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MLB’s weekend rush decreases Sox’ free-agent options

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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The Chicago White Sox weren’t said to be part of the Black Friday stampede for a Tickle Me Semien.

Not spotted throwing ‘bows to snag a remote-control Marte.

Not counted among the campers who passed on sleep to door-bust for an Easy Bake Escobar.

Just because the White Sox weren’t mentioned in the flurry of Hot Stove rumors during a crazy few days of player movement in baseball — one that, just like that mountain of leftovers in your fridge, isn’t expected to end with the holiday weekend — doesn’t mean they weren’t, or aren’t, up to something. General manager Rick Hahn has said repeatedly that the team does its best work under the radar.

But South Side fans spending time on Twitter instead of on Amazon, watching holiday movies or suffering through Bears-Lions were treated to news that players atop their wish lists were going somewhere else.

Marcus Semien got a seven-year deal from the Texas Rangers, and he might be suiting up as their new second baseman, as opposed to their new shortstop, with the team reported to still be chasing the likes of Corey Seager and Trevor Story.

Starling Marte got four years to roam the New York Mets’ outfield, the same length awarded to Avisaíl García, the former White Sox right fielder joining Marte in the National League East on a deal with the Miami Marlins.

Even Eduardo Escobar, a very good player considered by plenty of fans to be a consolation prize, of sorts, if the White Sox missed out on Semien, got a new multi-year gig, teaming with Marte in Queens.

 

All that came amid starting-pitching signings like Justin Verlander heading back to the Houston Astros, Kevin Gausman joining up with the Toronto Blue Jays and Jon Gray going to the Rangers. Max Scherzer could be next, reported to be closing in on a deal with the Mets.

Of course, the White Sox didn’t exactly oversleep their Black Friday alarm. They made a significant move early last week, adding reliever Kendall Graveman on a reported three-year contract. Graveman was sensational last season, and his addition addresses a critical need in the South Side bullpen amid numerous departures.

But with a glaring hole at second base, a potential area to upgrade in right field and plenty of fans desiring a starting-pitching shake-up after what went down in the American League Division Series, there’s obviously more that can (and surely will) be done. Though there’s a whole offseason in which to do it, a flood of signings ahead of the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement on Wednesday — where plenty say a lockout, and with it a transaction freeze, is waiting — has baseball looking like basketball right now.

And while no deadline exists for the White Sox to do the rest of their shopping this winter, top options are flying off the shelves and the selection is undoubtedly different than it was a few days ago.

Semien was the crown jewel of the second-base market, seemingly the perfect option for the White Sox to make a splash. The former South Sider is coming off an ungodly season of offensive and defensive success, recently adding a third-place MVP finish and a Gold Glove to the 46 homers and 102 runs he drove in this year. A reunion where his career began would have filled the void at second and been one heck of an upgrade in the annual arms race between contenders. Instead, Semien’s going much further south than 35th Street, to a Texas team with a much steeper road to contention than the White Sox have at the moment.

Escobar was the backup plan for so many hoping for Semien. Instead, he’s part of Steve Cohen’s shopping spree in New York. And while all that was going on, last summer’s deadline darling Adam Frazier got shipped to Seattle in a trade.

And so the options at second base have dwindled. Oft-discussed free agents Chris Taylor and Javy Báez are still out there, the glare of the rumor spotlight turning to them now. Past that duo, there are perhaps few free agents left of greater caliber than César Hernández, who the White Sox declined to bring back on a $6 million option. That could mean Hahn being forced to the trade market to address his team’s greatest need.

Elsewhere, right-field options are slightly more plentiful, if only because another wish-list-topper, Nick Castellanos, is still out there. He’s been the focus of plenty of Twitter reports as other big names have signed, and the White Sox have yet to be mentioned among the suitors. With one of the benefits of a hypothetical Semien signing being the bat he could have injected into the lineup, Castellanos would fit a similar bill, even if right field isn’t as critical a need for the White Sox, with far more attractive internal options there than at second base.

 

Who knows if teams will be willing to give Castellanos the seven- or eight-year deal he’s reported to be seeking. Among the other free-agent options still out there are Kris Bryant, Michael Conforto, Joe Pederson and Jorge Soler.

A great many names make up the available free-agent starter contingent, a group topped by reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray. The White Sox would have some work to do to add a piece of any significance to an already-full rotation, but it’s certainly a possibility and perhaps a worthwhile one to pursue given the questions surrounding guys like Dallas Keuchel and Michael Kopech.

Of course, fan sentiment swings wildly this time of year, even when there isn’t a looming labor crisis, and one move can change all the impatient grumbling currently making up White Sox Twitter.

But regardless, what’s certain is that plenty of teams and plenty of players had the desire to get deals done in the past few days and acted on them in big ways, ways that will affect those franchises for years to come. The White Sox are set up for sustained success, but they were rudely reminded in the ALDS that they’re not yet where they want to be as one of the best teams in baseball.

Teams spent the holiday weekend bettering themselves, and with Graveman, the White Sox did, too. But the White Sox are planning to get better still. And after the last few days, their options for doing so are fewer than they were when the turkey was being carved Thursday night.

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