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Unexpected players in the MLB offseason

Both the Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays grabbed the headlines yesterday with signings. If the White Sox wait too long for the perfect offers for Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, will any chance of building a contender in 2017 pass them by?

Heavyweight hitter, Bartolo Colon, is taking his talents to Atlanta.
Heavyweight hitter, Bartolo Colon, is taking his talents to Atlanta.
Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday was weird.

The Atlanta Braves won the Bartolo Colon sweepstakes with a one-year $12.5 million deal, after signing 42-year old R.A. Dickey . It’s a curious move for a team that won just 68 games in 2016 and is in the beginning stages of a rebuild on why they would sign pitchers who somehow continue to survive past their pitching expiration dates. If Dickey and Colon continue to eat innings even on the wrong side of 40, it does buy time for the many young pitchers the Braves have in their farm system to develop.

Also of note, Braves President John Hart made similar moves during his tenure in Cleveland when he signed "El Presidente" Dennis Martinez and Oriel Hershiser. Of course, the 1995 Cleveland Indians were a far different team than what I suspect the 2017 Braves will be, but signing veteran starting pitching has paid off for Hart before.

The chances of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista returning to Toronto are probably dashed after the Blue Jays signed designated hitter Kendrys Morales to a three-year $33 million deal. Both Encarnacion and Bautista are going to fetch a lot of money this offseason from teams wanting to add more power to their lineup, and it will also cost them a draft pick to do so. That sets up nicely for the Blue Jays if Morales truly does fill a hole left by the departures of Encarnacion and Bautista.

It’s a bit weird because I’m not sure what Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro has in store for this team. Are they going through a mini-rebuild in 2017 to shed payroll after back-to-back ALCS appearances? Is he looking for an opportunity to restock the Blue Jays prospect pipeline after former GM Alex Anthopoulos emptied it to build a contender? Well, the signing of 23-year old Cuban prospect Lourdes Gurriel to a seven-year deal may hint that they are marching in that direction of trying to get younger.

To top it off, after voicing his displeasure of how the Los Angeles Dodgers have handled his playing time, Howie Kendrick should get plenty of that in ...Philadelphia.

If this week’s current events have taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected. Top baseball writers try to make predictions on where players will go by polling baseball executives and agents to shape the public’s perception of how the market will turn out. Then you have days like yesterday that are equal parts surprising and confusing.

Which could make things interesting for the Chicago White Sox, a team who is holding a lot of trade chips at this year’s offseason poker table. 670 the Score’s Bruce Levine is sure that the Sox are going to rebuild, but not sure how quickly it will happen.

From Hahn:

"The pace and magnitude of any of our moves, regardless of the direction, will be dictated by the marketplace," Hahn said. "You can’t say you are going to trade player X before we do anything else, because it might not be the right time to get proper value. We are in a position now where we have a few player assets under contract control for only another year (Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera, Brett Lawrie). So there may be a kind of clock on them. On guys who are more controllable than that, there is less urgency until you peaked out on assets back for the long-term benefit of the club."

My largest critique of Hahn’s tenure as GM is that he is quite passive in his decision making (see: Ventura, Robin). When you have terrific talent in Chris Sale and Jose Quintana any GM would need to nail a return that would merit separating away from two of the best starting pitchers in the game. I understand why it doesn’t make any sense to make a deal immediately because the Sox might not get the best deal possible for either of them.

However, I have been under the impression that if the Sox don’t trade Sale or Quintana, that they would make additions this offseason to make another run at the postseason. Back to what Hahn said about how quickly the team will move, if the marketplace is going to decide what direction the Sox are going, then how long can he wait to hear offers for anyone? It seems that rather approaching teams with ideas on trade packages for Sale and Quintana, Hahn is content just sitting back and waiting for the phone to ring.

My fear now is that if unexpected teams like Atlanta are making additions and Toronto is making hasty roster decisions, then any chance the White Sox could have built a roster to make another postseason run in 2017 will pass them by. Just like the 2015 trading deadline not moving Jeff Samardzija, and the 2016 trading deadline still holding on to Sale, Quintana, and David Robertson.

What is also disheartening for me, is that the White Sox will not decide their path in 2017. Instead, it will be the marketplace picking a direction for them. Another team will have to bump the Sox to rebuilding by wowing them with an offer, or it will be January and the Sox are sitting on their hands with no trade offers of note now having to settle for crumbs. I would rather have the Sox actively moving in a given direction, whether by signing a player like Gurriel (who would help the Sox in any case) or Hahn picking up the phone and making Sale/Quintana offers to other teams.

Maybe this "wait and see" approach will pay off, or, Sox fans will be stunned when the Minnesota Twins sign Jason Castro next week. With the way 2016 has gone, that’ll just be icing on the crap cake.