The White Sox aren't going to trade for Matt Kemp.
There's no inside info to support that declaration, but come on. Why in the world would a rebuilding team give up anything to bring aboard a 33-year-old who is owed an outrageous $43 million over the next two seasons?
FanRag's Jon Heyman proposed the White Sox as a possible landing spot for Kemp, who has nowhere to play in the Los Angeles Dodgers' crowded — not to mention contending — outfield. He acknowledged that the likelihood of a trade is low, which is pretty obvious, but connected the two parties because of the White Sox earlier reported interest in adding a designated hitter before the 2018 campaign gets going.
The way this free-agent market has moved means there are plenty of options available should the White Sox want to go down that road. And if the Dodgers can't find a trade partner to take Kemp off their hands, they could just flat out release him, adding him to the group of free agents still looking for 2018 homes.
Taking his contract out of the equation, Kemp undoubtedly becomes more attractive. But would he be the most attractive option out there? He played in just 115 games last season, slashing .276/.318/.463, though he showed some power potential with 19 home runs — not to mention the homer he hit against the White Sox in this spring's Cactus League opener. But only 45 of his 64 RBIs last year came from driving in someone besides himself for the 72-win Atlanta Braves. Granted, he's just two seasons removed from hitting 35 homers and driving in 108 runs in 2016.
Is Kemp an upgrade over the guy currently slated to get the majority of the at-bats at designated hitter? Matt Davidson bested Kemp in the home-run department last season, smacking 26 of them, the second most on the team after Jose Abreu's 33 roundtrippers. But Davidson had some glaring holes in his offensive game last season, most specifically when it came to getting on base. He had a .260 on-base percentage last year and walked just 19 times in 118 games. Kemp wasn't much better, walking only 27 times in his 115 games.
If Kemp is the lone alternative, why deprive Davidson of the chance to prove himself worthy of future consideration? After all, this White Sox team isn't expected to compete for a championship in 2018. Plus, Davidson already has five hits, two homers and two walks in 12 spring plate appearances.
But Kemp isn't the lone alternative. Because baseball's offseason has extended deep into spring training, there are a bunch of options out there, even if few of them really get White Sox fans' revved up about the possibility of them coming to the South Side. Here are five unsigned guys: Adam Lind, Mark Reynolds, Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Carlos Gonzalez.
Lind had a .362 on-base percentage in a reserve role for the Washington Nationals last season. Reynolds hit 30 homers and drove in 97 runs for the Colorado Rockies. Cabrera has familiarity with the White Sox and bashed out 30 doubles in 2017. Bautista was not good in his final season with the Toronto Blue Jays but is just two years removed from posting a .366 on-base percentage and three years removed from a 40-homer season. Gonzalez also had a down year in 2017 with the Rockies but has a heck of a track record and is just two seasons removed from 100 RBIs and a .298/.350/.505 slash line in 2016.
It would figure that any of those guys would be an improvement over what Davidson gave the White Sox in 2017. But the same point made in regard to Kemp applies to most of those guys, as well. These would all be short-term moves for a team in long-term mode. Only one of those five names, Gonzalez, is under 33 years old (and he's 32). What does adding Reynolds or Bautista for 2018 do for the White Sox and their much-discussed plan to build a perennial contender? What does taking at-bats away from Davidson and giving them to someone in their mid-30s accomplish? Perhaps it makes the White Sox more competitive in 2018, but none of the available free agents seem to be a big-enough impact bat to push the White Sox into the postseason.
The best-case scenario, given what the White Sox are expected to do this season, is that adding one of these veterans would provide a potential midseason trade chip. And that could be valuable, depending on how the addition would perform in the season's first half. But remember the White Sox had Cabrera and traded him last year, acquiring a pair of prospects who aren't exactly among the most buzz-worthy in the farm system.
The good news is that there's really no wrong answer considering how the offseason has played out league-wide. If the White Sox want to add a veteran bat, there's likely a bargain to be had. Any move would be a low-risk one considering the White Sox expectations.
Any move except a trade for Kemp.