The White Sox' "addition by attrition" approach to free-agent outfielders survives to fight another day.
A day after the Giants removed themselves from the big-ticket outfielder circus by signing Denard Span, the Nationals found their Span replacement via trade, acquiring Ben Revere in a tidy little deal for Drew Storen. The Nats fill their vacancy in center field, the Jays add a reliever to keep up with the AL East arms race, and the cash will even out when all is said and done.
Washington wasn't tied to Yoenis Cespedes or Justin Upton -- nobody has been in any meaningful sense -- but it was one of three finalists for Jason Heyward, and may have offered him more guaranteed money. The Nats had already surprised the league by playing mystery team once, so they couldn't be ruled out in future pursuits.
Like the Giants, though, the Nats apparently only wanted a left-handed hitter who could cover center, so much so that the other outfielder they had been most connected to was Gerardo Parra. Now they're set with Revere, which cuts down the pool of potential suitors, all of whom are pretending to read the paper but glancing over a folded corner a little too frequently. And the Orioles.
In this environment, it doesn't take much to stoke interest. This tweet, for instance, would normally mean nothing:
Word is the Sox might go to four years on either Cespedes or Upton. The latter is intrigued with the south side.— George Ofman (@georgeofman) January 8, 2016
And it probably does. But it's all we have.
While the outfield market has unfolded at a relaxed pace, it's turbocharged when stacked up against the shortstops. It took until January for the first Alexei Ramirez rumor to gain any semblance of traction:
But, as Rosenthal notes, the Padres had been the only team strongly connected to Ian Desmond ... and again, it's Jan. 9. If San Diego is the only team willing to put down real money for a shortstop, it might be wielding leverage like a mace on Desmond's demands, since he has a draft pick attached to him. However it falls, one of these shortstops will end up being used and discarded, joining Jimmy Rollins as somebody struggling to find work at his original position despite a healthy history.
Source: Multiple teams have inquired about Jimmy Rollins playing 2B. Rollins open to idea, but waiting to see if SS opportunities develop.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 8, 2016
That's why it's difficult to rule out Ramirez returning to the White Sox. The league is oversaturated with tanking teams that have little interest in improving by half measures, which is probably a big reason why the hot stove has sputtered at half-power for extended stretches this winter. If the Padres pass on Ramirez, he, like an outfielder to be determined, might fall into the White Sox' laps for a price that'd be dumb to pass up, too.