Later on this offseason, we’ll be discussing specific clubs’ rebuilding efforts heading into 2017. The Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers will be two such subjects. Today, however, we focus on the Boston Red Sox and the two big moves they made on Tuesdaya��starting with Chris Sale.
We wake up this Wednesday morning to realize that yes, the Chicago White Sox really did trade their starting stud, Chris Sale. Dare I say, finally?
After several years of mediocrity (or worse), they’re finally moving him on. Cashing in, so to speak. Or even admitting defeat, in a way. One quick note on the White Sox before we talk about who Boston is getting. Of the five full seasons Sale would pitch in a White Sox uniform (2012-2016), they would finish with a winning record only once. They would qualify for the postseason one less time than that. It would seem as though one would need to try their hardest not to competently build around Sale, but here we are.
Now he heads to the Boston Red Sox, a team that knows plenty about winning. Despite their consecutive last place finishes (2014, 2015); despite the fact they were swept out of the first round after winning the AL East this past season. At this point, the mere thought of a taste of the postseason might be enough to make Sale tingle.
And while Boston had to give up arguably one of the more sure-fire prospects in Yoan Moncada, they didn’t have to relinquish any ML talent. Not a single one, including Jackie Bradley, Jr.a��who the White Sox were reportedly dead set on months back when talks began. Now weA�get to think about the Red Sox rotation, and just how terrifying it might be.
As Sales moves to Boston, he joins David Pricea��the 31-year-old who would be the ace of just about any other club he pitched for. And, who could be under contract all the way through 2022 if he doesn’t opt out following the 2018 season. Oh, and don’t let his 2016 ERA (3.99) fool you. (Is that still a thing?) Price would go on to log 230 innings and strike out 228 batters (8.9 K/9), all to the tune of a 2.90 DRA. Both totals of which, by the way, happen to be right in line with career marks. I have this sneaking suspicion he’s just fine.
Sale also joins Rick Porcello, or alternately, the reigning AL Cy Young winner. A pitcher who not only is under contract through 2019, but turns 28 later this month. As if the hardware weren’t enough of a hint, Porcello is no slouch either. After arguably his worst season in the bigs, he would rebound with a 3.45 DRA and a 193 strikeouts (7.6 K/9) to go along with a career-best walk rate (1.3 BB/9).
Sale even joins 28-year-old Drew Pomeranz, who if healthy should be right as rain next year. Pomeranz is under team control through 2019. But perhaps best of all (from a younger talent standpoint), Sale joins 23-year-old Eduardo RodrA�guez, Baseball America’s No. 59 prospect from ’15. Again, no ML talent went the other way. The fact that Boston was able to hold on to RodrA�guez is a huge victory. On paper, anyway.
Then there’s the core of Mookie Betts (24), Xander Bogaerts (24), and Jackie Bradley, Jr (26). Not to mention the emerging Andrew Benintendi (22). There are also the veterans Hanley RamA�rez and Dustin Pedroia, both coming off great seasons. Maybe Blake Swihart (24) can still be pretty good. Maybe Pablo Sandoval has a bounce-back in him. Either way, the Red Sox are built to win. Not just now, but for the next few years.
And look, we know all about Sale’s numbers. We’ve broken them down in this space countless times before. Some may point to last year, seeing his noticeable dip in strikeouts (274 in ’15, 233 in ’16; 11.8 K/9 to 9.3 K/9). And on that, a few things:
- 233 strikeouts is still a lot.
- Yes his velocity dipped a couple ticks (~95-96 mph to ~93-94 mph), but…
- When it comes to strikeouts, Sale was not helped by his catching situation.
This is important.
Thanks to StatCorner, we have a good amount of information on pitch framing. To put it bluntly, White Sox catchers were abysmal at it in ’16. Dioner Navarro, who caught the most games for Chicago (85), was ranked fifth-worst… in all of baseball. Alex Avila, who caught the second-most games for Chicago (57) was tenth-worst. Again, in all of baseball.
HA�ctor SA?nchez and Omar Narvaez would prove to be best at it. Yet they only appeared in 36 games combined. Boston’s Sandy LeA?n doesn’t coming out looking good, but that’s more than made up for by Christian Vazquez and, to an extent, Blake Swihart. Both are miles ahead of anything the White Sox would offer Sale this past season, and that should make an immediate difference.
But lastly, when you can acquire a top-five pitcher who’s 27 years old and under contract for roughly $40 million over the next three seasons, you do so. When you can acquire a left-handed starter who has seen himself finish top-six in the AL Cy Young race five years in a row, you do it. And when you can do so without relinquishing any ML-ready talent, all the better.
Not one team has ever won a championship in the offseason, and it’s no different for Boston. But the addition of Chris Sale is likely to be the biggest we see for quite some time.