Posted on December 1, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
With a new labor agreement in place, the hot stove can finally start to heat up. While it’s growing increasingly likely that the Pittsburgh Pirates will trade Andrew McCutchen, the biggest name that could be moved this winter is still Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale. Not long ago, I outlined what teams had the best odds to land Sale, naming close to a dozen teams with a chance. The latest report from Jon Heyman has the field narrowed down to five finalists who have a realistic chance to trade for Sale. Those teams are the Astros, Braves, Nationals, Rangers, and Red Sox.
The Astros have been busy this offseason, and it’s possible they are not done yet. However, while the Astros have a lineup that is quite frightening for opposing pitchers, at least on paper, Houston’s rotation is not on par with any of the teams that made deep postseason runs in 2016. Adding Sale has the potential to make the Astros favorites in the American League, although accomplishing that may require them to part with Alex Bregman, who projects as an all-star caliber player after a strong finish to his rookie season in 2016. It remains to be seen whether Houston would actually trade Bregman in order to get Sale.
The Braves are who I considered favorites to land Sale a few weeks ago, based on their desire to make a big splash and the incredible collection of prospects they have. If the Braves wanted to, they could outbid just about anybody, but whether they are willing to meet Chicago’s demands for Sale is uncertain, especially if it means having to part with Dansby Swanson, who appears to be their shortstop of the future. Of course, the Braves may have enough prospects to acquire Sale without having to part with Swanson.
The Nationals are another team that appears poised to make a major move this winter. Washington has a great collection of young and promising pitchers, and using two or three of them to acquire Sale is definitely on the table. At the same time, the Nationals are also reportedly involved in talks to acquire McCutchen, and it’s unlikely the Nats would have the prospects to pull off a trade for both Sale and McCutchen, so if Washington ends up trading for Pittsburgh’s center fielder, the Nationals would likely exit the Sale sweepstakes.
As for the Rangers, they are a team that’s quite desperate for pitching after crashing out of the playoffs in three games this year. Texas appears to be cognizant that it has a window of a couple years to make a run at a World Series, and so making a bold move like trading for Sale wouldn’t be a shock. Young players like Jurickson Profar and Joey Gallo may need to be involved in a trade, which is plausible, as those two don’t necessarily have a set position with the team heading into 2017. However, after their trades over the summer, the Rangers don’t have as strong of a farm system as some of Sale’s other suitors, which could put them at a disadvantage.
Finally, there are the Red Sox, who appear to be flooded with young position players, but still lack the pitching necessary to win in the postseason, as evidenced by their early playoff exit this year. If Boston is willing to part with a couple of its young, rising stars, which one could argue they can afford to do, trading for Sale is a distinct possibility.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that Sale isn’t traded at all. In fact, an executive from one of the competing teams told Heyman: “The asking price is so high it’s hard to imagine he’s getting traded.” If the White Sox drive too hard of a bargain, Sale may not be traded at all. At the moment, nothing is imminent with regard to Sale being traded, but with the Winter Meetings set to begin next week, things can escalate in a hurry, meaning one of these five teams, or perhaps a sleeper team, may have a chance to acquire Sale if the price is right.