SEATTLE – It’s times likes these, with the White Sox approaching the Aug. 1 trade deadline heading in the wrong direction at breakneck speed, when the pros-and-cons discussions of trading Chris Sale are ramped up.
Oh, what a boatload of talent the current favorite to win the American League Cy Young would return.
And oh, why trade a top-six finisher in Cy Young voting and an All-Star in each of his seasons as a starting pitcher (how’s that for premium consistency? The man hasn’t had one off year yet). Sale is not only great, his contract is fabulous for the team owning his services: $9.15 million this season, $12 million next season, a $12.5 million club option for 2018 and a $15 million club option in 2019.
Think about what he would command in free agency today. A price, to be sure, that is out of Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf’s ballpark.
“I would be shocked if they traded Sale,’’ a former major league executive said, echoing sentiments of most everyone in the baseball industry. “He’s the foundation of the staff and he has a club-friendly contract. Makes zero sense.’’
On top of his value as a pitcher, the 27-year-old Sale (14-3, 3.18 ERA) won’t be caught grumbling about his contract, is the face of the franchise and the consummate team leader, the most recent example his reaction to being pulled after eight innings and 100 pitches with a one-hitter going against the Seattle Mariners Monday in the opener of a series the Sox desperately need to win.
After closer David Robertson inexplicably gave it away, giving up a walk-off homer to Adam Lind to extend the Sox losing streak to five games and drop them to 45-47, Sale said 1) yes, I wanted to finish the game myself and 2) yes, I understand why I didn’t.
“We know it’s crunch-time, it’s time to start winning some games,’’ Sale said. “Don’t get down on yourselves, pick your teammates up and come in tomorrow with same attitude we’ve had the whole year – be ready to win.’’
There is also, among those who believe the Sox seem stuck in middle-of-the-road territory as a .500 team, growing sentiment Jose Quintana should be moved for a sizable return. Quintana is also 27, has a sweet club-friendly deal (club options for $10.5 million in 2019 and 2020, the final two years), has similar work ethic and team-play characteristics as Sale’s, is an All-Star and is left-handed. You might want to think long and hard about getting rid of young, left-handed Cy Young candidates.
In both cases, it says here the Sox would want more than anyone is willing to give up.
For Sale, ‘they would want a king’s ransom,’’ a veteran American League scout said. “As much to do with the contract as his immense talent.’’
“Many times with young controllable superstars it’s all about ‘pricing the beef,’ gauging his real value. Seeing what they could get. Maybe somebody is willing to overwhelm the Sox. Maybe a team loaded with young talent will cough up a mix of three to four dudes with two or three studs mixed in.’’
Or maybe not.
“Of course, they don’t really want to get rid of Sale. What can change is if they really think he is starting to slip, and have to time it just right before anyone else figured it out. It’s a high-stakes game of commodities when you get down to it.’’
Sox general manager Rick Hahn was aggressive in trading for James Shields and said last week he’s still in the hunt to add, not subtract. That was before his team lost four straight with an average of one run scored in those games. If the slide continues, he might have no choice but to emphasize next year rather than this year in potential trades.
Unless a king’s ransom is offered, don’t expect Sale to be part of that.