It’s not surprising to find out the Chicago White Sox are open to conversations with teams over a potential trade for Chris Sale. The Washington Nationals seem to be the first in line.
Ever since the White Sox season went up in flames midway through 2016, Sale’s name has been mentioned in potential trade scenarios. However, there hasn’t been anything substantial, or worthwhile mentioning, happening in that direction. Right now it seems the Nationals have just begun talking to the White Sox, trying to figure out if there’s even a point to all of this, but if Sale does turn into a “sell now” kind of player, they could be the first in line to land the ace lefty.
Sale is going to be 28 before next season begins. He’s on a terrific contract, guaranteed for next season at $12 million, and comes with a $12.5 million option for 2018 and a $13.5 million option for 2019. Considering Sale has been an All-Star for five consecutive seasons, a low eight-digit salary is something of a bargain for such a player. If a 3.34 ERA with a 1.037 WHIP is a bad year for Sale, then it’s even better than just a bargain.
Sale has had his clashes with the White Sox front office over the years, feeling like it’s not committed enough to winning and improving the team. It hasn’t hurt his performances, posting a 4.9 WAR last season, pitching in a career high 226.2 innings and leading the American League with six complete games. In metrics such as ERA+, WHIP and hits allowed per nine innings, Sale was having an even better season than in 2015. Overall, since 2012, he has a 3.04 ERA and a fantastic 5.08 k/bb ratio. He would do incredible well in any rotation.
Whether or not the Nationals move ahead with this trade offer remains to be seen. It would take up a lot of prospects, and probably a proven, young major leaguer or two to get the White Sox to move Sale. The Nationals could give in to their demands eventually: Starting pitching is a major need of theirs, especially when they can’t trust Stephen Strasburg to be healthy. The Nationals own ace has played in a total of 47 games since 2014, when he started in 34 games, and it looked like his injury problems are finally behind him.
The White Sox seem to be in something of a tilt mode. They haven’t made the postseason since 2008, and after a strong start did miserably down the stretch, not coming close to contending for the AL Central seed or a wild card spot in the final months of the season. Whether or not they feel it’s just one or two good signings away is difficult to asses, but it won’t be surprising if the White Sox go into aggressive sellers mode, which means Sale, Jose Quintana and Jose Abreu among others are on the trading block.