Chicago White Sox Trade Rumors: Will Sale's Tired Arm Prompt a Deadline Deal?

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Chicago White Sox Trade Rumors: Will Sale's Tired Arm Prompt a Deadline Deal?
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Despite gutting out a win in Texas on Friday night, Chicago White Sox pitcher Chris Sale rarely hit 90 on the radar gun, further fueling speculation that the White Sox might not be done dealing before Tuesday's MLB trade deadline (via the Chicago Tribune).

While the White Sox missed out on snagging Brewers pitcher Zack Greinke, who was traded to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday for prospects, there are still a number of quality arms on the trading block for the White Sox to peruse (via AOL Sporting News).

A possible target for White Sox general manager is Marlins pitcher Josh Johnson (CBS Sports). While Johnson has battled injuries during most of his career and currently has his highest earned run average since 2007, he has been the Marlins' ace for years and would fill out the White Sox roster nicely.

Another arm for Williams to evaluate is the Seattle Mariners' veteran hurler, Kevin Millwood. Millwood is enjoying a solid year for the Mariners, who are currently more than 10 games behind the wild-card leaders.

The 37-year-old Milwood has an ERA of 4.13 in 19 starts this season.

With the AL Central division continuing to map out nicely for the White Sox, winners of four games in a row, it's becoming increasingly evident that the team will be in the playoff hunt the rest of the way. With the back-end of the rotation in flux with Philip Humber struggling and John Danks still on the mend, Williams should add depth to the White Sox rotation.

As for Sale, his performance Friday night was one of his more impressive ones because he did not appear to have his best stuff early on against the Rangers.

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Sale labored in the first inning, giving up four runs to the Rangers, including a three-run blast to Nelson Cruz. Sale needed 28 pitches to survive the first three outs, yet hung on until being pulled in the seventh inning.

 

Sale's final line on the night had him giving up five runs, six hits and two walks, along with six strikeouts. Sale earned his 12th victory, but what was most concerning for most of the game was Sale's reliance on the slider and his apparent lack of velocity.

Sale in fact did top 90 mph several times on the radar gun late in the game, but during the first few innings, he appeared to be suffering from a tired arm.

White Sox broadcasters Ken 'Hawk' Harrelson and Steve Stone frequently mentioned the possibility of Sale suffering from a dead arm, a common occurrence suffered by pitchers during the grind of the regular season.

It could have been just one night of a slower fastball for Sale during a hot Texas night. It could also underscore the previous talk of Sale possibly receiving extended rest or an innings limit (ESPN).

The 23-year-old lefty was moved from the bullpen to a starter's role this season, and his 124 innings pitched this season is 28 more than he pitched in the last two seasons combined.

Sale did not hit 90 mph on the radar gun for nearly 40 pitches in the middle innings (graph courtesy of Brooks Baseball.net).

Should the panic button be pressed after Sale's outing against Texas Friday? Should Kenny Williams make a deadline deal to improve the rotation?

 

The answer is yes to a deadline deal, but not because of Sale's arm. While only being 23 years old and in a new role, Sale has evolved into a great pitcher this season, and he has proven that he can win despite not having his best stuff on any given night.

A look at Sale's pitches last night reveals that 72 of his 109 pitches were off-speed pitches. According to Brooks Baseball's Pitch FX Tool, Sale's most predominant pitch was his slider. Sale threw 45 sliders, while keeping Ranger hitters off balance for most of the night after Sale's rough first inning.

 

Compare that to Sale's 15-strikeout performance against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 28. Sale's most frequently used pitch that game was his two-seam fastball—53 out of his 115 pitches that game were the two-seamer.

During Friday night's win, Sale's two-seam fastball averaged 90.22 mph, while during his May 28 performance in Tampa Bay, his two-seamer averaged 93.23.

Seeing as two months have passed, it's only natural to expect Sale to lose some velocity, yet last night's lack of speed may have been cause for concern.

Regardless of his arm strength on Friday, Sale showed that he's the real deal by hanging on for the win without his best stuff. His tired arm also underscores the importance for the White Sox to make a deadline trade for a starting pitcher, which would improve the team's chances of building on their division lead.

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