Chris Sale may be made available as the trade deadline approaches and there have been rumors that the Red Sox are one of the teams that are interested. Sale is one of the elite pitchers in Major League Baseball and there isn’t a team in the league who wouldn’t want him. He has a very team friendly contract. This includes $12 million in 2017 along with team options for $12.5 million in 2018 and $15 million in 2019. Considering the contracts elite pitchers are getting today, this is a steal. The question isn’t about Sale’s ability or value, it’s about likely having to significantly overpay get him.
Is Sale an elite starter right now? Yes. However, he’s not typically considered to be a top five starter in MLB. He has won more than 14 games just once in his career and that was in 2012 when he had 17 wins. In 2015, he was 13-11 with a 3.41 ERA. Very good, but certainly not elite. With that said, Sale has been an All Star for five consecutive seasons and has finished in the top six in the American League Cy Young Award Voting in each of the past four seasons. This season, he’s the favorite to win his first Cy Young Award. He’s 14-3 with a 3.18 ERA. At age 27, Sale could definitely be argued as the best pitching commodity in the AL when you consider his talent, age, and contract.
If the Red Sox were to trade for Sale without giving up high-end MLB talent, they would immediately become the favorites to represent the American League in the 2016 World Series. With Sale, Steven Wright, David Price, Rick Porcello, and Drew Pomeranz, they would have the best rotation in the American League to go along with the best offense. This all sounds great up to this point, right?!
Here’s the problem. If the White Sox are going to trade Sale at the deadline, they’re going to want a team to overpay. Some team probably will and that team should not be the Red Sox. The Red Sox have something most MLB teams don’t have. They have current MLB superstars that teams covet in Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. You could even throw Travis Shaw and Blake Swihart into that mix as well, but they’re obviously not at the same level as the other three. They also have elite prospects in Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, and Rafael Devers. The roster has a wealth of young talent which puts the Red Sox on the radar anytime an elite pitcher becomes available. So, the Red Sox could very easily overpay to get Sale while most teams wouldn’t even have the option to do so.
The White Sox aren’t going to take any Red Sox player straight up for Sale unless that player’s name is Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts. Those two players aren’t going anywhere. They’re also not going to take a group of second tier prospects along with a MLB talent for Sale. It’s probably going to take at least three of the above names to get Sale.
If you’re the Red Sox, are you trading a package such as Jackie Bradley Jr., Yoan Moncada, and Rafael Devers for Chris Sale? Bradley is the best centerfielder in the AL besides Mike Trout right now. He’s 26 years old and is signed through 2020. The Red Sox could move either Betts or Benintendi to centerfield. However, having all three would give the Red Sox an elite outfield for years. Moncada is regarded as a top three prospect in all of MLB. There are many experts who think he’s a can’t miss prospect. The same is true for Benintendi. Devers is viewed as someone who will be a steady starting third baseman. So, essentially, you’re giving up a current All Star, a player who is projected to be an All Star in Moncada, and a starting third baseman in Devers. For Chris Sale. Again, this is just one proposal, but it’s an example of what it would take.
If we were talking about Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux, or Clayton Kershaw this would be a different story. Chris Sale is a great pitcher, but he’s not at that level.
You don’t give up close half of your team’s young, elite talent for this Sale.