Usually by the second week of February, the MLB offseason is more or less complete.This year seems to be quite a bit different. With only days until Valentine’s Day, there are a few decent free agents still available that could be good matches for one or two lucky teams. While quite a few teams would benefit from making further additions, two teams in particular stand out: the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles.
In the American League, a league where, realistically, all 15 teams have at least some chance of making a run at the playoffs, every marginal move can put a team closer to playoff contention. For no teams is that more evident than the two mentioned above. Both currently sit somewhere smack dab in the middle of the back line of American League teams vying for the playoffs, a spot where any move will be impactful on the postseason chase.
At this point in the offseason, all the biggest fish have found homes, save for a few interesting options. Included in that group are four players who may play a not-so-insignificant role in next year’s playoff hunt. Those players are Yovani Gallardo, Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond, and Austin Jackson, in no particular order. While not the “sexiest” names around, all four come with a good amount of upside, and the potential to put one of the two teams mentioned over the top.
With mere weeks to go until Spring Training begins, the Sox and Orioles really have nothing left to lose in signing the players mentioned above. Well, except for a draft pick in the case of the first three guys mentioned. Not to mention the obvious risk that comes with signing any of these players, given the concerns associated with each relative to injury and or consistency and performance.
Even so, with those risks in mind, now is the time for the Orioles and White Sox to push all in.
The White Sox compete in the American League Central, arguably the most competitive division in all of baseball. Realistically, any team could finish in first place, and any team could finish in last. In a division like that, the White Sox should be doing everything in their power to make any improvement possible.
The signing of Mat Latos is a good start, depending on how one feels about the possibility of Latos truly being a “clubhouse cancer”, but either way, at $3 million a year, the potential upside may be worth the risk. Even with Latos signed, the White Sox should go further.
With a liability in right field in the name of Avisail Garcia, and unproven shortstops in Tyler Saladino and Tim Anderson, the White Sox have no reason not to consider either Dexter Fowler or Ian Desmond, or even Austin Jackson if the draft pick proves to be prohibitive. Upgrading at either of those positions could mean two or three more wins on the season, enough to really shake up the playoff race in a tight American League Central.
For a team with such a small window of opportunity to contend, going all in this year makes sense. Obviously those draft picks have value, but punting future value for current value would make quite a deal of sense in this scenario. Hell, signing Yovani Gallardo would also make sense, even with the signing of Latos, given the poor state of the back end of the Sox rotation.
This brings us to the Orioles, who currently sit in a similar spot to the White Sox. In the American League East, with the much improved Boston Red Sox, the always relevant New York Yankees, and the resurgent Toronto Blue Jays, not even mentioning the always scrappy Tampa Bay Rays, the Orioles have quite a bit of stiff competition. They obviously have hopes of playoff contention, but they may be in an even worse position than the White Sox , and could benefit even more from multiple free agent signings before the start of Spring Training.
The Orioles rotation looks to be one of the worst in the American League, and the team appears to be nearing a deal with free agent Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo would improve the rotation, but only at a marginal one or two wins at best for the season. If the Orioles are willing to give up their 14th overall pick to sign Gallardo, they should also be willing to give up their 29th pick, a compensation pick the team received when Wei-Yin Chen signed with the Marlins. If the team does pull the trigger and sign Gallardo, they may as well go all in and sign Fowler as well, filling two holes at the same time.
While Gallardo may be a marginal increase over what the Orioles currently have, Fowler may be a two or three win increase over the Orioles current corner outfielders, in Hyun Soo Kim and Nolan Reimold, similar to the improvement he would be for the White Sox. For that reason, with such a short window of contention, the Orioles have no reason to save draft picks at the cost of not contending in 2016, even with their barren farm system.
Both the Orioles and White Sox are in a position to compete in 2016. Both teams still have some glaring weaknesses that have gone unaddressed, and with only weeks before Spring Training is set to begin, now is the time to make a move. At this point, what do they have to lose?