Mike DePilla has written about the White Sox and major league baseball for several formerly-awesome sites that have gone the way of the World Series day game, including the Chi-Town Daily News, the SportsMixed Network and White Sox Watch. When he’s not whining about sacrifice bunts, he’s eating pizza, listening to Wilco and correcting your misused apostrophes.
[Editor note: Mike proposed this deal--which includes Adam Eaton--before Tuesday, so it's more of a thought exercise now. On the other hand, it was always a hypothetical thought exercise]
It is highly unlikely that the White Sox will trade Chris Sale. The combination of both the ability and the willingness of any team to meet the potentially-historic high price is dubious. But all this talk today about how much interest there is in Chris Sale got me thinking about scenarios in which the Sox could trade him and come out ahead.
To me, it is not a question of whether the Sox should trade Chris Sale. A team should always trade a player if the trade makes the team better. And there are potential trades of Chris Sale that would make the White Sox better. The question is what team could and would make a trade on that order?
It needs to be stated that trading Sale does not set the Sox “winning timetable” back, and it is not a rebuilding move. Quote the opposite, trading Sale could, if done right, accelerate the Sox timetable. If the Sox were a good team, with a lot of talent around the diamond, trading Sale would be unconditionally foolish. In that scenario, it would bring in only marginal improvements at already somewhat-strong positions that would not offset the loss of an ace. Good thing then that the Sox are bad! So bad in fact, that the improvements a Sale package would bring in could make such a move a net gain and bring legitimate contention into focus.
Right now the Sox are a team with one strength, starting pitching, and a whole bunch of weaknesses, mainly, “an entire offense,” but specifically third base, catcher and outfield. The bad thing about the weaknesses is that there is no obvious way to improve any of them in house (or through free agency, a path the Sox are unlikely to take anyway).
The current major league roster is, outside of two or three players, barren. There may be an eventual big leaguer here or there on the farm, but there are no real impact hitters. There is no heir apparent 3B, C or OF to step up and project as an above average major leaguer.
In order to be competitive, whether in 2014, 2015 or whenever, those weaknesses will have to be shored up somehow. The bottom line is, the Sox will need to import talent to win. A trade of Sale can accomplish this by bringing in quality players at multiple positions.
If the pitching-hungry Orioles or Angels are willing to talk about Manny Machado, or Mike Trout (Sale and Addison Reed for one of them?), you have yourself a blockbuster and quantity is not important. Otherwise, a team with a deep pool of talent would have to back up the truck, addressing several needs in one clear shot. Up until yesterday’s trade, the Diamondbacks would have fit the bill. Suppose they super-size yesterday’s deal with a proposal like:
Sale for Archie Bradley (SP), Matt Davidson (3B), Adam Eaton (OF), Stryker Trahan (C) and Chris Owings (SS).
With major league-ready additions all over the field (minus Trahan, who is considered another year or two away), the Sox could project a solid line up going forward from that. (Now that the Sox already acquired Eaton to upgrade their outfield, a deal of this magnitude is even less likely than it already was.) Bradley, a top pitching prospect, may not become an “ace” on the level of Sale but he could immediately be a contributor in the starting rotation, which has enough depth to withstand the loss of its leader. Sure, there is a chance the Diamondbacks prospects will bust. There is also a chance Chris Sale gets injured. The risk factor balances out.
The key there is that all the prospects (again, minus Trahan) were major league ready. That represents a significant part of the value in a Sale trade. The Sox’ poor track record in developing position player prospects only adds to the importance of acquiring already-developed-and-ready-
That potential trade, or a similar one with another prospect-rich farm system is only labeled “rebuilding” in the sense that it is an admission the Sox do not have that class of players anywhere in their own organization. Otherwise, it is a step forward for the major league development of the team, despite how the superficial media might analyze it.
The underlying point in everything is that this team is currently not in the position to win If the Sox feel they can hold on to Sale and import talent in other ways to jump start a contender, then they should do it. But if some team out there offers quality and quantity, trading Sale can work to fill multiple holes on this mostly-barren Sox team. And all it takes is one.
And hey, sometimes you have to strike when the iron is hot.