I hate writing that sentence. Sale is exactly the type of pitcher you want: He's great, he is signed to a team-friendly contract that includes options through 2019, he is a homegrown talent, and he is a good citizen. Why would the White Sox consider trading him? Simple answer: They're a mediocre team going nowhere, sinking faster than the ratings for "Shades of Blue." They started off 23-10, but that was a mirage built around Mat Latos winning his first four starts with a 0.74 ERA, Sale and Jose Quintana pitching out of this world, strong starts at the plate from the likes of Avisail Garcia and Brett Lawrie, and excellent defense highlighted by Adam Eaton's bazillion diving catches in right field.
Even after Monday's exciting win -- after Zach Putnam walked the bases full with no outs in the ninth, Zach Duke escaped the jam, and Jose Abreu delivered a two-run double off Craig Kimbrel with two outs in the 10th to beat the Red Sox -- the White Sox are 34-36, or 11-26 since the hot start. The James Shields trade has been a disaster, the offense doesn't get enough guys on base or hit enough home runs, and the defense has regressed in recent weeks.
Maybe the White Sox aren't this bad -- even Sale has a 6.07 ERA in his past five starts, as his BABIP has normalized -- but they aren't playoff contenders, either. That has mostly been the story since Sale joined the rotation five seasons ago. The Sox are 331-387 since 2012, including three straight sub-.500 seasons. Building around Sale hasn't produced a winning team. As admirable as the White Sox's refusal to rebuild has been, it's time to change course, make a blockbuster trade and infuse more talent into the organization.
Sale's trade value would be enormous, given that he's making just $9.15 million this year and $12 million in 2017 and then has team options for $12.5 and $13.5 million in 2018 and 2019. A team that acquires him now would get him for four playoff runs. Compare Sale to Cole Hamels when Hamels was traded last year: Hamels had $70.5 million guaranteed to him in the three seasons remaining on his contract, plus a prorated share of $23.5 million for the rest of 2015 (and a $24 million vesting option for 2019 or $20 million team option or $6 million buyout). Sale will make half as much as Hamels over the same span. Then consider that Sale is four years younger than Hamels and a better pitcher.
The White Sox aren't in as obvious a rebuild mode as the Phillies were in July, but everyone seemed to think the Phillies got a nice return of young talent for Hamels. Sale would demand an even bigger return. The team best equipped and most likely to make a deal for Sale? The team he's pitching against Tuesday: the Boston Red Sox. Here are five reasons for that.
1. Dave Dombrowski will be under pressure to win this season, not only to erase the sting of the past two seasons, but also to send David Ortiz out in style.
2. Dombrowski's style during his reign in Detroit was to trade prospects for proven stars, just as we saw with the Kimbrel trade this offseason.
3. The Red Sox need another starting pitcher. Even with knuckleballer Steven Wright a potential starter for the All-Star Game, the Red Sox rank just 10th in the AL in rotation ERA. A playoff quartet of Sale, David Price, Wright and Rick Porcello would look pretty good in front of Boston's league-leading offense.
4. The Red Sox have top-rated prospects to deal. Second baseman Yoan Moncada would be the must-get for the White Sox. He hit .307/.427/.496 with 36 steals in Class A and was just promoted to Double-A. He ranked 12th on Keith Law's top 25 prospects update in late May, behind two more Boston farmhands: third baseman Rafael Devers (No. 5), who hasn't put up the same numbers as Moncada at Salem but is just 19 years old, and outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who already earned an early promotion to Double-A. Teenage right-hander Anderson Espinoza ranked 22nd on Law's list.
5. The state of the major league roster allows Dombrowski to make a move. With three young, inexpensive stars in Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr., the Red Sox have a strong foundation of youth. Moncada is blocked by Dustin Pedroia (signed through 2021), so although Moncada could conceivably play left field or third base, he would seem like an asset to move to improve the big league team.
It's a perfect fit. Trade Sale for Moncada, one of the other top guys -- say Espinoza, to give Chicago a potential big arm -- Blake Swihart, whom the White Sox would move back behind the plate, and one of the young starters with some big league experience, such as Eduardo Rodriguez or Henry Owens.
Of course, if Sale were put on the market, every team would inquire. The Dodgers would be frothing at the mouth trying to come up with an offer. The Rangers are still loaded on the farm, with prospects such as Joey Gallo, outfielder Lewis Brinson and pitcher Dillon Tate. The Astros have Alex Bregman and A.J. Reed. The Pirates could look to 2017 and trade Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows.
You get the idea. Look, a Sale trade is unlikely. It isn't owner Jerry Reinsdorf's style to give up. (OK, maybe once.) But Ken Williams and Rick Hahn have to realize they haven't made the playoffs since 2008, they haven't won 90 games since 2006, and they're probably headed to their fifth losing season in six years. Put Sale on the market.