My flight path out of Washington’s Reagan Airport on Sunday night took me over the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. That’s where Major League Baseball conducted its winter meetings in 2016, and that’s where the White Sox decided to pick an entirely new direction by trading Chris Sale and Adam Eaton.
That was the climax of a four-year run of meaningful meetings for the Sox. The year before, the White Sox acquired Brett Lawrie, but left the outfielder upgrades on the table to foreshadow the remaining path. Before that, the Sox allegedly won the winter by trading for Jeff Samardzija and signing David Robertson. Even in the rebuilding winter of 2013-14, the Sox landed a big piece in Adam Eaton.
This time around, the Sox might have the quietest December in five years (you may remember the Jeff Keppinger signing), and maybe even longer. Welington Castillo aside, they aren’t going to be major players in free agency, and they’ve traded all of their most enviable contracts. I wouldn’t be surprised if the White Sox went all week without a transaction.
Still, there are a few ways Rick Hahn can try to add some semblance of intrigue to the proceedings.
Dangle Avisail Garcia
The Boston media can’t agree on a Jose Abreu story. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo says the Red Sox are “very interested” in Abreu, while WEEI’s Rob Bradford called the talks “significantly overstated.” I’d go with Bradford on this account based on things like a deep market for free-agent first basemen and Cafardo’s track record (since his story seems to have been tweaked already). Abreu doesn’t seem like a feasible trade target.
With the Yankees swooping in to free Giancarlo Stanton from Miami, the corner outfield market should start loosening up, and Stanton’s availability exposed the teams needing outfield help (Giants, Cardinals, Red Sox). Guys like Lorenzo Cain and J.D. Martinez should lead the way, but there’s not much backing them up. Jay Bruce is the only other outfielder on MLB Trade Rumors’ top 30, and he’s four years older with a worse recent track record.
In this context, Garcia could become a hotter commodity than expected. I’m still inclined to think his market won’t really form until he proves he can repeat his 2017 season, but I’ll allow for the possibility of Stanton’s landing spot shocking the market and creating further unpredictability. Either way, I’m guessing we’ll hear a Garcia rumor or two, even if it’s only two teams feeling out each other for a potential deadline deal next summer.
Sign a pitcher or two
Jon Heyman’s sources may not be the most impartial of observers here, but his tweet sums up a list of intriguing free-agent relievers if nothing else:
Agents predicting a run on relievers now. Lots of good ones to go: reed, shaw, neshek, kintzler, cishek, nicasio, swarzak, watson, hunter, belisle, oh, perez, mcgee, and of course davis and holland.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 11, 2017
Even if Nate Jones is healthy, the Sox will have multiple open auditions for bullpen spots, so I’m expecting the Sox to sign at least one name-brand reliever to make it easier on Rick Renteria.
Their search for a starting pitcher will probably lead them further off the board, at least if the Cubs’ three-year, $38 million deal with Tyler Chatwood is any indication. Chatwood looked like a potential bargain, but enough analytical teams liked him enough to drive up his price to the point that he’s a potential albatross. He’s had two Tommy John surgeries, and his problems with the Rockies aren’t as easy to solve as citing his road stats. If that’s the market for reclamation projects with potential, the Sox probably can’t hang there.
Make a Rule 5 draft pick
The White Sox gave the Rule 5 draft a shot last year in the ninth spot by selecting Dylan Covey. They’re picking fourth, they have four open 40-man roster spots and a couple vacancies in the bullpen, so I imagine they’ll make another run at a potential bargain. The initial list of notable names from Baseball America shows some of the possibilities, including a double dose of Downers Grove (Nick Burdi, Eric Jagielo).
This will probably keep the White Sox from getting shut out from winter meetings transactions, even if the others falter. Covey wasn’t a needle-mover, but he still counted as an addition to the 40-man roster. I wouldn’t blame you if he didn’t meet your standards of a notable acquisition, but if the Sox remain as quiet as they could be, you may have to settle for some Double-A excitement instead.