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Dexter Fowler approaches a landing spot, and it's not the White Sox

If Orioles close deal with outfielder, it leaves Ian Desmond as the last big-ticket free agent standing

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

A couple days ago, I said the league's pursuit of Dexter Fowler was similar to the guy at the dinner table who planned on taking too long to find his wallet when the check came ... only to see the other members of the party all patting their pockets, too

Well, it looks like the Orioles are the ones who are most ready to close out the offseason's tab, even if reluctantly. They've been the front-runners for Yovani Gallardo for a while, and now they're also leading the pack for Fowler.

In true fashion, though, while Buster Olney's report seems to signal the beginning of the end, the phrasing leaves an opening for a bolder party to swoop in and finally seal the deal:

If you're a draft enthusiast, you're almost to the finish line with all picks intact, as Ian Desmond is the only other qualifying-offer candidate who makes sense for the Sox. While we've spent most of the offseason obsessing over the White Sox' options in right field, Desmond has made just as much sense in terms of adding value, even if he last played for the Washington Nationals and his production has seen better days.

As Grant Brisbee put it in his summary of confusing teams:

And they could get better. If they have clear and obvious issues still, they're at shortstop, where Tyler Saladino is the projected starter, and in the outfield, where Avisail Garcia continues to try everyone's patience. Except, those are two spots where there are still free agents. Helpful, legitimate free agents. There probably isn't a more obvious fit than Ian Desmond to the White Sox, especially if it's a one-year deal to rebuild value.

The combination of skills and ballpark seems like a way for Desmond to make $90 million in six short months (click for more details).

The only difference between the two positions is present MLB skills -- Saladino has 'em (baserunning and defense of some kind), while Garcia remains tools with better marketing. The reservations about Saladino are resounding in their own right, as he doesn't have the minor-league offensive track record to expect an average bat, and the reports on his defense don't say his shortstopping can carry his bat along the lines of a poor man's Adam Everett. Yet seeing him come out of nowhere to master third base gives him an air of mystery about his glove's ceiling at a middle-infield position.

Garcia has no such mystery. That's not to say he's a finished product, but everything from here on out will be correcting a bad first (or second) impression. That's why it's been easier to flesh out an upgrade, and why Fowler, as unexciting as he might be, represented a tangible improvement in just about every fashion. If he nests with the Birds, the other available outfielders -- led by Austin Jackson -- are less substantial in this regard, albeit with contracts to match.