MLB Teams Who Could Pull Off Chris Sale Blockbuster Trade
The rumor mill tends to run wild in the days and weeks leading up to the MLB trade deadline, and one of the biggest storylines of the 2016 trade season has been the potential availability of Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale.
Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball was the first to report July 22 that the South Siders were willing to listen to offers for Sale, but he won't come cheap.
In another article on the subject, Heyman reported the team is seeking "five top prospects" in exchange for the 27-year-old Sale.
That may seem steep on the surface, but considering the return packages for Shelby Miller during the offseason and rental closer Aroldis Chapman on Monday afternoon, it's a realistic expectation.
On top of being one of the game's truly elite pitchers, Sale also has one of the game's most team-friendly contracts with just $47.15 million coming his way over the next four years if all three of his team options are exercised.
Shortly after news of his potential availability broke, Sale was suspended for five games following a bizarre clubhouse incident that further shined a light on what appears to be a front office and superstar that are simply not on the same page.
Will that be enough for one of the game's best pitchers to pack his bags in the days to come?
For a team to target Sale, it would need to have an abundance of valuable young talent and be in a position where it views Sale as the missing piece to push it over the top in its pursuit of a title now or in the very near future.
Ahead is a look at five teams with a realistic chance of pulling off a deal for Sale and a proposed trade package from each team.
Note: The Chicago Cubs undoubtedly have the young talent to make a competitive offer, but it's hard to envision any scenario where the White Sox send the face of their franchise to their crosstown rivals. With that in mind, they have not been included.
Boston Red Sox
- 2B Yoan Moncada
- 3B Rafael Devers
- SP Michael Kopech
- SP Brian Johnson or SP Henry Owens
- RP Luis Ysla or RP Pat Light
The Boston Red Sox already pulled off one significant trade to acquire starting pitching help this summer, shipping pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza to the San Diego Padres in exchange for left-hander Drew Pomeranz.
That doesn't mean they're finished dealing, and ESPN.com's Scott Lauber, for one, thinks they need to be ready to make a serious run at Sale.
The bad news: A deal probably doesn't get done without Yoan Moncada as the centerpiece. That is unless the team is willing to include Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts instead, which seems unlikely.
The good news: Because Moncada is such a valuable asset, the Red Sox should be able to put together an attractive enough package built around him that outfielder Andrew Benintendi won't need to be included as well.
Rafael Devers has huge offensive potential, and he's already playing in High-A at the age of 19.
He has struggled a bit this year relative to his 2015 numbers, but he has still posted a .766 OPS with 36 extra-base hits as one of the youngest players in the Carolina League.
Michael Kopech has dealt with some off-field problems, including a 50-game PED suspension and a broken hand after an altercation with a teammate in spring training, but his stuff is impossible to ignore.
He can touch 100 with his fastball and backs it with a terrific slider and an improved changeup. If his overall command improves, he has legitimate front-line potential.
Building the package around that trio of top-100 prospect talent would give the Red Sox as competitive an offer as any team in the league can offer up.
From there, they could add with an MLB-ready starter. Either Brian Johnson or Henry Owens would seem like reasonable candidates, and while Owens probably has more upside, Johnson is the safer pick.
Finally, a power arm to help out in the bullpen could be the final piece. Pat Light and Luis Ysla are the top options in the Boston system, and Ysla offers the added value of being a left-hander with swing-and-miss stuff.
The White Sox would be getting a potential superstar in Moncada, a future middle-of-the-order bat in Devers, a hard-throwing right-hander with ace potential in Kopech, an MLB-ready young arm in Johnson and a quality lefty bullpen arm close to contributing in Ysla.
Swapping out Devers for Benintendi would obviously sweeten the pot if someone else came in with a bigger offer, but this seems like a reasonable starting point with a legitimate chance of getting a deal done.
- SP Lance McCullers
- SS Alex Bregman
- SP David Paulino
- 3B J.D. Davis or 3B Colin Moran or OF Derek Fisher
- RP James Hoyt
The Houston Astros have done a nice job righting the ship after a rocky start to the 2016 season, and the starting rotation has improved dramatically since the season's first month.
However, adding Sale would be a franchise-altering move for a team on the rise that has the young offensive core in place to be a serious contender for the foreseeable future.
While the Astros would no doubt love to swap out Doug Fister or Scott Feldman as the MLB-level arm going to Chicago in a deal, the asking price here would probably start with 22-year-old Lance McCullers.
Despite his age, McCullers already has 34 big league starts under his belt, during which time he's gone 11-11 with a 3.26 ERA, 1.321 WHIP and 219 strikeouts in 196 innings.
His ceiling is a No. 2 starter, but the fact that he's already proved himself at the highest level adds to his value.
Pairing him with uber-prospect Alex Bregman should be enough to put them in the running for Sale.
Bregman shot through the minor leagues after being selected No. 2 overall in the 2015 draft, making his MLB debut Monday night. His bat will play anywhere, and he has seen time at shortstop, third base and in left field in an effort to expedite his arrival.
He still has the tools to play shortstop at the highest level, though, and pairing him with Tim Anderson up the middle would give the White Sox one of the league's best young double-play combinations.
Since those two are such valuable assets, the No. 3 piece in this deal wouldn't need to be right-hander Francis Martes.
Offering up either Joe Musgrove or David Paulino as a second top-tier prospect would still be plenty attractive. Musgrove is the more polished of the two with some of the best command in the minors, but Paulino's upside may be too big to pass up.
The 6'7" right-hander turned in a breakout season last year in his full-season debut, and the 22-year-old has backed that up with a strong showing so far in Double-A. He can touch the high 90s with his fastball and pairs it with a plus curveball and a developing changeup as his lanky frame continues to fill out.
Adding one of J.D. Davis, Colin Moran or Derek Fisher would give the White Sox another quality bat close to contributing, and James Hoyt could step into a key bullpen role, as he's posted a 1.72 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 47 innings at the Triple-A level this year.
Again, there's wiggle room here for the Astros to up the ante if they were to swap out Paulino for Martes, but this proposal should be enough to get them a seat at the table.
Los Angeles Dodgers
- SP Julio Urias
- SP Grant Holmes or SP Frankie Montas
- 2B Willie Calhoun
- C Austin Barnes
- SP Josh Sborz or SP Chase De Jong
The Los Angeles Dodgers have balked at the idea of moving their elite-level prospects in recent years, but it appears they're willing to change their tone for a chance to acquire Sale.
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Dodgers would be willing to include left-hander Julio Urias in a deal for Sale.
As Sherman notes, that was not the case last season when the team was pursuing Phillies ace Cole Hamels, and many consider Urias the game's top pitching prospect.
Urias has not exactly lit the world on fire with a 4.69 ERA and 1.512 WHIP over nine starts in his first taste of big league action, but it's important to remember we're talking about a 19-year-old.
His 48-17 strikeouts-to-walk ratio over 40.1 innings speaks to his stuff and command, and he's as safe a bet as any pitching prospect in baseball to realize his front-line potential.
The Dodgers hold such a valuable chip in Urias that there's a good chance they could take more of a quantity route to filling out the rest of the trade package. That being said, quantity in the Dodgers' system is quality with almost any other club.
Holding on to Jose De Leon and instead offering either Grant Holmes or a player the White Sox are familiar with in Frankie Montas as the No. 2 piece would make sense as a starting point.
Holmes is somewhat undersized at 6'1", but he's solidly built and has enjoyed success every step of the way in the minors. Montas still needs to develop his changeup into a viable third pitch, but he has one of the best arms in the minors, and closing games is a legitimate fallback option.
Add to that a pair of versatile defensive players with solid offensive potential in Willie Calhoun and Austin Barnes, and this is shaping up to be a very competitive offer.
The 21-year-old Calhoun has posted an .824 OPS with 17 doubles, 22 home runs and 67 RBI while authoring a 53-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 403 plate appearances at the Double-A level.
Barnes, 26, has the tools to be an everyday catcher, but he has also seen time at second and third base in his career. He's hitting .299/.383/.454 in Triple-A and could step in as Chicago's primary catcher.
The White Sox's choice of Jose Sborz or Chase De Jong rounds out the package. They're both 22-year-old right-handers with middle-of-the-rotation upside, impressive results in 2016 and the polish to arrive by early 2018.
While there may not be the same level of talent at the top of this proposed package as what we've offered up from other teams, the chance to acquire a potential generational talent in Julio Urias could be too good for the White Sox to turn down.
- SP Tyler Glasnow or SP Jameson Taillon
- OF Austin Meadows
- SP Mitch Keller
- C Elias Diaz
- SP Chad Kuhl or SP Steven Brault or SP Trevor Williams
The Pittsburgh Pirates might seem like a surprising inclusion here at first blush, but the team-friendly deal that comes with Sale would be of significant value given their small-market standing.
Can you imagine a one-two punch of Sale and Gerrit Cole?
Even if Cole bolts in free agency, that still gives the Pirates three-plus years of what would be an absolutely devastating duo fronting the rotation.
Any return package would almost certainly need to start with either Tyler Glasnow or Jameson Taillon, giving the White Sox a top-tier pitching prospect who could plug into the MLB rotation.
Glasnow has more upside packed into his towering 6'8" frame, and he doesn't come with the same injury history as Taillon, but he's still ironing out the command issues that have plagued him in the minors. Even with the medicals, Taillon may be the safer of the two going forward.
Austin Meadows is an obvious second piece to include.
The 21-year-old has a .296/.346/.592 line with 37 extra-base hits and 11 stolen bases between Double-A and Triple-A this year. He has the hit tool to be a perennial .300 guy at the highest level, and there's more power in his bat than he's shown to this point.
More importantly, he has no clear path to playing time in a crowded Pittsburgh outfield. The team also has another quality outfield prospect in Harold Ramirez making his way up the minor league ranks, so it'd be dealing from a position of strength.
Right-hander Mitch Keller has been one of the breakout prospects of 2016, so he would no doubt be on the White Sox's radar as a potential third top-tier prospect to be included in the deal.
Keller, 20, was sidelined for most of the 2015 season with a forearm strain. He's returned healthy this season, posting a 2.86 ERA, 0.922 WHIP and 100 strikeouts in 97.2 innings with Single-A West Virginia and showing legitimate No. 2 starter upside.
Dealing from another position of strength, considering the presence of Reese McGuire, the Pirates could include catcher Elias Diaz, a plus defensive backstop with an emerging hit tool.
Slap a bow on this trade offer with one of the team's MLB-ready arms among the likes of Chad Kuhl and Steven Brault, who have both seen time in the majors this season, and Trevor Williams, who is pitching well in Triple-A, and you have a very competitive offer.
The Pirates would still keep one of Glasnow and Taillon, as well as Josh Bell, Reese McGuire, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Harold Ramirez, so plenty of talent would remain on the farm.
Meanwhile, the White Sox are getting two elite-level prospects, a third prospect trending up in a big way, a potential everyday catcher and another MLB-ready arm.
- IF Jurickson Profar or OF Nomar Mazara
- 3B Joey Gallo
- SP Luis Ortiz or SP Yohander Mendez or SP Ariel Jurado
- 1B Ronald Guzman
- RP Luke Jackson
It speaks to the depth of the Texas Rangers farm system that they are even part of this conversation.
They used a package built around the top-100 trio of Nick Williams, Jake Thompson and Jorge Alfaro and also including pitching prospects Jerad Eickhoff and Alec Asher to acquire Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels last summer.
Despite giving up that much young talent, they still have one of the deepest systems in the league and the necessary pieces to jump into the mix for Chris Sale.
That being said, the package here would start with an MLB piece in either infielder Jurickson Profar or outfielder Nomar Mazara.
Profar, 23, is finally healthy and hitting .286/.337/.403 with eight extra-base hits and 24 runs scored over 167 plate appearances in a super utility role for the Rangers.
Mazara, 21, earned his big league shot after Shin-Soo Choo went down with an injury, and he's posted a .763 OPS with 11 doubles, 12 home runs and 40 RBI in 377 plate appearances.
Pairing one of those big league pieces with slugger Joey Gallo would be a serious starting point in these talks.
Gallo has struggled with strikeouts throughout his time in the minors, and he's continued to whiff at a 30.4 percent rate this season, but his 80-grade power is for real, and there's a good chance he develops into the next Adam Dunn.
That may not sound like a compliment for White Sox fans who were saddled with the end of Dunn's career, but we're talking about the Adam Dunn with seven straight seasons of 38 or more home runs and 462 career long balls.
From there, the White Sox would have their pick from a trio of impressive young arms in Luis Ortiz, Ariel Jurado and Yohander Mendez.
The 20-year-old Ortiz is generally the most well-regarded among that trio. The burly right-hander stands 6'3" and 230 pounds, and he already features a polished three-pitch mix and plus command that has him looking like a future No. 2 starter.
That being said, the 20-year-old Jurado is a prospect on the rise, and the 21-year-old Mendez is the closest to reaching the majors as he's climbed to Double-A and continued to shine this year.
Slugging first base prospect Ronald Guzman appeared in the Futures Game this year, and he's posted an .849 OPS with 15 doubles, 15 home runs and 52 RBI for Double-A Frisco. His left-handed bat would play well in the middle of the White Sox lineup.
Rounding out the package is former top prospect Luke Jackson, who has revitalized his career since making a move to the bullpen. If he can further refine his command, then he has legitimate closer-caliber stuff.
The Rangers have the prospect depth to do some mixing and matching if the White Sox prefer someone like Lewis Brinson to one of those high-ceiling pitchers or perhaps second baseman Travis Demeritte to Guzman.
At any rate, the pieces are there for the Rangers to once again land the market's big fish as they chase their first World Series title in franchise history.