If the Boston Red Sox were to obtain ace pitcher Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox, they had to be willing to give Jackie Bradley Jr. up? No thanks!
Jon Heyman of TodaysKnuckleball.com wrote a quick piece about Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reporting that the White Sox were adamant about acquiring Bradley Jr. if the Red Sox were to pry Sale from them. “There were some serious talks with the Red Sox, though as Boston people insist, they ended with a few days to go before the deadline. The issue appears to be Chicago’s insistence on one of Boston’s current young stars (along with a package of prospects). ‘If they didn’t get Jackie Bradley, there was no way they were doing the deal,’ one person familiar with their thinking said.”
Sale is 27 years old, which can be very young for a pitcher if he stays healthy. The 6’6″, 180-pounder from Florida is signed through 2017 for a big cash year of $12 million, the back end of a five-year deal worth $32.5 million. The White Sox do have a 2018 and 2019 team option worth $12.5 million and $13.5 million, respectively.
It’s no wonder, with that deal, that the White Sox would be willing to trade, as long as they were compensated. The back end of the contract means that Chicago could part ways with Sale before they had to pay him big money in the last few years.
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The issue lays with the fact that Sale is a fabulous pitcher. Since his first season in 2010, Sale has a career record of 72-47 with a 2.95 ERA, spanning 1 069 innings. This season alone, Sale has a 15-7 record and a 3.10 ERA, which is excellent considering the White Sox are second to last place in the American League Central division. They are 13.5 games back of the Cleveland Indians and have 11 more losses than the Red Sox.
The White Sox need to get better and quicker, which is why young players like Bradley Jr. make sense to them. The 26-year-old center fielder is under contractual control by the Red Sox until 2021, with arbitration next season. He’ll make more money in that arbitration meeting, just not Chris Sale money. At present, Bradley Jr. is being paid $546.5 thousand for this season, having just discovered his swing at the end of last year. He couldn’t hit above .200 between 2013 and 2014. Once he got up to .249 last season, the Red Sox felt that he was going to be their starting center fielder from then on, moving fellow 2016 All-Star teammate Mookie Betts to right field.
Bradley Jr.’s made highlight-reel catches on defense, but the money’s always for the offense in Major League Baseball. Currently, Bradley Jr. is hitting a career high .273, with 22 home runs and 75 RBIs. In his last seven games, Bradley Jr.’s been hitting .292, a tear by his standards. However, those numbers are only good enough for 11th place for all MLB center fielders, 21st place if you count all of the outfielders.
With 185 strikeouts to only 42 walks and a .219 opposing batting average, on the surface, it sounds like Sale would be a bargain then, right? Despite the drool one may have over a pitcher of his calibre, one also has to take into consideration how valuable Bradley Jr. is to the Red Sox. Not to mention how much that the White Sox would want in return for Sale.
Chicago needs to win as soon as possible. One outfielder isn’t going to cut it. Likely, if there ever was a deal to be made, the White Sox would allow a team to take Sale as long as they gave up a number of young players in the deal. The Red Sox not only would have to give up their everyday center fielder but also a number of future prospects.
Put the unknown potential aside for a minute: Bradley Jr. is too valuable to the Red Sox. He gives them speed, on offense and defense. He gives them a lefty bat, something that the Red Sox don’t have producing much, other than designated hitter and team leader David Ortiz. When Ortiz retires, a lefty bat that can produce, even if not nearly as much as Big Papi, would be nice.
There’s also the problem of Sale being a pitcher. The Red Sox would be giving up a positional player, who helps in every single game, for a pitcher who only appears once every five games. Much of Boston’s starting rotation has begun to see the light, which means that they don’t need to give up the farm just to salvage every fifth game. It’s also not like the Red Sox need lefty pitchers, with a number of them as starters and relievers on the staff.
The final nail in this deal’s coffin is the fact that Sale’s not going to guarantee a win every fifth game. He’s just as human as everyone else. In the last seven games, Sale is 1-4 with a 2.91 ERA. Even when he struck out 14 Seattle Mariners on August 26th, he still gave up three runs on five hits, even if it was for nine innings, earning him the loss. One could argue that his team just didn’t give him enough run support, but it’s not like he shut them out, either.
That’s not a knock on Sale at all (as many pitchers would give away their pitching arm to have Sale’s); that’s just hard facts. He doesn’t guarantee a victory, but Bradley Jr. can produce almost nightly. The deal, inevitably, made no sense for the Red Sox, as much as it may have been good for the White Sox. Don’t worry, Red Sox Nation. There are other deals to be made, whether now or the offseason.