Usually the two to three weeks in between SoxFest and pitchers and catchers reporting is a dead zone.
This year? Not so much.
I guess you could call it the silver lining of the White Sox' incomplete offseason, but they're not alone. Unlike last season, when James Shields was the only major free agent unsigned by Feburary, there's an entire outfield of known entities (Dexter Fowler, Austin Jackson, Alex Rios or Will Venable), two name-brand shortstops (Ian Desmond, Jimmy Rollins), the top third baseman on the market (David Freese), and a pretty good No. 3 pitcher (Yovani Gallardo). Add it all up, and it's a giant argument against the draft-pick compensation system as MLB approaches the expiration of its collective bargaining agreement.
Getting back to the Sox, it's still the same as it was with Fowler, just with a different Chicago media personality relaying the info:
The White Sox are in play for Fowler as are the Texas Rangers. He is hearing from a few teams that still want a bat.— David Kaplan (@thekapman) February 1, 2016
But lo and behold, Phil Rogers came charging in with a different name to shake things up for the new month:
We haven't talked much about Ethier, so a quick summary of his specs: He's entering his age 34 season and owns a lifetime .286/ .359/.464 over a 10-year career spent entirely with the Dodgers. He topped each of those triple-slash categories last year, mostly because Don Mattingly kept him the left-handed Ethier away from left-handed pitching. He played in 142 games, but only made 106 starts. Still, he's certainly a very useful player, even if under restrictions.
The doubt creeps in when considering his contract. He's guaranteed $38 million over the next two seasons, accounting for the $2.5 million buyout and not the $17.5 million club option that vests if he amasses 550 plate appearances a season. Even with inflated salaries, that's not an attractive contract for a platoon hitter who isn't a decidedly plus defender.
But it's possible the financial obligation could be reduced if the Dodgers are motivated. And they just might be with Ethier in particular, because basically every Dodger on their two-ply roster is expendable to a degree, and he gains 10-and-five rights on April 21.
That makes Ethier an intriguing possibility, whether as an actual solution or a bogeyman for a free-agent negotiations. He's not a perfect player, but as a good left-handed hitter and a decent defensive right fielder who wouldn't force the Sox to give up their supplemental-round draft pick, his assets line up nicely with the Sox' chief interests -- and for a contract that wouldn't be all that awful if handed out on the open market. Fowler has him beat as a younger switch-hitter with the ability to cover center, but neither is an outfielder who is likely to challenge for All-Star status, so good luck differentiating them in a market where even the standouts struggled coming to terms they liked.