One of the issues with a Chris Sale trade when it was just an annoying article prompt, rather than a possibly imminent occurrence, is the intense theoretical expensiveness of it. Having the most valuable trade asset in recent memory is only great for a rebuild if anyone can actually pay the price.
Or wants to.
With reports of Chris Archer and Justin Verlander rumored to be available on the market, there are opportunities to get very comparable immediate production in 2017 without mountainous, prospect system-carving costs. Some combination of a team eager to win now, in need of top line pitching, somewhat megalomaniacal about their need for top line pitching, but also flush with prospect depth and not reliant on that prospect depth patching any emerging holes on their roster, needs to come along to make a deal work and be fair.
Given that, it might be easier to understand why the Boston Red Sox keep getting circulated as a potential match ad nauseum. A three-team deal might ease some of the demands on a single trade partner, but that’s even harder to project and takes even longer to match up, which gets to the crux of the matter. With a pot of coffee and a copy of MLB The Show, I could probably have half of this roster shipped out of town by Saturday morning, but that is not quite how the Sox can or would want to go about it.
If there’s a personality that Rick Hahn has cultivated as he enters his fifth season at the helm, it’s that of a patient observer of the market, and he set the stage at this week’s GM meetings that it could take a while for some of these deals to come together…while still doing his normal thing of qualifying everything as a hypothetical and leaving open the possibility of running a $400 million payroll and gunning for the World Series.
“’The pace and magnitude of any of our moves, regardless of the direction, are going to be dictated by the market,’ Hahn said. ‘You can’t say you’re going to trade player X before we do anything else because it might not be the right time to get proper value on a given player. We’re in a position right now where we have a few players who are under control only for another year, so there’s a bit of a clock on them. But on guys who are controllable longer than that, there’s not necessarily any urgency to make a move until you feel like you’ve peaked out on value.'”
Mentioning players only under control for another year seems like a direct reference to Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera and perhaps Brett Lawrie as well. No one in the group is going to bring back a future team MVP, but they are trades worth maximizing while the costs for Sale and Jose Quintana still remain on or beyond the cliff of affordability for any potential suitor.
That is all well and logical as far as trade leverage, but makes for a possibly bizarre and uninspiring 2017. It’s one thing to ask fans to come watch a bunch of youngsters trip over their own two feet and try to fall in love; that’s a marketing angle that has been tried before and found some measure of success. It’s another to enter the season mid-teardown, with Sale and other core pieces hanging around and going through the motions while the roster is stripped down around them. That has a lot more potential for discontent combined with baked in fan disinterest.
Colleen Kane’s article on Hahn’s comments focused on potential solutions for certain positions on the 2017 roster, such as getting Jose Abreu more time at designated hitter, adding another option in center field so as to keep Adam Eaton in right, a veteran catcher to go along with Omar Narvaez and tracking the recovery of Brett Lawrie. None of that screams “we’re putting Dexter Fowler next to Eaton and signing Matt Wieters,” but establishes some expectation that the radical change a rebuild brings will be gradual, and not all the way ready by Opening Day.
Lead Image Credit: Rick Osentoski // USA Today Sports Images