On Tuesday, the White Sox executed the first and most daring step of long-rumored rebuild: they traded Chris Sale to Boston in return for top-prospect Yoan Moncada, extremely live arm Michael Kopech, a far from irrelevant secondary prospect Luis Basabe and right-handed relief prospect Victor Diaz. While we can look at this package, see a lot of guys who could debut in 2018 and wonder if the Sox might keep much of their existing core to compete sooner rather than way later, rumors are circulating that they could still make several more trades.
James: Some of the anxiety this brings might just be the inherent risk of dealing an established elite payer for prospects. If everyone here hits their ceiling, it’s the Herschel Walker trade of baseball, but in Moncada and Kopech, and even to a lesser degree Basabe, the Sox have shaded toward enormous raw physical ability at the expense of…risk.
Which is not an attempt to handwave this away. As we have discussed often, there’s no purpose here in kicking the can down the road and restarting the competition window, as the Sox had their core in place for three more years. As Hahn referred to Monday, they need more Sale and Quintanas to build a contender within their payroll limits, they need more cost-controlled core pieces, even if Moncada becomes Robinson Cano and the rest is filler, while that would be a success under usual star trade standards, it would fall short here.
And that can be a bit worrisome given how risky these prospects are. If Moncada is too whiff-happy to be much beyond average offensively, Kopech is a reliever and Basabe is a fourth outfielder…well, we’re building the argument for why I think a full teardown is necessary. A small infusion of talent with the old core is kind of putting a ton of pressure on Hahn to be pinpoint precise with the pieces he chose here, and a few years ago when we were feeling more charitable to him, we admitted that likely wasn’t going to be fair.
I’ll open the floor for now, but will probably keep writing about this trade for the next four or five years.
Mark: James really hit the nail on the head about the inherent risk of the players involved, especially when you stop to think “who is the last actually good position player the White Sox internally developed?” Tim Anderson is already looking like he’ll rewrite the answer, but before him it’s who? Aaron Rowand? Joe Crede? We’re going back a decade and coming up with guys who were good, but not ones you build a core around. Not like, well, Chris Sale.
Trading Sale away sucked. There’s not really a better way to put it. He was the most fun White Sox pitcher to watch maybe of any of our lifetimes and now he’s off to one of the least likable teams in baseball. But the front office finally admitting defeat and accepting the rebuild kind of reminds me of when clients finally realize that their pet is suffering and needs euthanasia. It’s awful and it hurts like hell, but at least you can finally start moving forward and get on with your life.
James: Something I wrote earlier this month is how Tim Anderson in particular is crucial due to the hope he provides that the Sox can start hitting on prospects with very raw offensive profiles. Obviously Anderson is only starting to make headway on that front and strikeout/walk rates portend doom if they don’t improve, but he like Moncada is the type of prospect that brings a lot of anxiety around here. Kopech, while seen by a lot of evaluators as doomed for the bullpen, is the type of guy the White Sox should be trying to grab.
Perhaps it’s a bit of solace that it’s the offensive player who is the mega, undeniable prospects of such an extremely high pedigree that almost everyone believes he’ll just conquer his contact issues to some degree just because his talent is so great. It’s the pitcher in this deal that is significantly downgraded in value–below what 100mph heat with a murderous slider would dictate if they were tools on someone with starter command–due to risk. The Sox rightly laugh off pitcher risk. Basabe I don’t have comforting words for, other than the Sox need as much outfield help they can get in their system, and he is the most talented now (Sorry, Adam Engel).
Mark: How dare you insult Jacob May.
James: It’s a feint. You think I’ve insulted Engel, when really I’ve double-insulted the guys I didn’t mention.
Mark: I don’t think Jason Coats appreciates your ruse.
James: Okay, he’s not a an everyday centerfielder. Also, Coats’ time is now. We’re gonna get all the Coats we can handle the next two years. We should create a nickname. Burlington Coat Factory? Jason Coats of Paint? The Mink Man? These are all very bad but the rebuild will be long and we’ll have lots of time for ideas.
Candy-Coated Goodness? What am I doing?!? Why is this so bad?
Ryan: You can’t sugar-Coats a rebuild, James.
To your point about Kopech, it is a bit concerning that a good majority (if not all) of the pitching prospects the White Sox have acquired in the past two or three years seem to be destined for the bullpen. The idea that the White Sox are great at developing pitching prospects was based on Sale and Quintana followed by Rodon being pretty good. I don’t want to doubt that they’re actually good at it, but there is certainly a limit to what they can do with what they’re given.
James: There definitely is, but oftentimes I ask–when questioning the Sox spending levels–”what are the Sox good at? What is the advantage they will use to beat the rest of the league?” A lot of the dismissals we get when criticizing spending is people pointing out that they’re not “cheap,” but closer to average. Being average at everything leads to average results, and the Sox need to find an avenue to crushing the competition. Well, this is it. Tweaking huge, live arms to play up command-wise and stay healthy is where their natural advantage lies. They need to milk it for all it’s worth. So there are huge concerns with Fulmer, Burdi (who might not ever sniff starting), Hansen and now Kopech, but I don’t know if I can ever criticize this organization for erring on the side of their point of strength. That’s their hill to die on.
Ryan: You’re right. If they are able to capitalize on what appears to be their advantage, they seem to be in good shape just a few months into the rebuild. They may never have another pitcher like Sale. But if they can produce a higher volume of guys like Quintana, or even what Rodon is now, that will be a huge advantage. Because in the past couple years they’ve had two really great starters at the top, but the rest of the rotation has really struggled.
Going back to your point about Tim Anderson, there’s a good chance that he’s just a mega freak athlete. With a little guidance he was able to thrive. It’s probably a safe assumption that Moncada is also a freak athlete that can find his way with a little guidance. I think the greater concern with the rebuild is whether they can turn some of the lower level prospects into anything useful. That will be really important if they want to compete without filling holes by spending money.
Frank: There are a lot of people rating this trade around the Internet, many favorably, but I think it will take weeks–maybe even months or years–for me to know how to feel about the particulars. The overall message, it sends, though is one of failure: failure to build any sort of depth internally, through years of draft and IFA neglect, failure to spend the money necessary to improve the team, and failure to identify major league talent that could help the team.
It is, for better or for worse, the first time the White Sox have made a move that was clearly franchise-altering at the time since…the White Flag trade? I don’t think they’re in horrible shape, and while the next two years won’t be much fun on the major league side of things, maybe once or twice during then I can bang out a piece that doesn’t touch on the cupidity and short-sightedness of the front office.
Speaking of, how long is Hahn’s leash now? If he got four years and permission to tear the team he built down, does he basically have an appointment for the rest of Reinsdorf’s lifetime?
Nick: The way I feel about it right now is that the deal “works” in a few different permutations. One is if Moncada hits his “lots of people have him as 1 or 2 or 3 globally” ceiling and is an MVP-caliber player at 2B or 3B or even CF. If he does that, the other three dudes don’t need to do that much to make up whatever rest of the difference there would be left.
Or, if Moncada gets most of the way there–say, power and speed heavy guy who hits .250 instead of .280–at a useful position, and Kopech is a dominant reliever, or I mean, even if he stays as a starter. *Or* if Basabe turns into a second division starter in center or something like that. There are a lot of different paths to this package being really great.
A lot of us were thinking about “What if another team makes a mistake, and scales Shelby Miller up to Sale’s caliber?” or at least I was, and this disappoints compared to *that* — .e.g Benintendi AND Moncada AND Devers or something like that. Although maybe that’s not even a mistake.
It’s hard to speculate as to what they can do in 2018 until we see what Frazier / Melky / Lawrie bring back, and possibly Robertson as well. Someone’s going to lose out on the Closer Sweepstakes, and Robertson looks eminently replaceable from within at this point.
Ryan: I agree that part of me was hoping that a team would overpay and give the White Sox 3 or 4 top 100 prospects. So compared to that, this is pretty disappointing. But now that I have taken a step back, it seems pretty fair. They’re still a long way off though. Which, as you said, has a lot to do with what they get for non-Quintana players.
Nick: I think by some lists the White Sox did get 3 top 100 prospects.
Ryan: Prospect lists had Basabe in their top 100? I think the headliners in the trade were about as good as you can get, but I had hoped they would get a little more promise out of the toss-ins. Basabe seems like the type of player that the White Sox are absolutely brutal at developing. “Toolsy center fielder” sets off all kinds of alarm bells in my head.
Nick: I had hoped when I heard “Moncada and Kopech” that the + would be Devers and something else neat. I don’t think it’s crazy to prefer the Robles + Giolito fronted package, given what 3 and 4 turned out to be, but I think James was saying some people love Basabe.
Ryan: The people who love Basabe probably know a whole lot more than I do, so that is encouraging. I also don’t think it’s crazy to prefer the Nationals package. Time will tell if they made the right decision.
Nick: What’s stopping them from turning around and offering Q to the Nats for Robles + Lopez?
James: What’s to stop them from asking for Robles and Giolito? Besides concern Mike Rizzo will try to strangle them?
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