The Chicago White Sox are mired in a disappointing encore to their 2012 performance. They’ve fallen quickly out of contention and now sit in the AL Central basement, 9.5 games out. They are officially open for business according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, and they will be looking to sell as the trade deadline approaches. The only untouchables are Chris Sale and Paul Konerko according to the Heyman tweet.
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— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) June 27, 2013
The decision to sell is a difficult one for this franchise. They have to battle poor ticket sales (currently ranked 25th in attendance), which translates to limited funds. Adam Dunn’s contract, along with the extensions given out to Jake Peavy, John Danks, Paul Konreko and Chris Sale, have the White Sox payroll at $119 MM which is ranked 8th in the league.
Chicago is hamstrung; while it makes sense to sell, the untradeable assets are puzzling. Paul Konerko is older and having an off year which may be a harbinger of things to come for 2014. Chris Sale is young and talented. He is establishing his status as ace in the making. So far in 2013, Chris Sale has given the White Sox 98.1 innings of 2.75 ERA with a 26.9 K% and a 5.9 BB%. Opponents are hitting .198 against him, and he is absolute death on lefties.
Sale is an absolute monster with a devastating slider, a great fastball and a developing change. If he can piece his repertoire together and stay healthy, he will be a perennial Cy Young candidate. He is also the one trade asset that can make all the difference for the White Sox long-term rebuilding project.
On the surface, it makes sense to build around a player like Chris Sale but he also can jump-start the White Sox rebuild efforts and shorten their time away from contention in a major way. The White Sox need only to look at Seattle as an example of what happens when a team is hesitant to trade away an ace.
Felix Hernandez is a once in a generation pitcher who will never have a playoff inning during the peak of his dominance. Hernandez was stymied with bad Mariners teams during the apex of his career. The Mariners won’t be good for a while yet, and Hernandez is still stuck in Seattle, likely to become a pitcher whose career is overshadowed by his team’s inability to get him to the playoffs.
It’s a fate that the White Sox and Chris Sale should avoid. There isn’t much on this Sox team that is even worth trading for outside of Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez and Paul Konerko. Those names wont warrant a big haul of top tier prospects like Chris Sale would. Big-time pitchers net big-time prospects. The Rays sent James Shields to Kansas City and got Wil Myers in return.
This was reminiscent of a trade they made in 2011 when they traded Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs for Chris Archer and Hak-Ju Lee. Incidentally the Cubs are also looking to trade Garza this year for a haul of prospects.
Nothing jump-starts the rebuilding process like sending away a big-name player, and GM’s are suckers for pitching at the deadline. It’s entirely possible that the White Sox are trading away Randy Johnson for lottery tickets. I would be sad to see Chris Sale leave Chicago because he is a young and exciting pitcher. This is also a team that is extremely far away from contention. The organization is getting better but they need a big injection of talent if they want to be relevant soon. It’s likely that Chris Sale will never pitch in the playoffs for the White Sox if he stays in black and gray.
I think this is a move the White Sox have to consider. Rebuilding is a painful process rife with tough decisions. Rick Hahn and Jerry Reinsdorf know what’s ahead of them, it’s time to put the big-boy pants on and see what you can get for Chris Sale.