The MLB Winter Meetings surpassed all expectations as a source not just of rumours but actual trades and free agent signings.
Plenty of players found new homes, or had them chosen for them, and many of the moves seem likely to prompt further deals to occur over the next month or so.
The most intriguing protagonist in all this so far has been the Chicago White Sox.
They lost 89 games in 2014 despite receiving quality performances from the likes of true ace Chris Sale, Cuban slugger Jose Abreu and the effective Jose Quintana.
A few years ago, a team in that position may see its better players as being of more value to another team than themselves. Paying for quality performances when your side as a whole isn’t a contender can be a waste. With all teams on the lookout for upgrades, often it made more sense to cash in and trade those players away for a package of prospects that could blossom at a more opportune time period.
Thanks to the second Wild Card and booming TV revenues, this position now seems to be rarer. If you’ve got a core of players, that means you could be just a handful of moves away from getting back into the playoff mix.
What I’ve been particularly impressed by is the way that the White Sox’s General Manager Rick Hahn has acted to improve all areas of his roster.
Their bullpen has been boosted by the additions of David Robertson and Zach Duke and the rotation now boasts an impressive 1-2 punch with Jeff Samardzija joining Sale as a deadly duo. As for the offence, Adam LaRoche should add some quality at-bats on his own, whilst also allowing Abreu to save his legs by DH’ing on a regular basis, and Saturday night’s signing of Melky Cabrera not only puts one of the better free agent bats on their roster but also keeps him off a potential contender.
The two keys to baseball are scoring runs and preventing runs, so improving both aspects of your team gives you a good chance to make some inroads.
There’s no question that the White Sox have a lot of ground to make up and even after these additions it may prove they haven’t done quite enough to bridge the gap to reigning AL Central champs the Detroit Tigers (although, if they cannot bring back Max Scherzer, they may start slipping back to the pack more quickly than expected).
However, even if that does prove correct, that doesn’t mean they won’t be good enough to beat out teams like the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians for a potential Wild Card.
The mere possibility is exactly why the White Sox are going for it this offseason, trying to take advantage of having the likes of Sale and Abreu rather than letting someone else enjoy them.
White Sox fans have genuine reason for optimism after a depressing 2014 and the playoff race in the American League should have another contender to add to the mix.