a��Over the next 30 days, I’ll look at 30 playersa��one from each teama��that I believe should be traded, but more along the lines of aA�a�?what ifa�? scenario. Some will seem obvious, just as others will seem nonsensical. Some may also seem desperate, but it’s important to understand that this list is entirely subjective and made up solely of notable names. A player can be deemed movable for any of the following reasons: production (or lack thereof), current and future team outlook, age, potential return value, salary, or even injury history.
Ask yourselves a question White Sox fans: is your team ready to compete in 2016? If not, will they be ready to compete in 2017? If not…
The Chicago White Sox last made the playoffs in 2008, falling in four games to the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS. They had their worst record in franchise history in 2013 (63-99). Since, they’ve improved but barely: 73-89 in 2014, 76-86 this past season.
2015 was supposed to be different. They acquired Jeff Samardzija from Oakland in December; free agents Zach Duke, David Robertson, and Adam LaRoche were all signed to multi-year deals.
Almost across the board, they didn’t perform. LaRoche was a disaster; Samardzija wasn’t that much better; and while Robertson was serviceable, Duke showed that the three-year, $15 million deal might have been a stretch.
Chicago finished fourth in the AL Central, 10 games out of the wild card. Double digits. In other words: it wasn’t particularly close.
Their offense ranked 22nd in batting average, 27th in OBP, and 29th in slugging. Unsurprisingly, they ranked 28th in runs scored, averaging 3.84 per contest. This is where things get a little tricky.
This idea was not well-received back in March of 2014. Then in July of this year, it too endured poor reception from the Sox faithful. And while I do not lend credence to the a�?third time’s a charma�? ideal, there’s a very simple reason why I bring this issue up one more time.
Again, it revolves around any variation of: where do you expect the White Sox to be next season?
Even a rotation boasting Chris Sale, JosA� Quintana, and a�?Sharka�? in 2015a��which appeared to be dominant on papera��was not enough to overturn how mediocre the club performed. Chicago finished just about middle of the packa��14tha��in team ERA. More impressively, opposing teams had the ninth-highest batting average off them.
Which brings us back to Sale. It’s imperative to keep in mind that he’s only 26, turning 27 in March, and has endured one of the more dominant pitching stretches in recent memory.
In four full seasons, he’s never had a poor one. He’s dealt with injuries here and there, but has tallied 174 or more innings in each of his four seasons, and 200 twice.
His career ERA/FIP is 2.91/2.96 with a strikeout rate of 10.3 per nine. It’s gotten there because of his previous two seasons, with a K/9 of 10.8 and 11.8 respectivelya��including a career-high 274 strikeouts.
Aside from his age and numbers, Sale is left-handeda��just another valuable attribute. Currently in the big leagues when it comes to lefties, there’s Clayton Kershaw, David Price, followed by Sale, in my opinion. You can interchange Price and Sale if you’re so inclined, as Sale might get a slight edge given his age.
We’ve heard rumblings of JosA� FernA?ndez trade rumors for the past week or so, and imagining the potential trade package his services would require is staggering. Given how good Sale’s already been, coupled with not yet missing a full season’s worth of work as FernA?ndez did because of a torn UCL, you’d have to believe the price for Sale is even higher.
Since becoming a starter, he’s finished in the top six of the Cy Young vote all four years. He even got Top-20 MVP in 2015. While his ERA was at its highest, he posted his second-best FIP and missed more bats than ever.
While it’s tough to say whether or not he’s getting better, it’s very clear he hasn’t neared a phase of regression. That said, here’s what our own Darrell Horwitz pointed out in his piece just a handful of months ago (keep in mind, this was written before the season concluded):
a�?Now in his fourth year as a starter, he has topped 200 innings only once… he has been shut down for a time every season except this year… how much value will he have to the Sox if he ends up having Tommy John surgery?a�?
While you can argue the point about a severely diminished return from any potential Tommy John surgery to an extenta��we’ve seen pitchers more recently coming back stronger and better than beforea��it’s still a genuine worry to keep in mind.
Quintana at 26 years old might be the most underrated (or at least under-appreciated) pitcher in the league, as his last two seasons would have him in the No. 1 or 2 conversation on just about every club. As for Carlos Rodon, the 3rd pick of the 2014 draft who’s just 22 years old, he showed glimpses in his rookie campaign. Priority number one: getting the walk rate down. He had a BB/9 of 4.6.
The White Sox are fairly heavy on pitching but not much else. Sale is the best of the best, and his return would still be sky-high. It could be that way in 2017, too.
Oh, plus he is set to earn just $9.15 million this year and $12 million in 2017a��followed by two team option seasons of $12.5 and $13.5 million respectively. In other words: there’s a very good chance he doesn’t hit free agency until he turns 31 years old. For now, he’s very cheap.
But if the White Sox aren’t ready to compete for a playoff spot this coming season, then it’s really time to think about moving Sale. Or at the very least, listening. A bright future for the organization may depend on it.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and Fangraphs