I'm sure you know this by now, but Chris Sale is really, really (10 more really's) good. He is probably going to win the AL Cy Young, and better yet he's on the Red Sox.
On Sunday, Yankees fans saw just how amazing Sale really is, with Sale showing off an impressive blend of fastball command and velocity. His line on Sunday: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 12 K. And in 13 career starts against the Yankees, Sale is 4-2 with a 1.18 ERA. Downright filthy.
The cherry on top is the fact that the Yankees could have obtained Sale instead. Unfortunately, when the left-hander was being shopped, the Yankees were at a point in franchise history where there was at least some logic in not trading for a controllable ace. They had just dealt veterans for a boatload of prospects at the most recent deadline.
This, along with the insane 2019 free agent class, led people to believe that the Yankees would rebuild with an eye toward 2019. So, mortgaging some prospects who could help in the future for a pitcher (albeit, an ace) who would help mostly in the non-contending years didn't make sense.
Sale is unique and unlike any other pitcher in the world. He's a 28-year-old, healthy, cheap, controllable, left-handed ace with a track record of dominance who is a top five pitcher in baseball. That's exactly the type of player you should sacrifice prospects for.
Give Red Sox general manager Dave Dombrowski credit for realizing that. The caveat here is that virtually any team trading for Sale looks like the winner in the trade. To get an idea of Sale's value, let's look at the package the Red Sox gave up for him:
- 2B Yoan Moncada (#1 Red Sox Prospect, #1 in Baseball)
- RHP Michael Kopech (#2 Red Sox Prospect, #67 in Baseball at the time of the trade, #12 Now)
- OF Luis Alexander Basabe (#8 Red Sox Prospect, Non-Top 100 Prospect in Baseball)
- RHP Victor Diaz (#28 Red Sox Prospect, Non-Top 100 Prospect in Baseball)
White Sox GM Rick Hahn also did a nice job obtaining the Red Sox's top two prospects, and they will be productive major leaguers one day. Speaking of major leaguers, now here are some comparisons for these players in today's game. There is some physical resemblance as well as skill resemblance in these comparisons.
- Let's say Moncada becomes the player lots of people in the industry liken him to: Robinson Cano.
- Let's say Kopech doesn't become a star, but becomes a very serviceable major league starter. His comp: Mike Leake
- Basabe becomes a failed prospect turned fourth outfielder type because not every prospect turns out great. Aaron Hicks before his breakout this year would be perfect but with Hicks being a very good player now (yay), Basabe's projection is Leonys Martin from Seattle.
- Ultimately, Diaz probably becomes a fringe major league arm, which is probably his realistic ceiling. Giovanny Gallegos is a good comp.
So, if you replace the prospects with their comps, here's what the deal looks like:
Robinson Cano, Mike Leake, Leonys Martin, Giovanny Gallegos for Chris Sale
EVEN IF those prospects pan out to those predictions, it's still a deal that would have to be seriously considered. Personally, I would deal Cano, Leake and Co. for Sale in a heartbeat. While it is true that Moncada, Kopech, and Basabe could become more than Cano, Leake, and Martin, there is just such a lack of true No. 1 pitchers out there that this is too enticing of an acquisition to pass up.
Surely most Yankees fans were mad that the Red Sox got Sale last offseason, but also said something along the lines of: "We would have to deal guys like Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, and Chance Adams. I don't want that to happen." To give away two top prospects and two more high upside pieces for one player is indeed a very pricey deal. It hurts more if those pieces were just acquired and are extremely good. A Sale trade would be crushing to the Yankees farm system even though it's one of the deepest in baseball.
However, the team acquiring Sale would probably win any reasonable trade. The Yankees may be one of the only teams that are in a different boat. Now that Clint Frazier looks legit, Gleyber is an inevitable part of the future, and Yankees pitching prospects continue to take steps forward, keeping the farm system intact is probably the best way to go. It will hurt to see Sale strike out Judge for the next few years, though.
Through this whole ordeal, there is a lesson to be learned here. The next time there is a true No. 1, absolute ace, top five pitcher in baseball on the trade market, you go get him. And if he is healthy, controllable and cheap, like Sale was when he was made available, you HAVE to go get him. Or else you will regret it for years to come.
For now, we have to somehow live with Sale's domination for our biggest rival and hope that the Yankees figure him out at some point, like they figured out David Price. But the next time a pitcher like Sale is put on the market, the Yankees better make a run for him.