mode.
Either way, watching both LaRoche and Cabrera struggle last season makes it hard to summon excitement for another offseason of multiple third-tier options. The Sox just aren't good at finding bats that way, and they'll have to withstand receiving no benefit of the doubt.
Would you rather see the White Sox miss out on the outfielders with no strong reported offers, or miss out on them the way the Nationals did, with their allegedly higher bid being rejected twice?
I feel bad taking the Todd Frazier trade for granted, but I also feel like the Sox are doing the same.