By landing lefty Chris Sale on Tuesday in one of the biggest blockbusters in MLB winter meetings history, the Boston Red Sox have gone from a very good, title-worthy team to the clear front-runners in the loaded American League East, if not the entire league.
The addition of Sale, 27, gives Boston a front-loaded super-rotation also featuring David Price and Rick Porcello, the 2012 and 2016 AL Cy Young winners, respectively, with some combination of Eduardo Rodriguez, Clay Buchholz, Steven Wright or Drew Pomeranz in the fourth and fifth spots. And while the price was steep — with top prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech plus two other minor leaguers heading to the Chicago White Sox — the Red Sox managed to obtain Sale without compromising their major league roster.
To land Sale, the Red Sox outbid the Washington Nationals, who appeared to be closing in on a deal for Sale on Monday and into Tuesday, but who were ultimately unwilling to deal shortstop Trea Turner. It is rare that a starter such as Sale — who is not only a brilliant pitcher (17-10 with a 3.34 ERA and a career-high 226 2/3 innings pitched last year), but also a young, controllable commodity, with just $38 million owed to him the next three years — comes onto the trade market. The Red Sox, who had been quietly trying to trade for him since July, swooped in Tuesday afternoon and landed him.
The news rocked the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, host to this year’s winter meetings, as the Sale trade ranks among the biggest winter meetings blockbusters in history, along with the 2007 Miguel Cabrera trade from Florida to Detroit and the 1990 deal between Toronto and San Diego that saw Fred McGriff, Tony Fernandez, Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar change teams. In the 2007 Cabrera deal, the Tigers’ general manager at the time was Dave Dombrowski, who is now the Red Sox’s president of baseball operations.
The White Sox understandably were not going to trade their ace without a substantial return, and in a package headed by Moncada and Kopech, they got exactly that. Moncada, a 21-year-old, switching-hitting second baseman, ranks as the top prospect in baseball by many industry experts, having slashed .294/.407/.511 at Class A and AA, combined, last year. The Red Sox spent $63 million to sign him out of Cuba in 2015 — a $31.5 million signing bonus to Moncada, plus a 100 percent luxury tax surcharge. And Kopech, 20, is a flame-throwing right-hander who reportedly has touched 105 mph with his fastball and who has posted a 2.61 ERA in 134 2/3 minor league innings.
The other two prospects reportedly were outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe and right-hander Victor Diaz.
For the White Sox, the trade was an acknowledgment that the franchise is in a rebuilding phase, following a 78-84, fourth-place finish in 2016 — but one that has a considerable upside now, thanks to the additions of Moncada and the three other prospects.