The Red Sox Win the Chris Sale Sweepstakes
This is what the Winter Meetings are all about.
On Tuesday, the Boston Red Sox acquired the prize of the meetings, left-handed Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale, for four players, including one who many believe is the top prospect in the game, Yoan Moncada. The Red Sox are said to have outbid the Washington Nationals for the rights to put Sale at the top of a rotation that includes fellow lefty David Price and the reigning Cy Young Award winner, Rick Porcello, now the third-best pitcher in his own rotation.
There is no doubt that, as of now, the Red Sox boast the strongest top of the rotation of any team in the American League.
As I wrote about last week, there are a lot of reasons why teams were looking to acquire Sale, a pitcher who has finished in the top-six of the Cy Young voting in every season since he became a regular starter in 2012. I mean, look at what his slider did to this poor man.
Sale went 17-10 in 32 starts, totaling 226 2/3 innings (a career-high) with a 3.34 ERA and 3.46 FIP. He struck out 9.25 batters per nine innings and walked 1.79 per nine. He allowed hitters to bat just .225 against him, right in line with his career average, and finished fifth in the Cy Young voting. In all, he was worth 4.9 rWAR, per Baseball Reference.
Chris Sale is a strikeout machine â€“ heâ€™s averaging 235.3 a season since 2013. #Filthy pic.twitter.com/yaaFDyPP71
â€” MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) December 6, 2016
How great has Chris Sale been? Just one pitcher in MLB has a better ERA and more strikeouts over the last five years: Clayton Kershaw.
â€” Tyler Kepner (@TylerKepner) December 6, 2016
With a weak free agent market for starters (the two top starters, Rich Hill and Jeremy Hellickson, both re-signed with their original teams for a combined four years and $65 million), Sale was the prize pig at the fair this week. He's still just 28 years old and is under team control through the 2019 season. He'll make $12 million in 2017, $12.5 million in 2018 and $13.5 million in 2019 -- bargain prices for an ace.
The Nats were reportedly close to striking a deal for Sale, but they couldn't match the elite prospects Boston was willing to give up. The Red Sox signed Moncada to a $31.5 million deal before the 2015 season that, with the international spending penalties included, cost them $63 million. But he is regarded as a top-five prospect in baseball.
Between high-A and Double-A ball last season, Moncada batted .294/.407/.511 with 15 homers and 31 doubles in 106 games (491 plate appearances). He is seen as a center fielder or second baseman, two positions at which he was blocked in Boston. He's an elite-level prospect who strikes out a lot but has an enormously high ceiling.
The other top prospect heading to Chicago is starter Michael Kopech, who went 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA in 11 starts (52 innings) at high-A Salem last season, averaging 14.2 strikeouts per nine innings. He throws in excess of 100 miles per hour, although that was accompanied by a high walk rate. Chicago also got two lesser-heralded prospects in pitcher Victor Diaz and outfielder Alexander Basabe.
This has the potential to be a true win-win deal. In Sale, Boston gets a controllable, cheap ace who probably makes them the American League favorites heading into 2017. And for Chicago, they start the rebuilding process with two of the best prospects in all of baseball.