The Chicago White Sox will not trade with the Chicago Cubs.
That’s from Buster Olney, who writes about Chris Sale’s market, excludes the Cubs from the list of possible trade partners with this line: “The White Sox have told the Cubs they won’t deal with them.”
It’s been the chatter in the Chicago media for several years now, and it goes something like this: for reasons not entirely tied to baseball, the Chicago White Sox will not make a significant trade with the Chicago Cubs. Full stop. The end. It’s just the way it is.
It’s not necessarily a matter of pettiness, mind you, it’s just that – within the local market – folks at the highest levels of the White Sox power structure do not want to see a deal they make actually help the Cubs get more attention in a city that already disproportionately goes that way.
At its most generous, you could read this position as simply a matter of business. I’m not sure I would see it the same way, but, hey, I’m not in charge of the White Sox. Maybe there’s a lot I don’t know, and I’ll certainly concede that in the battle for local baseball attention, the White Sox’s task has only become more difficult in the last few years.
So, then, if they don’t want to see a home-grown star like Sale go to the Cubs and win even more, they will make sure no trade happens, no matter how enticing.
To be fair and realistic, it’s not as if there is some crazy, over-the-top offer on the table that the White Sox are rejecting on the basis of this principle alone. After all, the Cubs aren’t going to make some crazy, over-the-top offer just to overcome the “same city penalty.” Instead, even if the Cubs did make an offer on Sale, it would be within the general range of other offers in the market (the White Sox won’t be hurting for teams interested in Sale), and the White Sox wouldn’t be crushing themselves by selecting a different offer.
This is all kind of academic, then, at least within the Chris Sale context. The broader implication is that, with respect to any pieces the two teams might otherwise look to be a fit for swapping – the kind of trade that can make both teams better – you have to wonder if this is just a flat out mandate from the top: no trades with the Cubs. Or is it just no “big” trades? Maybe we’ll find out some day.
But it doesn’t sound like it’s going to start with Chris Sale or any other major piece of the current White Sox roster.
(Aside: since Olney reports this within the context of outlining the trade market for Sale, does this mean the Cubs inquired, specifically, on Sale? I think that’s a plausible reading, but it doesn’t really add too much to our offseason understanding of the Cubs, given that we already know they’d like to land a cost-controlled starting pitcher. Why wouldn’t they ask about one of the best that is known to be available? Nice to know they’re shooting high, if so.)