What’s sure to be one of the biggest — if not the biggest — trades of the Major League Baseball offseason actually might be a perfect match.
The Boston Red Sox acquired Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday for prospects Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz. Both teams are surrendering a lot, but the trade very well could pay dividends for each club in the future.
The White Sox reportedly made Sale available at this season’s non-waiver trade deadline, but the asking price was (understandably) high. Rumors surrounding the Red Sox’s pursuit of Sale suggested the White Sox were asking for right fielder/American League MVP runner-up Mookie Betts and/or rookie left fielder Andrew Benintendi. By instead giving up just prospects this offseason, Boston seems to have nabbed Sale at a discount price.
Now, “just prospects” is an understatement. Moncada showed he wasn’t quite ready to play third base at the major league level in September, but that doesn’t change the fact the Red Sox paid $63 million for him when he defected from Cuba. MLB.com has Moncada ranked as Boston’s best prospect, with Kopech coming in at No. 5, Basabe at No. 8 and Diaz at No. 28.
In addition to Moncada, who’s well-known, the Red Sox lost a hard-throwing starting pitching prospect in Kopech, a five-tool switch-hitter in Basabe and another pitcher in Diaz, yet they retained their entire young big league core for a five-time All-Star in his prime.
The White Sox have had one of the worst farm systems in baseball for a while, so this certainly is a huge haul for them. But the thing to remember about prospects is that nothing is guaranteed. Moncada and Kopech have the potential to be stars, but they also could fizzle out, and people could end up remembering that time the Red Sox got away with highway robbery.
Boston’s farm system takes a hit in this trade, but the Red Sox’s major league roster still is younger than most teams. Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., the oldest of the Red Sox’s young lineup of stars, is 26, and Betts and shortstop Xander Bogaerts both are 24. Benintendi is 22. Even if it takes a few years for the Red Sox to get their farm system back to where it was, all of those guys still would be under 30.
Sale has been an All-Star and has finished in the top six of AL Cy Young voting five seasons in a row. He went 17-10 on a White Sox team that finished 78-84, and he turned in a 3.34 ERA and 233 strikeouts in 2016. Not to mention, he went 6-0 with a 1.55 ERA against the AL East this season and joins a Boston rotation that includes reigning AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and 2012 Cy Young winner David Price.
Could Sale end up a complete bust? Of course. But so could all of the prospects the Red Sox gave up for him. So, at the end of the day, the two Sox teams break even in this trade: Boston gets a proven ace for its inconsistent rotation, and Chicago gets to start rebuilding with potentially great talent.
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