MINNEAPOLIS – White Sox general manager Rick Hahn is receiving more phone calls about Chris Sale than ever before, which is no surprise considering:
*Sale’s tremendous value as one of baseball’s best starting pitchers, if not the best, over the last five years, to go with a team-friendly contract.
*The Sox’ ongoing failure on the field despite Sale’s excellence and Hahn’s willingness to at least listen more intently to offers.
*Sale’s clubhouse behavior last week and biting remarks about his manager a couple of days later.
The trade deadline is Monday, and Hahn holds the cards with both Sale and Jose Quintana, his other ace with both a steady record and favorable contract to match Sale’s. Quintana was All-Star quality in the opener of a three-game series against the Twins Friday with nine strikeouts while lowering his ERA to 2.89 with 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball in a game the Sox lost 2-1 in 12 innings.
Quintana, a 27-year-old lefty, has allowed two runs over three starts since the All-Star break. While he walked one batter over his entire start, Sox relievers walked three and hit one in the 12th, the last walk by Tommy Kahnle against pinch-hitter Joe Mauer to force in the winning run. Dan Jennings walked one and hit one and Kahnle walked two.
But back to Quintana, and Sale.
“All you have to do is think about it for a second and realize it wouldn’t be as good if you don’t have those guys,’’ manager Robin Ventura said.
All you have to do is know the Sox roster and organizational depth problems are so flawed that it has come to this: That they are even listening to offers for a 27-year-old Cy Young candidate and five-time All-Star with a team friendly contract – a centerpiece treasure every GM in baseball would die for.
That very thing probably crossed Sale’s mind before he went postal in the clubhouse last week.
Ventura is not in minute-by-minute contact with Hahn but he’s close enough to believe Sale will remain a Sox for the rest of the season. After that, the picture might change, and it’s all about return. The Sox would want a package of prospects and major leaguers, and contending teams don’t want to part with the latter right now. But GMs have been known to get greedy, so stay tuned.
“How many teams have the players to pull it off?’’ an AL Central source said. “Texas, Boston, maybe nobody else. Texas is definitely the most serious.’’
Let the speculation continue.
“People have fun doing that and sometimes it gets the best of [players] inside because they’ll get their feelings hurt because they think that’s actually going on,’’ Ventura said. “And sometimes it’s happening and sometimes it isn’t. It does distract guys.
“That stuff this time of year, it’s rampant, everybody talking about people, and a lot of it can just be fans or people saying, ‘Trade this guy for that guy,’ but it’s not that easy.’’
Looking to get within a game of .500 after splitting four games against the Cubs in Chicago, the Sox led 1-0 when Adam Eaton hit the second pitch against Ricky Nolasco 450 feet for his eighth homer. But the Sox lineup gave Quintana nothing after that.
Eaton gave something from right field, though, collecting his major league high 15th and 16th outfield assists throwing out Miguel Sano at home (by 20 feet) and Robbie Grossman at third (by an inch or two).
Sale, in the aftermath of tearing up the team’s throwback uniforms last Saturday, said Ventura needed to back his players more.
And when Sale met the media for the first time since then, he had nothing but great things to say about the love and support he had from teammates through the ordeal.
He had little to say about Ventura, who, aside from. baseball talk during the Cubs game, hadn’t spoken with his ace as of 4 p.m. Friday.
“He’s going around doing what he needs to do [with teammates] and we’ll talk at some point,’’ Ventura said. “It’ll happen. There’s a lot of guys to talk to. We’ll get to it.’’