Earlier in the day yesterday, Buster Olney noted that the White Sox, who are believed to be open to a rebuild of sorts, aren’t sure they’d be able to get enough to deal someone like ace Chris Sale:
White Sox currently focused on a rebuild, but it's unclear whether they'll find offers acceptable to them for Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, etc.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 14, 2016
A legitimate concern? Or a signal to the baseball world at large that they’re open to a deal, but they need teams to step up?
As I wrote yesterday, if the White Sox are serious about a rebuild at this point, it’s going to require a commitment to dealing their best players, either now or at a minimum at the Trade Deadline, for the best return possible. Deciding to hold onto depreciating trade chips is not a great strategy.
And maybe they really were just doing some signaling yesterday, because suddenly there was an explosion of Sale-related rumors in the second half of the day and on into this morning. That includes not only the following tweets, but also an article at CSN Chicago about GM Rick Hahn understanding the trade value of Chris Sale:
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) November 14, 2016
sources: Braves r among teams showing strong interest in chris sale. they have the pieces to get it done, too. great farm!
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 15, 2016
— whitesoxdave (@barstoolWSD) November 15, 2016
— Phil Rogers (@philgrogers) November 15, 2016
I include the last one – which otherwise might seem out of place – because (1) Phil Rogers noting it does seem to lend some credibility, and (2) whitesoxdave has actually been early and correct on more than one White Sox-related move over the past 12 months. The rumor, on its face, does make sense, so it is at least worth watching.
More broadly, though, what’s interesting is the spike in Sale-related conversation. You do often see that trickling out when a team is seriously engaging in trade conversations, and is not concerned about it being a secret, because they want to make sure all possible bidders know that it’s going down. I am, of course, not saying this *is* what is happening. I’m saying only that it has been my experience that, when a team is shopping a player (short of announcing publicly that they are doing so), this is often what it looks like in reports.
Sale, 27, has made sense as a White Sox trade candidate for a while, not only because they may seriously be rebuilding, but also because of clubhouse disagreements dating back to Spring Training (Adam and Drake LaRoche stuff) and a jersey-cutting incident midseason. The White Sox didn’t want to sell low at the deadline, but they may decide now is the best time to move Sale, who was excellent last year, but whose performance did take a step back across the board. He is under control for three more seasons (the latter two of which are club options) and a total possible commitment of just $38 million.
It’ll be extremely interesting to follow and potentially impactful whatever happens here, though I highly doubt you’d see the Cubs seriously involved. For reasons that may not make baseball sense (but arguably do make business sense), the White Sox are probably very reluctant to trade a star to the Cubs and help them continue dominating attention in the city.
To sum up: there seems to be a lot of conversation about Sale going around right now, which could be an indicator that he is being seriously discussed with a handful of teams. Wherever he goes, Sale is such a big name that it will impact the rest of the market, and also the competitive landscape for 2017. If he is moved, the fallout will be significant.