If the Boston Red Sox can swing a trade for the possibly available White Sox All Star lefty, Chris Sale, the name of this post would be the front of the Red Sox rotation. But the topic of the post is in actuality what it may cost the Red Sox in players to acquire the best pitcher in the American League.
Chris Sale is only 27 years old, he will not turn 28 until right before Opening Day 2017. He is signed through 2019 at very short money for a star pitcher. He is earning $9.15M this year with 12M due in '17 and '18 and 15M in 2019. He is 71-43 with an ERA of 2.95 for his career. The White Sox will ask for the moon for him it would seem. Let's look at some of the rumored asking prices out there for Chris Sale.
First the most common rumor is the White Sox want a package of five top young players, with some major league ready players in the package ideally. There are also reports Chicago would want at least two pitchers in return to help offset the loss of Sale. There are a very limited amount of teams who have the young players to make this happen probably Texas, Boston, the Dodgers, and maybe Houston.
We will examine groups of Red Sox players who have been mentioned in Sale rumors and present a package that could entice the Chisox.
The core, the B-Boys: Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Jr.
Several reports claim any Sox-Sox deal must begin with one of these three, plus one of the Sox best two prospects plus more. Let me be clear there is no chance in hell I would trade Mookie Betts straight up for any pitcher including Chris Sale. There is the same no chance that I would trade Xander Bogaerts straight up for any pitcher, again including Mr. Sale. I might, maybe deal JBJ straight up for Sale but I doubt I would (and to be honest I doubt the White Sox trade Sale one for one for Jackie). I do not think Dave Dombrowski trades any of these three guys either. The basis of the deal needs to start elsewhere.
The Super Prospects: Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers
Many of the same reports which claim the deal begins with one of Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley go on to say the second piece needs to be Moncada or Benintendi. I hate to sound like a broken record but I do not trade Yoan Moncada for any pitcher. This would be akin to trading Bogaerts or Betts two or three years ago. My preference would be to hang onto Benintendi as well. This may be difficult to do because there was a report out of Chicago today saying the White Sox would be willing to build a deal with Benintendi as the main piece. Last year when the Red Sox picked Benintendi at number seven overall in the draft, the White Sox were sitting at number eight, and apparently had every intention to take Benintendi there.
If there is to be a blockbuster package it must include one top ten type prospect (that means top ten in all of baseball, just not Red Sox top ten). If Boston hopes to hold onto both Moncada and Benintendi, luckily they have one more top ten player in their system. Rafael Devers, a power hitting third baseman, after a slow start to 2016 has been raking of late in Salem. Keith Law of ESPN in his mid season rankings had Devers as the seventh best prospect in all of the game. At age 19, Devers is further from big league ready, but is a similarly rated prospect to Yoan and Andrew.
So piece number one would be Rafael Devers.
With the trade of Anderson Espinoza to San Diego earlier this month for Drew Pomeranz, the Red Sox system is not loaded with pitching, the way they are with batters. The two best by far are Michael Kopech, who recently hit 105 on the radar guns, pitching for Salem and the second top 50 type prospect is recently signed number one draftee, Jay Groome. Groome should not be dealt (even though with new rules in MLB recent draftees can be traded), until Boston has a better idea what they have in Groome. This may take a year or two. And I do not think they are in position to trade Kopech either (although I would if it meant making the deal or not).
Neither Henry Owens nor Brian Johnson have the panache to be a leading piece in the trade at this time. I do think however one of them (Owens likely) could be added as a fourth or fifth piece.
Boston does have a couple of other mid range pitching prospects, but likely no one else to spark Chicago's interest. But Boston certainly does have other pitching to offer. Out of the current Boston bullpen, Matt Barnes could interest the White Sox (especially if they still believe he could start in the big leagues) and at the back end of a deal Joe Kelly may spark some interest.
But if Chris Sale were to join the Red Sox rotation, Boston could include in the trade package the starter leaving the rotation. Tonight on NESN Nick Cafardo said if the Red Sox included Eduardo Rodriguez in the package it would take only two other pieces to make a deal. Now considering it was Cafardo the other two pieces could be Betts and Moncada, but the question is would you trade E-Rod in a package for Sale? Rodriguez is not only young, but has over a year of MLB experience. I cannot imagine any other team offering a better young pitcher.
About a week after the Drew Pomeranz trade to Boston a report surfaced that Theo Epstein and the Cubs had been trying hard to acquire Pomeranz. The Cubs did not intend to keep Drew, but the report said the Cubs were going to include Pomeranz in a package for a starting pitcher who was not previously known to be available. Now I cannot believe the White Sox would have traded Chris Sale across town to the Cubbies, but could Boston use Drew Pomeranz in a similar manner? Pomeranz is the same age as Sale and is coming off an All Star Game appearance, and is signed for two more years. Pomeranz could "replace" Sale in the Chisox rotation, and attraction of acquiring some young talent with him from Boston would offset the differences in the two lefties.
So I include in my proposal to Rick Hahn so far: Rafael Devers, Drew Pomeranz.
Big League Ready Talent
If the White Sox, as reported, are looking for the package to include a big leaguer, the third piece of our deal would likely come from the following list:
Let's review the list in reverse order.
The White Sox catching is dreadful Dioner Navarro, Alex Avila. Christian Vazquez would be an immediate and long term upgrade. Vazquez' poor offensive showing in 2016 might limit his value, but I could see him being attractive to a team with such crappy catchers.
Brock Holt is probably too valuable to the Red Sox as they begin the last two months of the season. But if the Red Sox could keep Benintendi out of the deal, he comes up to Boston to help out in left field. If Chicago is looking for players to help them now, Holt fits the bill. Plus Chicago second sacker, Bret Lawrie is a free agent to be, so Holt could play there full time in 2017.
Travis Shaw has been slumping of late, but he has shown he can hit for power at the major league level. The White Sox seem to have the corner infield spots covered with Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier. But Frazier is another name Chicago is rumored to be shopping at the deadline, and Abreu would make a fine DH if Shaw manned first. For those who are still Shaw skeptics, this would be considered trading high on Shaw.
But by far the most attractive name on this list, a player who in my eyes is just a notch or so below Moncada, Benintendi, and Devers is Blake Swihart. Swihart despite being out currently with an ankle injury, could be the answer to the Chicago catching situation detailed above. Swihart has already shown flashes of the strong major league hitter he can be, and likely will be. Swihart is not someone I would like to trade, and if the Red Sox do they had better hope Sandy Leon is not a mirage or that Vazquez will hit when he is further removed from Tommy John surgery. But if you are looking to build a blockbuster package and keep all five of Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley, Moncada and Benintendi, Blake Swihart likely needs to be in the package.
Offer so far: Rafael Devers, Drew Pomeranz, Blake Swihart.
This offer includes a major league All Star pitcher, a big league catcher/outfielder, and a prospect rated in the top ten to fifteen in all of baseball.
For the rest you could look back at any of the Red Sox Maineiacs top 30 prospects. For another pitcher I would offer one of Travis Lakins, Trey Ball, or Teddy Stankiewicz. Lakins is the highest rated Red Sox prospect of these three, Ball of course was drafted the highest, and Stankiewicz is the only one of these three at AA. Henry Owens or Brian Johnson could fit here as well, but I would prefer to send along someone in a lower level.
One player who has had a very strong 2016 is current Sea Dogs shortstop, Mauricio Dubon. Dubon has also played second base, and with the White Sox having young shortstop, Tim Anderson, Dubon could be a keystone partner for Anderson in the future.
So let's make our final offer: Devers, Pomeranz, Swihart, Dubon, and Trey Ball for Chris Sale.
So would Chicago make this deal? I am not sure, but this is an offer that does not include the five guys I would not want to trade (plus it keeps E-Rod). It is also an offer that I feel would be the best Chicago receives unless Texas trades several guys like Jurickson Profar, Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara. But Texas does not have the pitching to trade to match Pomeranz (and especially not Rodriguez if he was included).
If the White Sox really want to trade Chris Sale this package might get it done. But to be honest, I am not convinced Sale will be traded. Jose Quintana, anyone?