About an hour ago the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox made one of those trades that throws baseball twitter into a tizzy, sending Ace left-hander Chris Sale to Boston in exchange for MLB’s top prospect Yoan Moncada. The deal is a huge one in terms of both talent and value, and clarifies the focus of both franchises heading into 2017 and beyond. There will be reverberations from this swap felt across the league as others hoping to contend will feel pressure to similarly stock up for a 2017 playoff push. But with the deal freshly out of the rumor mill and into reality, let’s look at what this means for the two franchises involved.
Oh, the full deal:
Red Sox receive: LHP Chris Sale
White Sox receive: 2B Yoan Moncada, RHP Michael Kopech, OF Luis Basabe and RHP Victor Diaz
Red Sox Implications
The immediate reaction from multiple Red Sox fans is some combination of expletives and disgust. See, Red Sox fans love their prospects. Their prospects are great, but so is their MLB team and this deal just made their MLB team better for the next three years.
Sox fans seem to overlook just the force that Sale has been. He’s made 5 straight All-Star Games, received votes for Cy Young in 5 straight seasons, and garnered MVP attention in each of the last two years. He’s one of the top 5 pitchers in baseball and he’s under contract for $38 Million over the next 3 years. People! That’s an average annual value of $12.6M, about 20% cheaper than what Mark Melancon just signed for. Sale is fantastic and will push the reigning 2015 Cy Young winner, Rick Porcello, back into the three spot in the rotation– behind 2012 Cy Young winner David Price.
This deal makes sense for the Red Sox not just because Sale is good: They’re good too! Their group of position players combined to score more runs than anyone in baseball last year, and they posted the highest WAR total in the AL. They’re returning most everyone, save David Ortiz. And the group is young enough that it could be expected to improve with another year of MLB seasoning. Consider: Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are 24 and will both be in Red Sox uniforms until 2021 and 2020 respectively. Jackie Bradley Jr. is 26 and will be a Red Sox until 2021, same story for catcher Sandy Leon. Oh and they’ve got Rusney Castillo, Andrew Benintendi, and utility man Brock Holt all ready to contribute positively for an extended period of time.
Above all of that, the player and performance that makes Moncada expendable is Dustin Pedroia. The 32-year old second baseman is going to be lacing them up in Boston until 2021. Where was Moncada going to play? What with a former MVP coming off of a 5.6 WAR season (Pedroia) blocking his natural position? Red Sox fans quickly point to third base, which is where the pressure of this deal really lies.
By dealing Moncada and Travis Shaw in a separate move earlier today, the Red Sox have effectively removed their own safety net from Pablo Sandoval. Yes, Sale and all the others are great, but as Pablo goes, so go the Red Sox.
Pablo is apparently in great shape so far this offseason, but the Red Sox are effectively re-upping their $100M, panda-shaped bet. The first $35M of that bet has not been well spent; the Red Sox got bad production in 2015 and an $18M seatwarmer in 2016. Moncada was expendable on a championship caliber team only if Pablo Sandoval is a positive contributor. I hope the Red Sox fans like their squad because most of these guys are locked in for the next 3-4 years.
White Sox Implications
The White Sox have been in no-man’s land for some time. They have been trying to compete with a roster full of holes and it has shot their farm system all to hell. This is the first in a what is likely to be a series of deals that restocks the pipeline for a rebuilt White Sox club. I wrote about the great Adam Eaton here, and Jose Quintana and Jose Abreu are also great and reasonably affordable for the next few years. But by dealing Sale for this package of prospects, the White Sox have indicated their intent to compete for 2018 and beyond.
Moncada will pair nicely with Tim Anderson up the middle to form a dynamic and quick middle infield. The emergence of shortstops Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa took their squads (Indians and Astros) quickly out of rebuilding mode. Could Moncada and Anderson have a similar effect in Chicago?
I wouldn’t expect other core pieces to be dealt from the White Sox. It seems far more likely that guys like closer David Robertson, third baseman Todd Frazier, and outfielder Melky Cabrera, all free agents after next year, will be dealt. The White Sox are attempting an accelerated rebuild. They’re hoping to pair the wave of prospects that they get for Sale and their ancillary pieces to be ready while Jose Abreu, Jose Quintana, and Adam Eaton are still major contributors. That puts 2018/2019 squarely into focus. Let’s see if it pays off.