If I had a dollar for every time someone wished that the White Sox would trade Chris Sale, I’d be a much richer man. It’s not often that legitimate star pitching which is under a team-friendly contract (Sale is set to make $38 million over the next three seasons, and in the event of catastrophic injury, the team would only be on the hook for $14 million) is dealt. But the White Sox determined it was time to do a total rebuild, and so Sale was dealt to the Red Sox.
In return, the White Sox get four top prospects, but neither of the most highly-coveted Red Sox players, as Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley, Jr. remain in Boston, as well as Blake Swihart. The White Sox acquire Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, the right Luis Basabe, and Victor Diaz. Moncada will contribute right away. Kopech, Basabe, and Diaz may all contribute further down the line, but they are likely all at least 2-3 years away.
The Red Sox remain in a very strong position. They will be the prohibitive favorites in the AL East, with Sale and David Price at the top of their rotation, with a bullpen already solidified by the addition of Tyler Thornburg, and with a very powerful offense. The White Sox will also have a powerful offense led by Adam Eaton and Moncada; pitching will be a question mark, but they have other pieces that can be sold to solidify the roster and ensure they will be competitive within the next five years.
While the deal does not directly affect the Diamondbacks, there are implications for this trade. There remains the possibility that Zack Greinke might be traded, and this provides some indication of what a team would be willing to part with to get Greinke. With the Red Sox having invested $62 million in signing Moncada (who is making league minimum) and taking on $38 million for Sale, this is a $100 million cost for the Red Sox, plus the prospects they gave up, two of whom (Moncada and Kopech) were top-100 prospects. The Nationals were pursuing Sale. While it is highly unlikely the Nationals would be interested in Greinke, it would certainly be worth a phone call by Mike Hazen to determine interest. If the Nationals were interested, what might the return for Greinke look like?
Greinke is owed $172.5 million over the next five seasons. If the Diamondbacks were willing to commit to paying ~$70 million of that, a somewhat similar package might be available. I say “might” because Sale is on the right side of 30, and the Red Sox have the buyout options for 2018 and 2019 in the event of catastrophic injury. Greinke has two more years of control, but is older, much more likely to decline, and would find the team acquiring him on the hook no matter what. This leads me to believe that if the Diamondbacks were to deal Greinke, the best they could hope for would be agreeing to pay at least $50 million over the next five seasons and three prospects. The Nationals certainly have the prospects to do this. The Diamondbacks would ask for Lucas Giolito, but he would almost certainly be unavailable. But if they could get a return anchored by Reynaldo Lopez and Pedro Severino, something might be workable.
My belief, though, is that teams would shy away from offering so much for Greinke, who had his struggles last year, is getting older, and costs so much. But if the Nationals are desperate to add a pitcher and would take upwards of $120 million of his salary, the Diamondbacks should seriously consider making the trade.