At the end of the 2016 season, the White Sox found themselves at a remove from recent success. They hadn’t posted a winning record since 2012 and hadn’t made the postseason since 2008. There was some talent on the roster but it was decided that it was time to hit the reset button. After much speculation, they gave a clear indication that they were going into a rebuild in December of 2016 when they traded left-hander Chris Sale to the Red Sox for prospects Yoán Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz.
Sale was already well established as one of the better pitchers in the game. At the time of the trade, he had thrown 1110 innings with an even ERA of 3.00, striking out 27.9% of batters faced while walking just 5.8% and getting grounders at a solid 43.8% clip. The White Sox had signed him to an extension going into 2013, a deal that ran through 2017 but with two affordable club options after that. Flipping an excellent pitcher with three affordable years of control left little doubt that a significant teardown was beginning.
The trade worked out very well for the Red Sox, as they would make the postseason in two of those three years with Sale, including winning the World Series in 2018. They then signed him to another extension going into 2019, which is a separate matter. Injuries have largely prevented him from providing much value on that deal, but the trade still looks like a success. They gave up some future talent but saw Sale post a 2.90 ERA in 2017 and then a 2.11 in 2018 as they hoisted their fourth title in a span of 15 years after an 86-year drought.
For the Pale Hose, this was the first of several future-focused moves they would make around that time. The day after the Sale deal, they traded outfielder Adam Eaton to the Nationals for young pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López and Dane Dunning. In July of 2017, they would send lefty José Quintana across town to the Cubs for a package headlined by prospects Dylan Cease and Eloy Jiménez. Many of the players involved in these deals would go on to form the core of the club as it returned to contention, alongside homegrown players like Tim Anderson and Luis Robert Jr..
The return on Sale needed to be huge, given his immense talent and three remaining years of cheap control. Indeed, the White Sox secured an incredibly significant prospect package, highlighted by Moncada. A high profile youngster out of Cuba, he signed with the Red Sox in March of 2015 for a $31.5MM bonus. This was back before the hard spending cap on international amateurs was put in place, but the Sox did have to pay a 100% tax because they had already exceeded their bonus pool figure, meaning they shelled out $63MM to get Moncada into the system.
He then played incredibly well in Single-A in 2015, hitting .278/.380/.438 for a wRC+ of 135. In 2016, he shot through High-A and Double-A and even made an eight-game debut in the majors. He struggled in that first taste of the show but was still just 21 years old at the time of the trade and was considered one of the top prospects in the league. Baseball America ranked him the #3 prospect in baseball going into 2016 and #2 in 2017.
Prospects with such high rankings are rarely traded, so it was a significant haul for the White Sox. The Red Sox likely have few regrets since Sale helped them to another title, but that wasn’t all Chicago got in return. Kopech was a notable prospect in his own right, having been selected in the first round of the 2014 draft. He had shown good form in the lower levels of the minors and was also on BA’s top 100 list, coming in at #89 in 2016 and was eventually placed #32 going into 2017. Basabe was a bit behind those two but was still an intriguing player, ranked Boston’s #9 prospect in 2016 and then Chicago’s #8 prospect going into 2017. Diaz was the least notable of the bunch but still cracked BA’s list of top White Sox farmhands after the deal, getting the #26 spot.
Moncada would scuffle a bit in his first two seasons in Chicago. Over 2017 and 2018, he walked in 10.9% of his trips to the plate but also struck out in 33% of them. He did hit 25 combined home runs over those two years but his .234/.321/.403 batting line amounted to a wRC+ of 99, a hair below league average. In 2019, he finally broke out and showed why he had been so touted as a prospect. He launched 25 more homers that year and slashed .315/.367/.548 for a wRC+ of 139. He was also graded well for his third base defense and stole 10 bases, leading to a tally of 5.5 wins above replacement from FanGraphs, making him one of the top 20 position players that year. 2020 was set to be his final year of club control, but the White Sox decided they believed in the breakout and committed to Moncada. The two sides agreed in March of 2020 to a $70MM extension that runs through 2024 and has a club option for 2025.
It’s been a bit of a mixed bag since that deal was inked. Moncada slumped a bit in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season but the club went 35-25 and qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2008. He was back on form in 2021, hitting just 14 home runs but walking at an excellent 13.6% rate. His .263/.375/.412 line translated to a 120 wRC+ and he continued to get good grades for his glovework, leading to a 4.0 fWAR season. The Sox went 93-69 and topped the American League Central, making the postseason in consecutive years for the first time in franchise history.
2022 was a frustrating season for both player and team. Moncada made trips to the injured list for an oblique strain, a right hamstring strain and then a left hamstring strain. He got into just 104 games and didn’t play up to his usual standard when on the field. He was one of many injuries that held the club back, as they finished 81-81 and failed to extend their postseason run into a third year. He roared out of the gates here in 2023, hitting .308/.325/.564 in nine games, but he’s been on the injured list for a few weeks now due to a protruding disc in his back that’s touching a nerve.
Though he’s been inconsistent, Moncada has shown the capacity to be an excellent player when everything is clicking and he’s been a key part of the club’s recent success. It’s hard to say the same for Kopech, however, as various circumstances have prevented him from reaching the heights that had previously been imagined for him. By the time the 2018 season rolled around, Kopech was considered by BA to be the #11 prospect in the league. That year, he thrived in Triple-A, posting a 3.70 ERA over 24 starts while striking out 31.3% of batters faced. He got called up to the majors in August but made just four starts before requiring Tommy John surgery, which wiped out the remainder of that season as well as his 2019. He then opted out of the 2020 pandemic season, returning to the club in 2021. Since he had missed two whole seasons, he was kept in relief that year. He fared well in that role, registering a 3.50 ERA in 69 1/3 innings, striking out 36.1% of batters faced.
He had built up a decent innings total that would allow him to return to the rotation in 2022, but the reins weren’t completely off. He made trips to the injured list for a knee strain and shoulder inflammation, tossing 119 1/3 innings on the year. He finished with a 3.54 ERA but a diminished 21.3% strikeout rate. A .223 batting average on balls in play likely helped him skate by, with his 4.50 FIP and 4.73 SIERA showing a bit less enthusiasm. He’s struggled out of the gates early here in 2023, with a 7.01 ERA after five starts.
As for the other two players in the deal, Basabe topped out at Double-A in the White Sox’ system before getting designated for assignment in 2020. He was then traded to the Giants, who gave him a nine-game MLB stint that year before outrighting him in the winter. He returned to the White Sox on a minor league deal last year but was released after a rough showing in just nine Triple-A games. Diaz pitched in the lower levels of the system in 2017 but injuries prevented him from getting into any official action after that. His transactions tracker indicates he was officially released in 2021.
It’s too early to completely close the book on the trade from Chicago’s perspective. Moncada is still under contract through 2024 and there’s the option for 2025. Kopech can still be retained via arbitration through 2025. There’s still time for things to change, but as of right now, the deal looks like a sort of microcosm of the club’s rebuild on the whole. There have been some good moments but it hasn’t quite been the runaway success that was envisioned. Moncada has had some good years but has been inconsistent and held back by injuries. Kopech has shown flashes of his talent but hasn’t really put it all together yet.
That semi-successful return in the deal has coincided with a semi-successful stretch of contention for the club, who made the playoffs twice recently but now seem at risk of seeing it fall apart. Their 8-21 record has them in a hole that they will have to crawl out of soon or else they’ll have to consider another selloff like the one they started over six years ago.
“consider” another selloff? I think that ship has sailed. Get what you can, but they’re two rebuild-and-selloff cycles away from being a deep, routinely competitive organization.
Hopefully they’ll extend Moncada. Heart and soul of this ballclub. Maybe Grandal also. Robert too, might give them the home town discount. Chisox might get the home town discount from all 3 of these spark plugs.
Hopefully they’ll keep Moncada and get rid of Grandal. He’s a terrible catcher, probably the worst I’ve ever seen. Moncada has always been one of the best defensive third basemen in the game. He had a good season offensively in 2019, then caught covid-19 in 2020. He’s had lingering effects from that and it affected his hitting until the end of last year. He’s also been dealing with trying to get his family out of Cuba, which has also affected him.
@Avenger, 2019 was the juiced ball year. If 2019 was a stand out year for any player it is a red flag, #s across MLB were up.
I believe you have to trade guys like Moncada and Robert, too, else you end up in the purgatory of being good enough to “compete” but never great enough to win it all. Are the Sox realistically going to get enough return trading mediocre players to develop a farm system and win a world series during Moncada’s contract? If not, trade him.
Grandal is a 34 year old catcher. Zero chance he has a role in the future White Sox.
In all seriousness, Moncada is as useless as Grandal. No GM in his right mind would ever trade for either of them.
And where this BS about Moncada started, I have no idea. But after watching him play 3B now in Chicago for a number of years, I guarantee you Moncada deserves a Gold Glove just as much as Grandal does. Neither of them can play defense. They are both creatures of the White Sox hype machine!
Hype is what the White Sox excel, at!!
You could move almost anyone if you are willing to eat all their salary. IMHO, weak FO’s fail to pull the trigger for fear of admitting they made a mistake. I’d give the WS another two months to see if they can get healthy, or revert back to better days.
But when big-market teams tank, they should use their revenue flows as a weapon. Pick up 100% of everyone’s salary for better prospects.
The WS aren’t really a big market team, despite playing in Chicago. They’re very much second fiddle.
Nobody is going to give the WSox anything for Moncada. They still owe him $40M+ over the next 2 seasons. They won’t win a pennant for at least 10 years. Hahn and Williams need to go and Chris Gets isn’t the answer either
I hope ur joking
Good trade for the Bosox, but extending Sale was a bad move. Still, World Series Championships are forever.
While you might not win a trade if you won a championship from it, you definitely can never lose a trade with the same outcome.
Fever Pitch Guy
syco – I think it depends on what you give up.
Nobody realizes the ChiSox pushed hard for Devers in the Sale deal, but Dombrowski was smart enough to refuse. If he HAD included Devers, I think that would have been a lost trade similar to Jeff Bagwell, even though Larry Andersen pitched well and helped win a division championship.
That is not correct. I have Tiger suffering since 1984 and we Detroit and all Michigan too would “lose” your every hindsight trade analysis for just one World Series championship happiness.
Magic genie. I rubbed one out on your lamp. We’d like to trade for Chris Sale and then please, give us a parade!
I’d like to think trades should stand on their own. DD’s biggest strength is that he trades prospects when their value is at their highest. The Sale trade was good regardless of whether or not we won the WS.
It was only bad because he got hurt and no one can predict injuries. A healthy Sale would of probably would have beaten the Astros in the AlCS in 2021.
Pretty inconsistent to say the extension to Sale shouldn’t count as part of the trade, but then say the deal is not yet over because of Moncada’s extension. Either they both count for evaluating the trade or neither count. Ignoring both extensions, Boston won the trophy. Thats a win.
I’d have made that extension without a second thought. Sale was one of the best 2-3 pitchers n BB.
Part of the loss in 2021 was that, imvho, the RS medical staff waited too long to make the TJS surgery. Had he had it the previous October, he probably would’e been at full strength by April 21.
And 2022 were just normal fluke injuries.
And if I were Bloom, I’d be open to a contract that would keep him here for the rest of his career (as always, at the right price). Verlander missed two years. Kershaw was limited to 22 starts in the past two years. But these elite pitchers have real value when healthy.
Anyone remember Frank Thomas?
Yes. In fact, I remember both of them. Boom!
This is an excellent article. Great read.
So does that mean we can get a do over?
That was a well written article. I love seeing these retrospectives on trades after players have had time to develop. Great job to the writer on this one.
This article is tugging on all the nostalgia strings. Still liked all the trades they made, just hasn’t materialized in to a winning team. At this rate, it’s not looking like it will either….
Than not good trades right? Sorry you kind of contradicted yourself badly.
roster construction is more than trades. no contradiction, just those things arent mutually exclusive.
The trades weren’t the problem, replacing Renteria with LaRussa and injuries did in this team. Especially LaRussa, the WS were the feeling good story and fun team of 2020.
LaRussa is gone, they are still awful. I get that people don’t like him and that he’s not a good manager in current year, but how can people still be claiming he’s a major problem when they’re worse without him?
You also can’t really just evaluate a trade with the benefit of hindsight. Given the information that was available at the time the trade happened, was it good?
I’d argue that they were. Eloy always had injury issues, so I wasn’t at all surprised to see that continue, but I’m not sure the other ones were glaringly obvious. The White Sox started spending too quickly and on the wrong players, so they ended up with holes they weren’t able to fill via their system or FA. This was compounded when many of their players proved to be injury prone.
They looked really good at the time. Just my inner fan not wanting to admit the faults on the team, but yeah you’re right.
Fortunately Boston didn’t have collared throwbacks, or this trade might have never happened
Thumbs up. A lot of people right now are going huh?
LOL. He’s referring to Sale having thrown a temper tantrum in the Sox clubhouse. The team told everyone to wear their throwback jerseys and Sale said it was uncomfortable. The starting P usually picks what jersey the team wears for a game. He threw a fit and actually cut his into little pieces thinking they would change jerseys. Instead they fined him, Suspended him and had somebody else pitch. It was hilarious.
I don’t normally side with the people throwing temper tantrums, but in this instance I actually have to agree with Sale. He probably didn’t go about it the best way (I suppose it’s possible he tried other things first), but there is a reason to let the pitchers choose what jersey to wear. If you’re trying to throw ~100 pitches to the best hitters on the planet, I can’t imagine wearing something that’s uncomfortable makes that any easier.
I agree. Teams do this for money. If I were a player, I wouldn’t care how much money the team makes; more is better. But I wouldn’t tolerate them interfering with matters between the lines.
MLBTR has really been piled on the ChiSox lately. Cubs have gone back through a re-build and are now better, before Sox could even win a postseason series. It’s a shame Hahn will be fired, but not Williams.
bag o ballz
true, though I gotta say – if they didn’t make that trade for quintana – still having jiminez and cease would have made them a lot better a lot faster.
Not a close follower, but didn’t Rich Renteria get fired after leading the Chisox to the playoffs? Seems he got a raw deal by both Chicago teams.
Very true Mac… rich fired in both cases the clubs wanted a sexy pick as manager… Joe I sort of get but Tony??? In Chicago this had the collins/ Kevin to Phil syndrome ( can’t argue with that) but that’s basketball… cubs got theirs… WS not so much…
Moncada, yet another “can’t miss” Red Sox prospect who never became the mega star he was promised.
Honestly the Red Sox could field an All Star team just from trading all of their prospects for actual stars that have been developed.
Most overrated word in life is potential… I get you don’t want to pay to much for the bulk of work that has been done, but you can at least see what the person is capable of and has shown it… when trading for prospects it usually breaks close even most of the time.. but then there are the Pedro trades / tek and Lowe/ and before mentioned bagwell/ Larry… it’s a crap shoot that I feel mostly favors team receiving proven talent…. But this from a guy who wanted to trade petey/elsbury plus for johan Santana….
How would 2020 have been Moncada’s last year of team control if he debuted in 2016 and only played eight MLB games that year?
I think that’s wrong, everything I’ve seen about his contract said it bought out 2 years of free agency (so FA after 2022), with an option for a 3rd year. However sportrac shows that he would have been in arb 3 in 2023, so that’d only be 1 year of FA + option? Either way, 2020 doesn’t seem correct.
So I ran into Adam Eaton at the world of wheels car show in Rosemont a few months back. He was not there as a guest but in his word a lover of cars. He was standing waiting in line to get a churro . Not sure but I believe he was there with Rudy Law. I was wearing my Dennis Lamp jersey from 1982.
I’d say you can close the book regarding Moncada, since the amount of control that they traded for has expired. Just like how you mention the extension of Sale is another story, so is the extension of Moncada.
Moncada will go to the Cardinals and win no fewer than 4 GGs and play in the same number of ASG. He will be quoted as saying, “I always wanted to be a Cardinal. This is a great organization and I love the fans.”
Of course Moncadas breakout season was 2019. Lots of players got paid because of the juiced ball year.
Yes, it was the first trade of their teardown, but the reason was the same one that is currently in play. William, then GM, had maxed out the payroll budget, spending poorly for the surrounding players, and the farm system was barren. Sound familiar. Since he couldn’t trade the bad contracts, and he couldn’t spend, that left him no obvious option but to tear down. Sale got his ring with Boston. Quintana with the Cubs, Easton with Washington. The only question now is which teams will William and Hahn, as Kingmakers, bestow their proven players in exchange for future hopes and dreams? (and payroll space)
What did Quintana get???
Fernando Ringworm Jr.
What about Shields for Tatis?
The most frustrating thing about many in the Sox ‘core’ of players is they just have not shown the drive to get better. Take Moncada, he has shown he can be a good player, the problem with him just seems to be motivation and his.. ahem.. injuries in his career, many of which could be preventable if he would just take the time prepping for baseball instead of hitting the recording booth.
Robert… I think has been told how great he is that forgets to do the little things, like catch fly balls with his mitt instead of his head, and remember his bench coaches name. Jimenez tries to make 100 ft leaps and strains a muscle for half a season, and Anderson.. Well after many years, still has a questionable glove and cannot drive runs in if his live depended on it. Now injuries are part of his every day, and typically when he has one it eats up a portion of the season. Never mind all four can be easily gotten out with sliders low and away.