Although the White Sox suspended ace Chris Sale after scratching him Saturday for cutting up their throwback uniforms before their game against Detroit, they’re not necessarily any likelier to deal the rumored trade candidate than they were before, writes FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. That doesn’t mean he’ll stay put, though, and given the lack of high-quality starters scheduled to hit the upcoming free agent market, numerous executives have told Rosenthal that the White Sox might be better off waiting to move Sale until the offseason. In their view, shopping Sale in the winter would enable Chicago to involve more teams in the sweepstakes. While Rosenthal regards Saturday’s incident as a hit to Sale’s reputation, he notes that it won’t turn interested teams off from wanting to acquire him. As for Sale, whether he remains a member of the White Sox or goes elsewhere, he’s “fine either way,” per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.
SUNDAY: The White Sox have issued a five-day suspension to Sale as a result of his Saturday behavior. He’ll be out of action through Wednesday.
“Chris has been suspended for violating team rules, for insubordination and for destroying team equipment,” Hahn stated. “While we all appreciate Chris’ talent and passion, there is a correct way and an incorrect way to express concerns about team rules and organizational expectations.”
Hahn added that the White Sox still believe Sale can be part of the solution for the franchise (Twitter link via Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago).
SATURDAY: The White Sox scratched superstar left-hander Chris Sale from his start Saturday in Detroit, which Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet was first to report (Twitter link). Given that Sale has begun generating significant trade buzz this week, speculation initially ran rampant that the White Sox had a deal in place to move the 27-year-old. That isn’t the case at the moment, though, as Chicago actually scratched Sale because of a pregame “clubhouse incident.”
“Chris Sale has been scratched from tonight’s scheduled start and sent home from the ballpark by the White Sox due to a clubhouse incident before the game,” senior vice president and general manager Rick Hahn said in a team-issued press release (Twitter link via Paul Skrbina of the Chicago Tribune). “The incident, which was non-physical in nature, currently is under further investigation by the club.”
Sale got into an altercation with front office staff, which began in “silly” fashion and blew up into a bigger argument, tweets Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (links here). Amazingly, the fight centered on Sale’s disdain for the White Sox’s throwback uniforms. Sale didn’t want to put them on, so he cut all of them up to prevent anyone from wearing them, relays Tommy Stokke of FanRag Sports (via Twitter). FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal subsequently corroborated Stokke’s report, adding that Sale first requested Chicago not wear the uniforms because they’re uncomfortable. When the White Sox declined, Sale became livid because, in his view, the franchise decided to prioritize p.r. and jersey sales over winning (links to Twitter).
This isn’t the first off-the-wall dust-up of the year featuring Sale, who lashed out at team president Kenny Williams in March after first baseman/designated hitter Adam LaRoche retired because the White Sox requested that he bring his son, Drake, into the clubhouse less frequently. Saturday’s disagreement did not include Williams, per Rosenthal (Twitter link).
Sale’s issues aside, he’s unsurprisingly still drawing interest from elsewhere as the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline nears. The White Sox are continuing to discuss him with other teams, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter). One team with interest in Sale is the rebuilding Braves, via reports from both Chris Cotillo of SB Nation and David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter links). Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported earlier Saturday that the White Sox want five top-caliber prospects for Sale, whose years-long track record of on-field brilliance has continued this season. Sale’s strikeout rate (8.73 per nine innings) is at its all-time lowest mark, but he continues to limit walks (1.96 per nine) and runs (3.18 ERA). He’s also controllable for extremely team-friendly dollar figures through 2019.
With the free-falling White Sox open to selling off veterans, power-hitting third baseman Todd Frazier could end up switching uniforms by the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Frazier is on a reasonable $7.5MM salary this year and will make one more trip through arbitration in the offseason. His .212/.300/.476 batting line is far from great, but the right-handed Frazier is second in the majors in home runs (28). Meanwhile, the team’s second-best starting pitcher, lefty Jose Quintana, is available for an “overwhelming” package, a major league source told Cafardo. The highly effective Quintana, 27, is controllable and affordable through 2020, and has logged a 3.13 ERA, 8.15 K/9 and 2.26 BB/9 in 123 2/3 innings this season.
SATURDAY,9:26pm: The White Sox aren’t motivated to trade either Sale or Quintana, multiple major league sources told Rob Bradford of WEEI.com.
7:52pm: The Rangers are currently unwilling to trade Mazara for Sale, but they’re open to dealing Gallo, Profar and some of their pitching prospects, per Sullivan.
FRIDAY, 5:23pm: The Rangers are “making [a] serious effort” to pry Sale loose from the White Sox, according to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan (via Twitter). Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported recently that the two teams were already chatting about Sale (and Quintana, too) before it became apparent that Chicago was leaning toward selling.
There’s “no indication” as yet whether these talks are going to go anywhere, Sullivan notes, so it doesn’t sound as if there’s anything building in the immediate term. Indeed, Grant adds on Twitter that no “serious talks” have occurred as of this point. The key takeaway seems to be that Texas at least plans to take a real shot at pulling off a blockbuster.
Indications are that Chicago would have interest in Joey Gallo and Jurickson Profar in any scenario involving Sale. We’ve heard those two names quite a bit of late, and obviously the pair carries a lot of trade value. Still, it’s quite likely that Texas would need to add some real talent to that package to get the White Sox to budge.
Sale, after all, is just 27 years of age, remains under control at cheap rates through 2019, and carries a 3.18 ERA over a league-leading 133 frames on the year. Particularly with the contracts factored in, Sale is one of the most valuable single pitching assets in all of baseball — with Quintana not far behind him.
3:47pm: The White Sox are taking quite a few calls from rival organizations after reports emerged yesterday that the club is prepared to sell. While the extent of the sell-off isn’t yet apparent, and staff aces Chris Sale and Jose Quintana figure to be the most difficult pieces to pry loose, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag writes that the South Siders are at least willing to hear scenarios involving the top southpaws.
Per the report, the Red Sox are among the teams to have logged a phone call with the Chicago brass. Heyman suggests that Boston could theoretically also have interest in reliever David Robertson, and also notes that the Dodgers will surely check in on Sale and Quintana. No doubt plenty of other teams will also; as the recent chatter surrounding Chris Archer shows, controllable standouts draw wide interest no matter the time of year.
Ultimately, it seems that the White Sox are mostly looking to gauge the market for Sale and Quintana as they assess how far to go with their sales plan. GM Rick Hahn has acknowledged that the team won’t buy short-term assets, but hasn’t declared his organization open for business on the sell side, and it’s possible to imagine the club taking various routes given its array of veteran talent. Certainly, there’s no urgency to deal a top arm, though perhaps the Sox wonder if the time could be ripe with the market seemingly lacking the supply to match the demand.
The most likely pieces to be traded, generally, would be pending free agents. But as Chicago’s depth chart shows, the team’s walk-year vets don’t hold much appeal: Austin Jackson and Alex Avila are hurt, while Dioner Navarro has been ineffective and Justin Morneau only just returned to the big leagues. The Sox have one more season of arb control over infielders Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie; there’s one more year on the contract of southpaw reliever Zach Duke and two to go for Robertson. Both Melky Cabrera and James Shields could draw interest, though their expensive contracts will require some number-crunching.
The team’s true core, though, lies in the players it has locked up to lengthy deals. First baseman Jose Abreu has had some down moments, but remains an appealing asset. Outfielder Adam Eaton is a great value on his contract. And then there’s Sale and Quintana, who are probably the most appealing White Sox trade chips of all. Of course, their extremely favorable contracts, young age, and top-level production all make them important assets to an organization that probably doesn’t intend to oversee a full-blown teardown. But taking a package of near-MLB prospects could theoretically still make sense, and it seems that Chicag would like to at least know what’s possible.
The most prominent pitcher the Rangers have pursued as the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline nears is White Sox ace Chris Sale, who’s currently embroiled in a strange controversy, but the sides haven’t made much progress, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. With that in mind, Texas’ focus is on the Rays’ starters at the moment, writes Grant. Tampa Bay’s asking price is high for Matt Moore and Jake Odorizzi, though, as it wants powerful corner infielder/outfielder Joey Gallo – Baseball America’s 11th-ranked prospect. The Rangers would only give up Gallo for the Rays’ top starter, Chris Archer, per Grant.
- The White Sox are reportedly asking for “five top prospects” for Chris Sale, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reports. It’s an incredibly high asking price but one that at least one rival executive thinks will be met, though others believe Chicago may not actually be serious about dealing its ace. The Marlins are among the teams who have inquired about Sale but with such a thin farm system, Miami doesn’t seem close to meeting Chicago’s demand. The Red Sox and Rangers do have deep systems and have asked about Sale, though Heyman reports that the Rangers/White Sox talks haven’t led to much progress.
- Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News provides a useful round-up of the Rangers’ efforts to bolster a scuffling rotation. In addition to opening talks with the Rays and White Sox, as has been covered extensively, the team is looking at a variety of other possibilities. Andrew Cashner of the Padres is one player that the Rangers have discussed, as are Mariners lefties James Paxton and Wade Miley. It seems that all variety of options continue to be on the table, as all of the pitchers covered in the report constitute quite different assets. GM Jon Daniels suggests that, while he’d prefer to move quickly toward a deal, the odds are that it’ll come down to the deadline.
- As the White Sox weigh what (if any) players to sell, the club won’t have two short-term assets on the shelf. As Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune reports, both center fielder Austin Jackson and catcher Alex Avila — each of whom was signed to a one-year deal over the winter — are still a ways away from returning from their respective injuries.
4:34pm: GM Rick Hahn acknowledged that his club will not be pursuing short-term upgrades to the MLB roster, as Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago was among those to tweet. He added that the Sox will be willing to consider all other transactions.
Those comments don’t squarely paint Chicago as a seller, but certainly lean as strongly in that direction as might be expected in a public statement. Hahn bemoaned the fact that, as he put it, the team is “mired in mediocrity,” so it certainly appears that the organization is ready to shake things up.
1:20pm: The White Sox appear to have reversed course in the midst of a significant slump, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the club is now open to selling off veteran pieces this summer (Twitter link). The Sox intend to keep their rotation intact — taking Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and presumably Carson Fulmer and Carlos Rodon off the table, much to the chagrin of interested parties — and are intent on holding onto top shortstop prospect Tim Anderson as well. Other than that, however, Nightengale suggests that the rest of the roster is “in play.”
Optimistic fans will likely take the report and try to come up with ways in which the potentially selling Sox could be overwhelmed to part with Sale or Quintana, but FOX’s Ken Rosenthal emphasizes (via Twitter) that Sale won’t be moved, reporting that an unnamed team is said to have offered Chicago a “king’s ransom” for its ace within the past 48 hours, only to be met with a flat “no.” Another rival executive tells Rosenthal that teams have been asking for Quintana in trades for years, and the Sox have steadfastly refused (Twitter link).
Nightengale’s report is fairly surprising in that it suggests that Sox will at least entertain the notion of trading outfielder Adam Eaton, who has become one of baseball’s biggest bargains thanks to his elite all-around play and affordable contract. (I’d have pegged him to be among the “untouchable” group.) Eaton is hitting .271/.353/.393 with five homers, 11 steals and exceptional defense in right field, and he’s guaranteed just $21MM through the 2019 season (plus two options valued at $9.5MM and $10.5MM for the 2020 and 2021 campaigns). FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported earlier this morning that the Sox have already been receiving calls on Eaton, although I have to imagine that the asking price on him would be exorbitant.
Slugging first baseman Jose Abreu, too, would be a consideration under such criteria. He’s had a bit of a down season overall, slashing .266/.323/.423 but has turned things around at the plate dating back to June 1 (.299/.349/.478). He’s owed $38.04MM through the end of the 2019 season, including the remainder of this year’s salary, though his contract allows him to opt into arbitration following the 2016 season if he wishes.
Heyman also reported this morning that closer David Robertson is receiving quite a bit of attention on the trade market as clubs look to acquire impact relievers. While Robertson’s 4.03 ERA on this season is a departure from his normal excellence, he’s been clobbered for 10 of his 17 earned runs in just two of his 37 appearances this season but has been largely effective outside of those hiccups. He’s owed $29.45MM through the end of the 2018 season and is still averaging 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings, though he’s also averaging 4.9 walks in that same stretch as well. Both Nate Jones and Dan Jennings are having strong seasons and come with three-plus years affordable control (Jones via a three-year, $8MM extension with a pair of club options and Jennings via arbitration). Jones’ strong season and considerable control could make him tough to surrender, though.
Beyond those long-term assets, the South Siders have several other short-term and mid-term assets that are controllable through the end of the 2017 campaign as well as a few rentals. Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, Melky Cabrera and Zach Duke are each free agents at the end of the 2017 season, while Dioner Navarro, Alex Avila and Justin Morneau are free agents following the current season. Frazier is tied for the Major League lead with 28 homers and is due an arbitration raise on his $8.25MM salary, while Lawrie has been about league-average at the plate and will get a bump from his $4.125MM salary. Cabrera has quietly been quite solid at the plate dating back to June 1 of last season, hitting .294/.338/.456 with 20 homers in 827 plate appearances, but the remaining $20.66MM on his deal is fairly steep. Duke is owed about $7.52MM from now through the end of his own contract and has logged a 2.97 ERA with 10.5 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a 58.1 percent ground-ball rate this year.
The change in course is a fairly surprising turn of events for a White Sox team that just last month proactively sprung to add James Shields in a trade with the Padres (Shields has righted the ship after a pair of early implosions with Chicago) and also added Justin Morneau while shedding Jimmy Rollins to open shortstop for Anderson. That series of win-now moves hasn’t changed the club’s fortunes, though, leading to a potentially uncharacteristic sell-off from a Sox club that is typically loath to do so. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf has long been said to be against such sales, and indeed, the Sox chose to hold onto the majority of their pieces last summer in spite of an opportunity to ship out veteran pieces, most notably Jeff Samardzija.
It remains, of course, far from clear that the Sox will clean house in any way. The very fact that they’re insistent in holding onto Sale, Quintana, etc. suggests they intend to aim for better results as soon as the 2017 season. As such, major dealings shouldn’t necessarily be the expectation, but the very fact that the Sox are open to the idea represents a rather significant philosophical change from where the team stood four to six weeks ago.
The Cubs are showing some interest in Athletics right fielder Josh Reddick, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and MLB.com. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein drafted Reddick while serving as GM of the Red Sox, and the two sides were loosely linked by Morosi earlier this season. Of course, outfield isn’t necessarily a primary need for the Cubs, who have been more tied to bullpen help of late. However, the Cubs did cross one item off their wishlist with yesterday’s pickup of Mike Montgomery, and the Chicago front office/field staff clearly place a high value on harboring a deep roster that is tailored to allowing manager Joe Maddon to play matchups. Chicago is currently deploying Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Willson Contreras in the outfield with regularity, although Dexter Fowler will soon return, which could push Contreras back behind the plate and Bryant back to the hot corner more frequently. Reddick has long handled righties better than lefties and would provide a solid defensive option in the outfield. It’s a similar skill-set to that of Jason Heyward, though Reddick’s been the more productive of the two this season, slashing .301/.380/.445 in a season that’s been shortened by a fractured thumb. Reddick initially slumped upon activation from the DL, but he’s hit well more recently.
A few more notes out of Chicago…
- The White Sox are now at least considering changing course to act as sellers this summer, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. In particular, David Robertson is generating quite a few calls for the Sox, who have lost five of their past seven games and dropped below the .500 mark. Robertson is owed $29.45MM through the end of his contract in 2018, so he comes with considerable financial considerations. Then again, he’s also pitched quite well outside of a pair of disastrous meltdowns that saw him yield four and six earned runs this season, and the demand for impact relievers is high.
- The ChiSox are also getting quite a few calls on outfielder Adam Eaton, says Heyman, though he’s controllable at a much more affordable rate and for considerably longer than Robertson. Eaton is owed just $21MM through the end of the 2019 campaign, and his contract includes club options for the 2020 and 2021 seasons that are respectively valued at $9.5MM and $10.5MM. For a player with his offensive profile and defensive wizardry in the corner outfield, that’s an enormously valuable deal that would require a huge haul for the White Sox to surrender.
- While most who eye the White Sox will be hopeful that the club will part with ace Chris Sale or No. 2 starter Jose Quintana (who would be the top pitcher on many teams), Morosi tweeted this morning that there’s still great doubt within the industry that the Sox would part with either left-hander. The Dodgers, he notes have the prospects to make an overwhelming offer. I should point out that the Rangers do as well, with Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News recently speculating that they could be a fit for Quintana if the Sox decide to sell.
- Morosi tweets that the White Sox will have opportunities to move lefty reliever Zach Duke, who is controlled through 2017 and earning $5.5MM next year. That’s probably an understatement, as Duke boasts a 2.97 ERA with 10.5 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a 58.1 percent ground-ball rate this season. If the Sox do sell off some veteran pieces, I’d wager that they could get a nice piece for Duke even if they understandably hang onto more core pieces like Sale, Quintana and Eaton.
The Rangers have acquired minor league righty Scott Carroll from the White Sox in exchange for cash considerations, according to an announcement from both clubs. Carroll has been assigned to Double-A Frisco for the time and will not require a spot on the 40-man roster for Texas, as he’d been outrighted by the ChiSox last week.
The Rangers have long been on the lookout for pitching help, and the Carroll pickup won’t impact those pursuits, though it’ll give the team an arm with some big league experience to call upon in the event that a spot start or two is needed. Carroll, 31, has spent the past three and a half seasons in the White Sox organization, making 19 starts and a total of 47 appearances dating back to 2014. In that time, he’s posted a 4.60 ERA and averaged five strikeouts and 3.2 walks per nine innings pitched over the life of 168 1/3 frames. His minor league numbers are stunningly similar, as he has a career 4.65 ERA with 5.4 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9 in 398 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level.