There is a lot to unpack here, and we will analyze this trade to death in the coming hours and days, but Chris Sale has been traded to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe, and Victor Diaz.
Depending on whom you ask, Moncada is somewhere between the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball to anywhere down to 10ish or so. He has massive tools — power, speed, etc. — but has had barely any time at Double-A or Triple-A, so I would hope the White Sox give him most of 2017 in the minors. He’s been playing primarily third base, but his natural position is at 2B, where he was blocked in Boston. Nothing is blocking him in Chicago. There is a non-zero chance Moncada turns into a world-eating MVP candidate, which would be very cool, although Sale was already a world-eating Cy Young candidate.
Kopech is a flamethrower in the low minors who sits touching triple digits and has popped 102-103. His change has evidently improved to go along with his low-90s slider that may be a plus pitch. The question here is “starter or reliever?” because the guys who throw this hard are overwhelmingly unable to hold up as starters. Our prospect team has him as a reliever.
Basabe is a toolsy outfield prospect who played 2016 as a 19 year old in low-A and acquitted himself well without dominating. Evidently he has contact issues, particularly from the right side as he is a switch hitter. There are worse profiles than “possible switch-hitting center fielder” but he’s a long way away.
Overall, our prospect team had this trio at Boston’s Nos. 2, 5, and 6 prospects, respectively, and you can read more about all three of them here. Jeff Paternostro had a quick hit on Diaz as well. He’s a 22-year-old reliever who spent all of 2016 in A-ball but apparently he’s a velocity guy. In sum, a lot of this seems to turn on whether Kopech is a starter or a reliever, with Kopech kind of needing to be a starter for this package to be “worth it.”
There are a lot of general principles that apply to this trade that are cause for concern. “Don’t trade a superstar to Dave Dombrowski for prospects.” “Pitchers who sit at 100 mph basically never stick as starters.” “The White Sox have no idea how to fix a prospect’s contact problems.” “Why wasn’t Rafael Devers included for Chris freaking Sale?” etc.
It is also problematic to think that if this organization couldn’t win with Chris Sale on the cheap, what makes us more hopeful for the next crop of good young players when they arrive?
Emotionally, this removes the most fun thing about the White Sox. No matter what happened, watching Sale every fifth day was a treat over the past few years, and any given start he could eviscerate his opposition in breathtaking fashion and put on a show all by himself. That’s gone. And as my fiancee said, “But now Chris Sale is going to pitch for the Red Sox and that’s horrible.” There’s that, too.
But hey, at least the agony is over, a direction has been picked, and Sale gets to pitch for a team that will score runs and play defense for him, and White Sox fans have some cool new prospects to dream on. Given this return, it seems clear the White Sox cannot push their chips in for 2017, and so it would only make sense for Melky Cabrera, Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, and even David Robertson to be on the block this winter or as the season progresses. The more interesting question becomes whether they also deal Adam Eaton and/or Jose Abreu and/or Jose Quintana. That would signal whether they intend to try to win again in 2018 or further beyond.
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