Chicago pays Sale price for makeover
No surprise that Chris Sale got traded.
The real shocker was that the Boston Red Sox swooped in to snag him.
The reloading Red Sox pulled off the biggest deal yet at MLB’s winter meetings, acquiring the dominant ace from the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday for a hefty package that will go a long way toward reshaping Chicago.
“The ability to get a Chris Sale doesn’t come along very often,” said Dave Dombrowski, Boston’s president of baseball operations.
Sale joins an already talented rotation with the AL Eastchampion Red Sox, now pitching alongside 2016 Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello, former winner David Price and knuckleballer Steven Wright.
He leaves behind a rocky reputation in Chicago, suspended by the team last summer after he flew into a rage and cut up retro uniforms the club was supposed to wear.
The 27-year-old Sale has been an All-Star in each of the past five seasons, finishing high in Cy Young Award voting every time, but has never played in the postseason.
Given his financial status, Sale “was controllable and projected to be damn good going forward, and it’s tough to give that up,” said White Sox GM Rick Hahn.
“At the same time, we have to be realistic about where we are and the likelihood of, with this current group, getting to where we want to be.
“In the end, we had to make the tough decision to let go of someone as valuable as Chris in order to pull back what we feel is a premium package that’s going to help put us in a better position over the long term.”
Drafted by Chicago in 2010, Sale became a starter in 2012 and quickly rocketed to stardom. But the relationship between Sale and the White Sox became extremely strained this year.
Chicago went 78-84 and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2008.
To land Sale, Boston traded high-priced third baseman Yoan Moncada, considered by many the top young talent in baseball, outfielder Luis Basabe and pitchers Michael Kopech and Victor Diaz.
Sale was a top trade target across the majors this offseason, and Washington seemed to be the favorite to land him this week.
“We put a lot of effort into it and thought we made a good, valiant effort ... but we fell short,” said Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo.
“We reached as far as we were going to reach in the trade,” he said, adding he’d “been engaged with the White Sox for a couple of weeks informally and then it ratcheted up right before the meetings.”
To New York Mets manager Terry Collins, it was a great deal — being division rivals of the NL East champion Nats.
“I really thought for sure he was going to end up in Washington. I really did,” Collins said. “We dodged a bullet.”
Dombrowski said he began talking to the White Sox in earnest on Friday.
A few hours earlier, Boston got prime setup man Tyler Thornburg from Milwaukee. After that deal was announced, without tipping his hand, Dombrowski said, “We’re trying to win now, as you can see.”
Few knew then exactly how hard Boston was trying.
“That’s a big one. That’s a blockbuster. That was a wow,” said Yankees GM Brian Cashman.
Sale was 17-10 with a 3.34 ERA and 233 strikeouts this past season — a year after he led the majors by fanning 274 batters.
He also comes with a teamfavorable contract that calls for a $12 million salary next year and includes club options of $12.5 million for 2018 and $15 million for 2019.
Boston went 93-69, then got swept by Cleveland in the AL Division Series that finished out the career of retiring slugger David Ortiz.