The Chicago White Sox have dealt star pitcher Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for prospects Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, and others. Ken Rosenthal broke the story earlier this afternoon, signalling the fall of the first domino in Chicago’s inevitable rebuilding process.
Despite going big last season when they traded for third baseman Todd Frazier — and started the year hot — the White Sox needed to tear everything down and start over this offseason. They are a franchise that has hovered around just good enough to not warrant a full rebuild for years, but they have not been to the postseason since 2008. It was time, and they appear to be finally doing it with this deal.
In return for three years of Chris Sale, the White Sox are receiving second base prospect Yoan Moncada, MLB.com’s top overall prospect, and right-handed pitcher Michael Kopech, MLB.com’s 67th overall prospect. Who they are not receiving, according to Jon Heyman, is Blake Swihart, which debunks the theory that the White Sox were looking for proven major-league talent in return for Sale. Moncada made his MLB debut last season but Kopech is still a year or two away. This is not another reloading for the White Sox, it’s a rebuild.
In the short-term, this deal is both good and bad for the Cleveland Indians. The White Sox were not much of a threat even with Chris Sale, so losing him doesn’t really give the Indians a massive advantage in the AL Central, not much bigger than it already was anyway. It does, however, prevent Sale from showing up in those matchups and absolutely dominating the Indians whenever he’s on the mound (2016 not withstanding).
If anything, trading Sale is a clear signal the White Sox or rebuilding, so it completely removes them from the equation next season, instead of a potential threat that could come out of nowhere.
Where the deal is bad for the Indians, is how good it makes the Red Sox next year. They were already the AL favorites in the postseason last season, but the Indians dispatched them easily, thanks to their lack of pitching depth. Now with Chris Sale behind David Price and Rick Porcello, combined with their already-great offense, it will not be nearly as easy if the Indians make it back to October baseball.
And, of course, down the road this deal is terrifying for the Indians. It gives the White Sox a potential super star infielder and a potential superstar pitcher for the better part of a decade. That’s scary, and we don’t even know what prospects they might get in return for Frazier, Jose Abreu, or any other pieces they are going to deal this offseason.
As I have talked about previously, the Indians have a great opportunity in front of them with a weak division in 2017. We know the Minnesota Twins are rebuilding, the White Sox are clearly rebuilding now, and the Kansas City Royals appear to be shopping some of their top talent as well. The only other potential player in the AL Central, the Detroit Tigers, seem to be interested in moving some key pieces if not going into a full-blown rebuild. The division is wide open and the Indians are right in the middle of their window to win.
To White Sox fans, embrace the rebuild. It’s going to suck for a while, and it could suck for a really long time if your front office screws it up. But if they don’t, it’ll all be worth it.