“[Cespedes’ success] is not surprising because he’s a star,” Abreu told ESPN.com back in June before the outfielder was dealt from the Detroit Tigers to the New York Mets. “He’s a really good player and a really good person, and I think he can do even more than he’s showing. He could be much better. I just hope that he can continue to grow and continue to be healthy.”
While an MLB.com report suggested that the White Sox and Baltimore Orioles were in the lead to land Cespedes’ services, Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reported via Twitter that the White Sox have taken an interest in free-agent outfielders, listing Cespedes or Alex Gordon as possible targets.
The White Sox have also been linked to free agent Justin Upton this offseason.
Cespedes, though, appears to make the most sense for the White Sox, and not only because it would pair him and his pal Abreu in the same lineup.
Even after an extensive roster makeover last winter, the White Sox were still lacking power in 2015, finishing last in the American League in both home runs (136) and slugging percentage (.380).
The White Sox have already started to address that deficiency this winter by adding infielders Brett Lawrie and Todd Frazier. Adding Cespedes, who hit 35 home runs last season, would continue to address the need. In four major league seasons, Cespedes has mashed 106 home runs with 367 RBIs and a .486 slugging percentage.
Not only that, but Cespedes won a Gold Glove in the outfield last year. Getting better defensively is yet another priority for the White Sox.
The addition won’t come cheap, though. Even though prices for free-agent outfielders could be falling due to a glut on the market, as well as the advanced stage of the offseason, a deal to land Cespedes still could be in the five-year range and reach $100 million.
That would easily qualify as the largest contract in White Sox history and would figure to give them a much higher payroll than last season, a year in which the club struggled and attendance lagged at 21,947 per game, 26th of all 30 teams in baseball. Only the Oakland Athletics, Miami Marlins, Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays drew less per game.
The White Sox have admitted, though, that with Abreu and Chris Sale in their primes and under team-friendly contracts, the team's window of opportunity is open now, even if recent won-loss records fail to suggest that a championship is near.
A complete rebuild can always come later if roster tweaks done last winter and this winter don’t yield fruit. If the White Sox remain stuck in the mud, Sale and Abreu can always be moved for high-level prospects.
And a free-agent deal with Cespedes won’t cost the White Sox a draft pick, which fits into their mode of replenishing the talent in their farm system, something that had been overlooked in the recent past.
The White Sox’s interest in Cespedes certainly makes sense. The questions are whether they have the money to get a deal done and whether Cespedes sees the White Sox as a fit for him as much as the club sees the outfielder as a fit for them.
Abreu certainly sees Cespedes as a good fit.