If you ever thought of a potential major league prospect as “untouchable” Tuesday December 6, 2016 may cause you to re-think that assumption.
Early Tuesday afternoon Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweeted that the Boston Red Sox had reached an agreement with the Chicago White Sox that will send All-Star starting pitcher Chris Sale to the Red Sox in exchange for a four-pack of prospects.
The prospects will not be unfamiliar to Red Sox fans.
Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz are all heading to Chicago.
Sale arrives in Boston with an impressive resume. The 27-year-old lefty has been an All-Star for the last five seasons. He’s finished in the top 5 in AL Cy Young voting for the last four seasons in a row.
As impressive as that is, it is all in the past.
What the Red Sox just traded was the future.
Yoan Moncada is the No.1 ranked prospect in all of baseball. Bryce Harper, Carlos Correa and Mike Trout have all held that spot over the course of this decade. Kopech is a 100-mile-per-hour throwing, right-handed starting pitching prospect who has the looks of a future top of the rotation starter.
Chris Sale has been one of baseball’s best starting pitchers this decade. Is he Clayton Kershaw? No, not even close, but once you get beyond the all-but-unattainable standard set by Kershaw, it is tough to put Sale that much further down the list of top starters.
In spite of those accolades, he is still a guy with five full seasons in the majors as a starter and only one year with an ERA under 3.00 (2014.) Sale is still a guy who has allowed over 20 home runs in a season three times, including a career-high 27 long balls in 2016.
Sale led the AL in complete games in 2016 with six. His unusually lanky build (6’6″, 180 pounds) does not inspire a ton of confidence as far as long-term durability goes.
On the plus side, Sale is not signed to a David Price-esque contract. He is owed $12 million in 2017, after that the Red Sox will have options that they can pick-up in 2018 (for $12.5 million,) and in 2019 (for $13.5 million.) That low financial cost is a big part of why Sale cost the Red Sox so much in terms of prospects.
Dave Dombrowski has put his entire reputation on the line here. This is not a free agent deal like the one he inked David Price to last off-season. Those deals certainly can reflect poorly on a team president, but at the end of the day, fans don’t get connected to money, after all it isn’t their money being spent.
A trade like this is very different.
If Sale can lead the Red Sox to one or even more than one World Series title between now and 2020, then this trade will be seen as a success regardless of how good Moncada and Kopech turn out to be.
If Sale gets hurt, or underperforms, or if the Red Sox fail to win at least one ring, that will be bad. It will feel exponentially worse for Red Sox fans if they’re watching Yoan Moncada compete for MVP awards or Michael Kopech striking out over 200 batters per season while the two former top prospects are wearing sox that are white as opposed to red.
Chris Sale is arguably a better pitcher than David Price, and neither one of them won the 2016 AL Cy Young award. On paper the 2017 Boston Red Sox have a loaded starting rotation but they won’t win the games on paper, and the pressure to win on the diamond is going to be deservedly sky-high.
This is a “win now” deal. This trade declares unabashedly that the Red Sox are in it to win it now, not later. The window is basically the remainder of this decade, because after today’s flurry of deals, the team’s longterm future is fairly murky.