Sale chatter dominates Day 1 of meetings

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With Chris Sale trade rumors starting to take a life of their own Monday, Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn moved to put them into proper perspective.

The crux of the rumors during the first day of the annual winter meetings is that the White Sox are willing to listen to talk on Sale, and that with a lack of quality starting pitching available this winter, the return could be colossal.

But if the news is that the White Sox will listen, the concept is a bit flawed because the club has always said it will at least be receptive to offers from other clubs on anybody just in case an offer they can’t refuse falls into their laps.

“I’m not doing my job, this room isn’t doing what we are here to do if we don’t at least listen when people have ideas and evaluate ideas,” Hahn said during his first gathering with reporters at the meetings. “At the same time, we know the value of what we have here and the importance to us going forward. You can take that for what it’s worth.

“For me, this strikes me as a bit of a dog-bites-man story. We are here to listen. That’s our job.”

Sale is one of a dozen or so true No. 1 starters in baseball. At age 24 (25 in March), with a delivery from the left side and an early track record of being able to dominate for long stretches, he’s the type of pitcher that teams dream of having. Add to that an extremely team-friendly, five-year, $32.5 million contract that runs through 2017, with a pair of team options that could take the deal to 2019.

Putting all that together, it would be extremely difficult for a team to come up with a trade package that the White Sox would think is a better value and has more talent than what Sale has already shown he can deliver.

Hahn said the Sale uprising didn’t change his dialogue with fellow general managers, essentially because they know where the White Sox stand when it comes to their best pitcher. If anything, Hahn said he received more correspondence from media members, along with a few from GMs joking with him when the Sale rumors reached their loudest point.

Hahn was asked if he might call Sale just in case the young pitcher caught wind of Monday’s rumors.

“I don’t think that’s necessary; they know this is the business,” Hahn said. “The thing I don’t like about that is perhaps one day down the line it becomes reality and I don’t make that call, whether it’s to this specific player or another player and it puts you in a bad spot.

“These guys are professionals, and during the course of the season or even in spring training they know that any time they want to talk, I’m available, and they have my number. Jake Peavy and I had a fair amount of conversations leading up to his trade this season. There’s times they want to know and times they know it’s just easier to tune (the rumors) out.”

So even though it seems like it would be easier just to call Sale untouchable, Hahn still won’t do it. He referenced a statement from chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who said that the only untouchable he he ever had in sports was Michael Jordan.

“I don’t see any need to put us in a box and say a guy is untouchable because I’m not doing my job if, out of a 25-man roster, I don’t exploit ways to get us as good as we can be for as long as we can be,” he said. “If that’s moving one guy for a substantial return, we at least have to consider it.”

While Hahn thinks a World Series can be won without a true No. 1 starter (he used the 2005 White Sox as a reference), he also knows that a guy like Sale gives some clarity to baseball’s greatest challenge. Finding a No. 1 that meets all of Sale’s worthwhile criteria isn’t easy.

“If you look at all things considered in terms of the talent, being left-handed, the control for the next several years I'd certainly say he's extraordinarily valuable, yes,” Hahn said.