Imagining the Hysteria of a 2016 Chris Sale Trade Market

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2016

Chicago White Sox's Chris Sale delivers a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Adam Hunger/Associated Press

There's an old—and erroneous—cliche about the Chinese symbol for "crisis" being the same as the one for "opportunity."

In the case of Chris Sale, the Chicago White Sox and any prospect-rich contenders seeking an ace via trade, it might end up being true.

First, the crisis: As you've no doubt heard, there's dissent brewing in White Sox land. It started when the team, and specifically executive vice president Ken Williams, informed veteran Adam LaRoche that his 14-year-old son was not allowed to spend extensive time in the clubhouse. It boiled over when LaRoche responded by abruptly retiring.

That, in turn, led to players threatening to boycott a Cactus League contest, per Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. And, according to Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, there were "F-bombs aplenty" during a meeting between Williams and LaRoche's ruffled teammates.

Sale, in particular, hasn't minced words. 

"This is a bigger issue than being told his son can't be around. It's a much deeper issue," Sale said, per Mike Tulumello of the Associated Press. "We got bold-faced lied to by someone we're supposed to be able to trust."

That was a direct reference to Williams, and Sale wasn't finished. 

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Sale didn't pull punches when it came to White Sox executive Ken Williams.
Sale didn't pull punches when it came to White Sox executive Ken Williams.Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

"He came to the players and said it was the coaches. He went to the coaches and said it was the players. Then he came in here and said it was the owner," the left-hander continued. "If we are all here to win a championship, this kind of stuff doesn't happen."

There's disgruntled, and then there's that. We're still a couple of weeks from Opening Day, and already Sale sounds like a man with one foot out the door.

He hasn't demanded a trade, and there's no guarantee Chicago would make it happen if he did. But if this wound keeps festering and the bad vibes escalate, Sale could force Williams and the White Sox's hand.

If it is, buckle up. Because a Chris Sale trade market would be a vertigo-inducing roller coaster.

Which brings us to the opportunity. Sale turns 27 on March 30. He's made four consecutive All-Star teams and finished in the top 10 in American League Cy Young balloting every season since 2012. Last season, he paced the Junior Circuit with a career-high 274 strikeouts.

And, most essentially, he's locked into an exceedingly team-friendly deal that pays him $9 million and change in 2016, $12 million in 2017 and a pair of no-brainer team options for $12.5 and $13.5 million in 2018 and 2019.

Sale has been one of the best left-handers in the game since 2012, and he's locked into an affordable deal through 2019.
Sale has been one of the best left-handers in the game since 2012, and he's locked into an affordable deal through 2019.Adam Hunger/Associated Press

Compare that to the $30 million-plus annually the Boston Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks just tossed at David Price and Zack Greinke, respectively, and we're talking relative chump change.

Speaking of the Red Sox, they're one of a handful of clubs with the pieces to make a play for Sale. 

Matt Dolloff of CBS Boston floated a speculative swap that would include the Red Sox's top pitching prospect, Anderson Espinoza, along with touted young catcher Blake Swihart, left-hander Henry Owens and right-hander Pat Light.

Boston fans' eyes are no doubt widening with sticker shock, but that's the type of haul it'd take to net Sale. 

In fact, with other clubs assuredly circling, that gaudy package might merely be a starting point.

Surely the Los Angeles Dodgerswho lost Greinke to Arizona, have question marks all over their rotation after Clayton Kershaw and boast MLB's No. 2 farm system, per ESPN's Keith Lawwould kick the tires.

Likewise, expect the White Sox's North Side neighbors, the Chicago Cubs, to come sniffing around, along with the New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros—and, you know what? It'd probably be easier to list the contenders that wouldn't attempt to swing a deal.

If this happens—and, to reiterate, we're squarely in Hypotheticalville—it'd likely be at the trade deadline, when buyers' needs are more acute and sellers have optimum leverage. 

That also gives Chicago half a season to smooth over the LaRoche controversy and to claw back into the postseason picture after a disappointing 86-loss effort in 2015.

If the White Sox are contending in July and Sale and Williams have buried the hatchet, they can stay the course. If, on the other hand, Chicago is sinking in the standings and Sale remains a vocal malcontent? Move him for a king's ransom and hit the franchise reboot button.

There's a crisis bubbling in White Sox camp, that much we know. Will it lead to a trade-market feeding frenzy and, ultimately, a golden opportunity for someone?

Unfortunately, there's no Chinese character to answer that.

All statistics courtesy of unless otherwise noted.