Raising Questions

What would a Chris Sale trade look like?

chisoxThis week, in honor of the upcoming Winter Meetings and the craziness that is baseball trade rumors, we’re presenting a few fun trade ideas the Phillies could indulge. Sit back, grab some popcorn, and act like these ideas aren’t nuts.

Chris Sale is available.

The 27-year-old White Sox ace – who is coming off a 17-10, 3.34 ERA, 233 K, 45 BB season and is the most oft-forgotten great pitcher we have in baseball – is on the trading block.

Teams will want Sale (who will be paid just $12 million in 2017 and has two team options in 2018 and 2019). Two teams that we know very well seem to be the leading suitors, as both the Nationals and Braves have been rumored to have strong interest in Sale

Last trade deadline the White Sox were telling teams it would take multiple top prospects to acquire Sale, and rightfully so. The guy is great. His contract is very favorable. So for those reasons, should the Phillies be in on Sale? And what would it take to get him?

To answer the first question, we need more info on the second.

What it takes …

If reports are correct, acquiring Sale means saying goodbye to multiple prospects. The Phils have a lot of prospects, so they could make it work. To understand exactly who could be involved, let’s look toward a recent major trade involving multiple prospects and a stud left-handed pitcher.

Phillies trade Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman to Texas for Matt Harrison, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff and Alec Asher

That’s a haul. So far the Phillies have a mid-rotation starter (Eickhoff), two potential rotation mates (Thompson, Asher), a top outfield prospect (Williams) and a highly regarded top catching prospect (Alfaro). But they had to take on Harrison’s remaining contract ($32.7 million), pay Texas $9.5 million to cover some of Hamels’ contract and throw in Diekman (a solid lefty reliever). So, in essence, a more balanced trade that sacrifices a sure thing and a bit of money for a bunch of high-level wild cards.

A Sale trade would look pretty similar, though maybe without the financial throw-ins. Still, let’s say the Phils are open to taking on Sale, plus another chunky contract to give the Sox some financial flexibility. So it starts with:

White Sox trade Chris Sale and James Shields to Philadelphia for …

Shields, who will be 35 in 2017, is owed $21 million each in 2017 and ‘18, and hasn’t been very effective in a few years. In 2016 he went 6-19 with a 5.85 ERA.

So that’s a big sacrifice for the Phils, and I’d just about the cancel the deal right then and there. The Phils have payroll flexibility but don’t need to be paying both Harrison and Shields’ contracts in 2017, with another year of Shields in there. Yeah, maybe “Big Game” James bounces back somewhat, but it’s a real big gamble.

So let’s take Shields out of it and keep it to this:

White Sox trade Chris Sale to Philadelphia for …

That means the Phils have to give up more. I’d assume the Phils don’t want to trade J.P. Crawford, which is just as fine as the Sox have Tim Anderson at shortstop. But the Sox would want some young impact players, including at least two pitchers. So, how about this:

White Sox trade Chris Sale to Philadelphia for Vince Velasquez, Roman Quinn, Jorge Alfaro, Jake Thompson and Ricardo Pinto

The Sox get a potential top-rotation pitcher who has a track record, a potential mid-rotation pitcher, a potential franchise catcher and a starting centerfielder (to fill an immediate hole). Pinto is the kind of team 10-20 prospect necessary to fill out this deal, and I’d suspect the Sox want another pitcher over a position player.

The Phillies, meanwhile, would have a top-rotation starter to fit next to Aaron Nola, Eickhoff, Jeremy Hellickson and someone like Zach Eflin, Asher or Ben Lively.

Yes they’d lose their future franchise catcher, but they have minor league catching depth along with a decent starter at the major league level. And despite Quinn’s departure they still have outfield depth.

To conclude …

So should the Phillies be in on Sale?

I’d give it a hard maybe, leaning no.

Look, Sale is great, a No. 1 starter who’s on the bump in the big postseason games. He’d also still be in Philadelphia in 2019, when the team is primed to be a contender once again.

But that’s a decent haul to surrender. Velasquez could reach Sale’s level if everything breaks, while Alfaro is a nice bet to at least be an everyday major league catcher. That alone is hard to surrender.

Thoughts?

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