Where Perception and Reality Meet
It’s been well documented that the White Sox have a lot of room to add payroll heading into 2020. After failing to secure Zack Wheeler, this team is going to need to be creative in bolstering their starting rotation. While they remain connected to free agents: Hyun-Jin Ryu, “Diamond” Dallas Keuchel, and Madison Bumgarner, one has to wonder if they will also look into the trade market for help. The team’s financial flexibility opens up a number of different avenues for improvement. One, often less explored avenue, is taking on a large “albatross” contract for an established veteran.
Many people on the interwebs believe taking on such a contract for a pitcher like, oh say, David Price or Chris Sale (#BringSaleHome) wouldn’t require much if the Sox took on a majority of the contract. The belief is that it would simply take your favorite flailing second tiered prospect like: Blake Rutherford, Luis Basabe, Micker Adolfo, or Luis Gonzalez, to net you one of these high priced veterans. I will admit, I fell into this trap myself. So I decided to dig into recent history, and boy was I wrong with a lot of you. Let’s explore.
I looked at the last 20 years and tried to find examples of players traded that, at minimum, had $93M in money left on their deals (I used this as the measurement since that is the dollar amount owed to David Price for the final three years of his deal). Here are a few cherry picked examples:
Yankeees receive: Alex Rodriguez ($179M remaining on deal) and $67M
Rangers receive: Alfonso Soriano (1st year arbitration eligible) and PTBNL
Dodgers receive: Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Puto (total $270M remaining on deals) and $12M (yes, the Dodgers picked up $258M of the tab!)
Red Sox receive: James Loney and four prospects, headlined by Top 100 prospect Allen Webster
Rangers receive: Prince Fielder ($168M remaining on deal) and $30M
Tigers rceive: Ian Kinsler ($57M remaining on deal)
Padres receive: Matt Kemp ($108M remaining on deal) and $30M
Dodgers receive: Yasmani Grandal (pre-arb), and two prospects
Blue Jays receive: Troy Tulowitzki ($98M remaining which includes $4M buyout of 2020 option)
Rockies receive: Jose Reyes ($48M remaining which includes $4M buyout of 2018 option) and three prospects headlined by Top 100 prospect, Jeff Hoffman
Yankees receive: Giancarlo Stanton ($295M remaining on deal) and $30M in event Stanton does not opt out after 2020 season
Marlins receive: Starlin Castro ($22M remaining on deal) and two prospects
What do these moves above tell us about the capital it would take to acquire the likes of Price or Sale and their substantial contracts? First, unless you have a former player that is helping to run the organization you’re trading with, you probably aren’t going to get any favors (#Re2pect). Next, there are a few paths to take when consummating a deal of this magnitude with the star power we are discussing. You can move a quality Major League player that still has limited earning power (Soriano, Grandal), move a moderately priced contract attached to a solid or declining Major League player (Kinsler, Reyes), or include a Top 100 prospect (Webster, Hoffman).
This is a cold dose of reality for us as Sox fans. Delusions of taking on $125M of Sale’s contract and sending Boston, Luis Basabe and Jonathan Stiever simply won’t cut it (see what I did there?). The fact is the Sox don’t have a high or moderately priced veteran with a standard of performance that they can include in a deal of this type. Additionally, they aren’t in a position to include pieces like: Giolito, Moncada, Kopech, Jimenez, or Anderson to complete a deal. These players are too important to what this team is still attempting to build. So ultimately, if the Sox were to look to make a move of this nature they are going to have to include a player like Reynaldo Lopez and, gasp, a Top 100 prospect that is either: Robert, Madrigal, or Vaughn.
I think we can all agree that Luis Robert is essentially untouchable. That leaves Madrigal and Vaughn as trade pieces that would be needed in this case. I’m on record as saying I’m not a Madrigal guy. In my professional non-scout opinion, his profile lends itself to being a moderately useful Major League player. I’m also not high on Lopez. I think he’s nothing more than a back-end starter. Do the Red Sox think they can get to his untapped potential? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t have any problem sending Lopez and/or Madrigal to beantown if it meant bringing Chris Sale home to 35th/Shields or David Price. Maybe the Sox could also get a young player like Michael Chavis back in the deal too. I know many of you are reading this cursing me because Sale was marred by injuries in 2019. The fact remains that in the worst season of his career as a starter, he still accumulated 3.6 fWAR, which would’ve put him behind only Lucas Giolito on the 2019 staff. This team just offered Zack Wheeler, who doesn’t exactly have a clean health history, $125M. The Sox know Sale and what they are getting from him, so I don’t think this is an issue unless there is some glaring issue with the medicals.
I don’t know if the Sox are bold enough to make this type of move, but we know they have the flexibility and need to accomplish one, if they desired. So when putting together your trade ideas for the Southside Baseball Contract Clearing House, keep past precedent in mind. Teams aren’t going to give away these accomplished, and in many cases, still productive players for a bag of balls, regardless of the money remaining. In this team’s quest to return to respectability, this is an option that should, at the very least, be considered.
Featured Photo: Associated Press via ESPN