After a year of rumours, the Chicago White Sox have finally traded Chris Sale. Reported by Ken Rosenthal, Sale is on the move to Boston while top prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech are headed the other way. It’s no surprise that the Red Sox had to pay a huge price for Sale, the perennial Cy Young candidate is under team control for the next three years with just $38 million owed. In comparison, 37 year-old Rich Hill just signed a three-year deal with the Dodgers for $48 million.
Conventional wisdom suggests that this is a great deal for the Red Sox: they add a top-5 arm in the American League that is a lock to give them a mid-3 ERA, 200 IP, and strikeout at least one batter per inning. All of that comes with three years of team control at a ridiculously friendly price tag. The flip side is that the team had the opportunity to push hard for the lefty in July, which would have solidified an elite rotation to go along with the best offense in baseball during the final playoff run of David Ortiz’s career. Instead, Red Sox President Dave Dombrowski waited until the offseason when other teams had already bid, inevitably driving up the price tag.
Speaking of the price tag, what the Sox gave up for Sale was by no means small. Losing Yoan Moncada, ranked the number one prospect by both MLB.com and Baseball America, hurts the Sox farm system a lot. Throw in Michael Kopech, the Sox’ fifth ranked prospect that struck out 82 over 52 IP playing for the High-A Salem Red Sox, and it hurts a lot more. But any package for Sale was going to hurt – the Red Sox knew that. We won’t be able to observe the true winner of this deal for at least a few years. All we know at this point is that the Red Sox front office believes this team can win in 2017 and they’re betting the farm on it.
Four hours before the Sale deal, Dombrowski went out and added Tyler Thornburg in a deal with the Brewers. Going to Milwaukee is Travis Shaw, along with prospects Mauricio Dubon, Josh Pennington, and a PTBNL. Thornburg now solidifies the Red Sox bullpen by penciling in to hold down the eighth inning ahead of closer Craig Kimbrel. The 28-year-old tossed 67 innings, striking out 90 batters, to go with a 2.83 FIP. Among NL relievers with a minimum of 50 IP, his .161 opponent batting average ranked third.
In dealing Travis Shaw, the Red Sox are re-upping their investment in Pablo Sandoval. After taking the 2016 season to rehab a shoulder injury and get back in shape, the veteran was expected to compete with Shaw for the starting job at third, all while Moncada loomed in the minors. After dealing Moncada and Shaw, the position is Sandoval’s heading into 2017. Dubon, the biggest piece going to the Brewers, is a 22-year old shortstop that hit .323 between High-A and AA last season. With Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia firmly in control of the middle infield in Boston, a trade involving Dubon seemed inevitable. Pennington meanwhile, was a 29th round pick in 2014.
Stating the obvious, the Boston Red Sox are a better team today than they were on Monday. The year-long rumors connecting the team to Chris Sale can now be put to bed; he’s going to be with the team for at least the next three seasons. In return, the Sox have to part ways with the best prospect in baseball, a 20-year old that possesses a triple-digit fastball, and two other prospects with non-negligable value. They also added a solid late inning reliever in Tyler Thornburg, solidifying one of their biggest holes heading into the offseason. The Sox clearly believe they have the offense to contend after leading the MLB in runs last season, going out of their way to build an elite pitching staff.