Christmas Comes Early: Red Sox Acquire Chris Sale

Christmas comes early for Red Sox fans as the Old Towne Team acquires the best available pitcher for four prospects.  Never one to shy away from a blockbuster deal, President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski has put the Red Sox in prime position to be  baseball’s best for the next several years.

WHAT DOES THE CHRIS SALE TRADE MEAN TO THE RED SOX?

Cchrissalehris Sale joins a rotation with Cy Young winners Rick Porcello (2016) and David Price (2012) not to mention 2016 All-Stars Steve Wright and Drew Pomeranz.  Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez provide depth and possible trade chips for future improvements.

If all goes according to plan, the triple-headed monster atop the rotation will account for 50 or so wins and more the 600 mostly-quality innings.  Improving the pitching rotation was not a top priority for the 2017 Red Sox, but Sale is a big-time difference maker.  With a vastly improved rotation combined with a rebuilt bullpen and a dynamic offense, the Red Sox are clearly the team to beat in the American League.

HOW GOOD IS CHRIS SALE?

The left-handed Sale had yet to win a Cy Young Award, but his resume is quite impressive:

  • Finished in the top six of the AL Cy Young voting each of the past five years with a high of third place in 2014 when he compiled a 2.17 ERA.
  • Had a league-leading 274 strikeouts in 208.2 innings in 2015.
  • In the past five years, just one major league pitcher has a lower ERA than Sale’s 3.04 and more strikeouts than his 1,133.  His name is Clayton Kershaw.
  • Has struck out 27.9% of the batters he’s faced in his major league career, which is best among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched.
  • Has produced more value by Wins Above Replacement than any other players from the 2010 draft class, ahead of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.  Read that last bullet point again … slowly … Yes, it’s true, Chris Sale has been that productive.
  • Has finished in the top 10 among AL pitchers in WAR four times, strikeouts five times, and ERA five times in just five seasons as a starter. That is a gigantic WOW!  
  • Ranks first among all active AL pitchers in career WHIP (1.01).  Partner in crime and fellow southpaw David Price ranks second (1.14).
  • Is 4-1 with an anemic 1.17 ERA in 10 career games against the Yankees.
  • Always a good sign when your newly-acquired, yet-to-reach-his-prime, 27-year-old-pitcher has a more accomplished career than his two Cy Young Award winning teammates.

AT WHAT COST DID THE RED SOX ACQUIRE CHRIS SALE?

A pitcher of Sale’s caliber does not come cheaply.  With an aim towards the World Series, the Red Sox paid a deep price to acquire one of the game’s best pitchers.  

The deal would not have happen
ed without 21-year-old Cuban import Yoan Moncada changing his red sox for white.  The No. 1 prospect in Baseball America’s “Midseason Top 100”,  Moncada has compiled a .875 OPS with 94 stolen bases in 187 minor league games.  The switch-hitting, fielding-challenged Moncada was also named Baseball America’s 2016 Minor League Player of the Year.  He’s projected to be the White Sox second baseman of the future.  

Comparisons to Harper, Machado, and Mike Trout are a bit premature as Moncada strikes out at an alarming rate and is suspect defensively, but his raw potential is staggering.  He has big-time speed and major power potential built into a 6’2”, 205-pound frame.  With second base his likely landing place, Moncada had drawn comparisons to Robinson Cano.

The White Sox also receive flame-throwing prospect Michael Kopech, a potential ace with with a checkered past.  One of the game’s top pitching prospects, Kopech’s fastball consistently clocks at 101 mph and has reportedly topped out at 105 mph.  He also throws a plus curveball and is developing a change up.  Missed time due to a PED suspension and broken hand resulting from an alte
rcation with a teammate have slowed his growth and caused reason for concern.  But Kopech has a big-time arm and the White Sox believe he is worth the gamble.

Luis Alexander Basabe, a speedy centerfielder with many tools, and Victor Diaz, a strong-armed reliever with command issues complete the deal.  Both have significant upside, but are several years away from cracking the majors.

Yes, the  bounty was high, but the opportunities acquire the Chris Sales of the world are few and far between.

IS THERE ANY RISK INVOLVED FOR THE RED SOX?

There is always some risk involved with blockbuster deals.  Sale’s low-slot, high-elbow pitching motion accounts for deceptive movement to his pitches, but also puts him at risk for declining velocity or potential injury.  Some scouts believe Sale’s potion will cause accelerated
wear and tear to his elbow.  The Red Sox are likely using the past to project the future.  In his five year career, Sale has never made fewer than 26 starts and has qualified for an ERA title every year.  With the Red Sox pitching depth, an occasional skipped start to rest the arm should not be an issue.

The Red Sox are taking minimal risk financially.  The Red Sox control Sale for three years for $38 million — an absolute steal for an ace in today’s pitching market.  He will count just $6 million against the luxury tax next season.  The likely shedding of Buchholz’s $13.5 million contract before the start of the season will keep the  Red Sox under the $195 million luxury tax threshold.

DID THE RED SOX MAKE A WISE DECISION IN TRADING FOR SALE?

Absolutely, positively yes.  Red Sox ownership brought Dombrowski to Boston to win a World Series, not to have the most players in Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list.  Sale in the starting rotation brings the Red Sox closer to the ultimate goal than Moncada, Kopech, et al developing in the minors.

Merry Christmas, Red Sox fans!

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