Perhaps Chris Sale will be traded by the Chicago White Sox, maybe he won’t. But whether or not the ace left-hander is dealt, expectations are the team will be moving some players before the start of 2017.
“Absolutely,” agreed CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes. “They’re talking about slowing down their top two prospects too–all signs point to them selling off. You have to think Chris Sale-with Rich Hill being the best free agent out there, that Chris Sale’s going to get an overwhelming offer and then they would signal the start of a sale for sure.”
Who is the heir to Adam Wainwright when he decides to retire–not just on the mound, but in the clubhouse. Candidates are there and still have some time to grow into that role, but currently, there is not a clear passing of the torch lined up as was the case with Chris Carpenter to Wainwright. David Price would’ve been that guy had he signed last off-season. Chris Sale could fit that bill if he were traded for this year.
So what kind of king’s ransom would be required?
“Somebody that’s either Major League ready or at that level or on the roster already but with a lot of control left–and then prospects,” assessed Hayes. “I think some of the best teams that had a shot at him last year were Boston, Texas and I think the White Sox would’ve really like a Nomar Mazara and prospects back from the Rangers or they would’ve liked Bradley from Boston and prospects.”
Long expected to be a cornerstone in Texas, the 21-year old Mazara hit .266 with 20 home runs and 64 runs driven in for the Rangers this past season as a rookie. Bradley Jr. is five years older, but put up 26 homers and 87 RBIs this season and offers remains under team control until at least 2021.
“Yeah, king’s ransom is probably the best way to describe it,” added Hayes. “We’ve joked around with Rick Hahn about this for a while and the Herschel Walker trade is the one he always brings up.”
Which brings us back to outfielder Adam Eaton.
“Great defense, a little bit of power–I think the power’s probably helped by playing at US Cellular Field,” said Hayes. “But he’s still probably a 9-10 homerun guy and at the same time, if he’s playing in a bigger ballpark that’s going to turn into a lot more doubles and triples. He’s certainly got the speed for that. He’s not really a stolen base guy, but he’s an excellent base runner–first to third, second to home, that kind of thing.
“The defense–it was elite in right field this year. It’s been pretty good–he was a Gold Glove finalist in 2014 in centerfield and they kept him there last year and I think a lot of his early struggles had more to do with the fact he really tried to prove himself after getting a contract extension.”
After struggling early in 2015, Eaton turned things around to finish the season and moved to right in 2016.
“When they put him in right and he didn’t have to do a whole lot of thinking, he was absurdly good,” said Hayes. “He had the most assists by a White Sox outfielder in a couple decades for sure and was up there in defensive runs saved. If there was a ball hit on a line, he got to it. He makes great reads.”
There’s also the .360 on-base percentage Eaton brings to the lead-off position and he’s under contract through 2021 with team options.
The cost to acquire Eaton could be high, but not nearly as steep as that for Sale–and there could be different ways to approach it.
“They need everything,” stated Hayes. “The top half of their minor league system is just barren. And that’s why they’re in this position in the first place–they just don’t have the replacement players. If you look at their 1-10, it’s pretty good on their roster. Those are names that any team would think they compete in any division with, but then you go down beyond that it really gets thin quickly.”
The Sox were helped by drafting well last year, but apparently still need more depth.
“Position players across the board, there’s just no answers right now at catcher,” continued Hayes. “I don’t think they really have an outfield prospect. Charlie Tilson came over in that Zach Duke trade and he immediately became their #1 outfield prospect so really anything, except potentially shortstop–they’re pretty good there, I think is a need.”
With their manager and coaching hires, the White Sox have already telegraphed a shift towards building for the future. And their needs at various positions and levels should lend well to an organization like the Cardinals to make a move on their own or even become creative by mixing in another organization.
While centerfield is under consideration, John Mozeliak also noted that Randal Grichuk could remain at the position–and it’s certainly logical that Stephen Piscotty could move to left field if Eaton or another player is deemed most suitable in right.
photo credit: Rick Osentoski, Jeffrey Becker, Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports