This feels realer than the countless other times.
The long-pondered White Sox rebuild rumors have more meat to them because the franchise-altering move to trade Chris Sale is being put at the forefront of reports, and the long-pondered Sale trade has more meat to it because it’s staked into these rebuild talks rather than some ill-conceived shifting of resources for a would-be contender. They can’t trade Sale and not rebuild, to a degree, and they can’t rebuild effectively while keeping Sale, so pushing both at the same time adds a level of seriousness.
The Dodgers, Nationals and Braves have all drawn direct mention as competitors for Sale in the past few days, with almost certainly more interested, but perhaps not as stocked for a competitive bid, though the Red Sox are certainly capable of delivering the top bid if they wanted to.
Normally, a typical Sox trade discussion revolves around a need for offense, a need for major league-ready talent to avoid the weeds of their position player development system, and then some rumor of Rick Hahn holding out for a Godfather offer. It sounds like we’re only getting that final bit, for normalcy’s sake.
“As for Sale, the biggest question is whether the White Sox will actually move him.
‘They’re willing but only if they totally win the deal, which won’t happen,’ a rival executive said.
Call it the Curse of Shelby Miller: Every team with a high-end starter wants to match or exceed the Braves’ return for Miller and reliever Gabe Speier — infielder Dansby Swanson, outfielder Ender Inciarte and right-hander Aaron Blair.”
More like ‘a salty rival executive,” perhaps.
As much as the Sox are perpetually in need of offensive help, a Sale departure decimates a rotation that is both already probably giving playing time to James Shields next season, and doesn’t know where their next stud is coming from, confidence in Carson Fulmer, Alec Hansen, or even Jordan Stephens and Spencer Adams, aside. If this is truly a full-scale teardown, where everyone older or further along in their service time than Carlos Rodon could be on the outs, the Sox will need more of everything, and can focus on getting the most value rather than specific help at certain positions.
The Braves are the odd team to see here, because rather than a contender looking for a super weapon, they seem to be trying to slap together a competitive team for their new ballpark, even at the possibility of shipping out pieces that were thought to be their new core going forward. Dansby Swanson is both seemingly the new face of the franchise for the Braves, and their best chip for building a package to match Sale’s value, rather than a group that has not made their major league debut.
As much as fencing a crop of guys under control for three years or more just to get a new crop of players under control for six years seems slightly pointless, the Sox both need to take some big league guys because building a package of guys at Double-A or below would take too much volume to counteract the level of uncertainty, and if the Sox can’t take their payroll above $120 million to compete, they are going to need to be in the game of aggressive pre-arbitration extensions to their youngsters anyway.
The Nationals are considered strongly in the mix, but if they insist on withholding Trea Turner, as Rosenthal is reporting, their top prospect is Victor Robles, who is very good, but also 19 until May and has not reached Double-A yet. How much risk are the Sox willing to assume in the return for the biggest trade chip in the league? Typically not very much, but this rebuild is supposed to a new paradigm for White Sox thinking.
While Sale and Jose Quintana seem to be the most sought after trade pieces, they are probably the only pieces in the core group of Adam Eaton, Jose Abreu, or even Nate Jones, that would be worth holding onto through the rebuild. Even though they are pitchers, if the Sox are going to be in the tank for two-to-four years, Sale and Quintana are better bets to be excellent on the other side of that gulf than soon-to-be 28-year-old Eaton, whose game is heavy on speed and depends on corner outfield defense for value, or Abreu, who will turn 30 in January and has seen his production decline every season. Jones is the oldest of the group, has the longest injury history and is an extreme hard-thrower with unusual mechanics.
All the fire sale trades get a lot easier to conceive of and make fair value for if they are simply moving everything, because it will shed all restrictions both for position and for future timeline. But this whole article was just stalling to avoid admitting I have no idea what is coming from the Sox.
Lead Image Credit: Joe Nicholson // USA Today Sports Images