Yard Sale: Reevaluating the Chris Sale Trade After 20 Starts
Here we are, twenty games into Chris Sale's career as a Red Sox stud. The guy has been nothing short of amazing (besides the game in Chicago against his old club), and proceeds to leave us shaking our heads as to how a pitcher can continue to throw absolute heat and make the greatest batters in our game look stupid. His numbers have been phenomenal, and Boston has been saying since his first start on April 5th that this is the most dominant pitcher in the organization since Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. Since then, he has continued to make that performance into something consistent.
However, the Red Sox did not just acquire Sale through Free Agency. They paid a price, and not David either. Well, technically, they did pay Price A LOT of money last year. But instead of paying for Sale in a lucrative contract, they paid the White Sox in prospects. Which, at the time, were elite prospects.
On December 6th, 2016, the Red Sox dealt Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz for the electrifying Sale. Sale has proven himself over the last five years as a starting pitcher as one of the most dominant starters of this decade, we can all see that. However, what was given up at the time was huge.
Moncada was the second-best prospect in the league, behind Boston's own Andrew Benintendi. Moncada has only had one hit so far in Chicago, going one-for-six. That one hit was a grand slam last night against the Royals. In AAA-Charlotte, he hit a solid .282 with 12 home runs and 36 RBIs, tacking on 17 stolen bases in 80 games. However, his strike out percentage was higher than his batting average, striking out an insane 102 times over 309 at bats, which is one strikeout away from striking out a third of his at bats. According to Fangraphs, a 27.5% strikeout to at bat ratio is awful, making Moncada's strikeout to at bat ratio absolutely horrendous in the minor league system this season.
Enough on Moncada, what about the other three prospects that were labeled as, well, "three other prospects" when the trade first came out? Well, Red Sox fans had very high hopes for Kopech, as he was able to hit 105 MPH on a radar gun in a minor league game as a 20 year old. He drew comparisons to Noah Syndergaard, the Mets current ace who is known for his consistent 101 MPH fastball and 90 MPH curveball. Kopech has had a good season in AA-Birmingham, posting a 6-6 record, a 3.51 ERA, 119 strikeouts in 92.1 innings and a .197 batting average against. That is what you expect from a 21 year-old that is developing. Kopech has the potential, but just is not there yet.
Luis Alexander Basabe has had a pretty below average season in Advanced-A-Winston-Salem (hyphens, anyone?), posting a poor .218 batting average over 316 at bats. He also has 89 strikeouts on the season, which is a 28.2% strikeout to at bat ratio, which would probably be considered by Fangraphs as "a little more than awful". Victor Diaz started on the DL this season, and has been absolutely terrible in the 12 games he has appeared in. He possesses an obnoxious 12.27 ERA through only 11 innings, has walked 10 batters and only struck out 14, AND has a .304 batting average against. Not to mention that Diaz is 23 years old and struggling at an Advanced A level ball club. You can probably give him the tag of being a bust, unless he miraculously turns things around and starts to appear in the Majors after he turns 28.
Chris Sale? Well, he is top five in every single starting pitching category in the AL. Best WAR (Wins Above Replacement) for a pitcher, best ERA, tied with the most wins, lowest walks and hits per inning pitched, lowest hits per 9 innings, most strikeouts per 9 innings pitched, most innings pitched, most strikeouts, highest win probability added, etc. You get it! Sale is the most dominant pitcher since Nolan Ryan. Case closed!
For what the Red Sox had to give up, it was a fantastic deal for John Henry, Dave Dombrowski and crew. The fans loved the acquisition, his performance on the field has been great, and he has been described as a great teammate. Did I mention that his contract is also controlled by the club in for the next two seasons after the 2017 season AND his contract will never pay him more than $13.5 million a year? Well now I did mention it, and now you know.
My letter grade for the Sale trade is whatever letter comes above A+, obviously with a bit of a bias. The Red Sox did a phenomenal job here, as the prospects they sent over have potential, but have been struggling after the trade, while the Red Sox, who needed another starting pitcher and are always in a "win now" state of mind, got the best available pitcher that was on the market this past winter. They also did not give up Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Deven Marrero, Jay Groome or Tzu Wei-Lin, who are good, young talent that have succeeded in the farm system and, in the case of Benintendi, along with Marrero and Lin to an extent, have found success on the major league level.
I am Nick Harmon, this is my first piece writing for On The Bleachers. I will be bringing you a constant feed of Red Sox takes, along with takes on college football, the NFL, and NBA. Check out my Twitter down below, I will be tweeting all of my articles there along with any developments of the website and my blog. If you like the article, please tweet it, share it, and tell your friends. Tell them about the fantastic detailed and thorough content that can be found on, On The Bleachers. Let them know so they can enjoy this as much as you can enjoy it!
Sources: www.baseball-reference.com, www.milb.com, www.usatoday.com