Athletics

Red Sox, White Sox announce blockbuster Chris Sale trade

Red Sox, White Sox announce blockbuster Chris Sale trade

OXON HILL, Md. — No surprise that Chris Sale got traded, it was time to go. The real shocker? That the Boston Red Sox swooped in to snag him.

The reloading Red Sox pulled off the biggest deal yet at the winter meetings, acquiring the dominant ace from the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday for a hefty package of four prospects.

"The ability to get a Chris Sale doesn't come along very often," Boston president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said.

Sale joins an already talented rotation with the AL East champions, now pitching alongside 2016 AL Young Award winner Rick Porcello, former winner David Price and knuckleballer Steven Wright. He leaves behind a shredded reputation in Chicago, suspended by the team last summer after he flew into a rage and cut up retro uniforms that club was supposed to wear.

The 27-year-old Sale has been an All-Star in each of the last five seasons, finishing high in Cy Young Award voting every time, but has never played in the postseason. To get him, Boston traded four minor leaguers: high-priced third baseman Yoan Moncada, considered by many the top young talent in baseball, along with pitchers Michael Kopech and Victor Diaz, and outfielder Luis Basabe.

Sale was a top trade target across the majors this offseason, and the Washington Nationals seemed to be the favorites to land him this week.

"Ultimately, it came down to two in the end, and both of them were aggressive and presented us with solid packages that we had to choose between," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said.

Said Nationals GM Mike Rizzo: "We put a lot of effort into it and thought we made a good, valiant effort ... and we fell short."

Dombrowski said the Red Sox had talked on-and-off to Chicago about Sale over the years, but "we really didn't have any ongoing conversations." The sides began speaking in earnest on Friday and "it accelerated," he said.

To New York Mets manager Terry Collins, it was a great deal — for him, being division rivals of the NL East champion Nationals.

"I really thought for sure he was going to end up in Washington. I really did," Collins said. "We dodged a bullet."

A few hours earlier, Boston got prime setup man Tyler Thornburg from Milwaukee. After that deal was announced, Dombrowski said, "We're trying to win now, as you can see."

Few knew then exactly how hard the man fittingly wearing bright red socks was trying.

Sale was 17-10 with a 3.34 ERA and 233 strikeouts this year, a season after he led the majors by fanning 274. He also comes with his benefit: a team-favorable contract that calls for a $12 million salary next year and includes club options for 2018 at $12.5 million and 2019 at $15 million.

Given his financial status, Sale "was controllable and projected to be damn good going forward, and it's tough to give that up," Hahn said.

"At the same time, we have to be realistic about where we are and the likelihood of, with this current group, getting to where we want to be. In the end we had to make the tough decision to let go of someone as valuable as Chris in order to pull back what we feel is a premium package that's going to help put us in a better position long term," he said.

Drafted by the White Sox in 2010, Sale became a starter in 2012 and zoomed into a star.

"In between the lines, he pitches with an edge," Red Sox manager John Farrell observed. "His numbers and performance speak for themselves, but I think there is maybe a persona that he projects certainly across the field."

This year, the relationship between Sale and the White Sox became extremely strained.

Sale was suspended for five days without pay for destroying collared 1976-style uniforms the team was scheduled to wear July 23, saying they were uncomfortable. He lost $250,000 of his $9.15 million salary and also was fined about $12,700 — the cost of the tattered jerseys. He blamed manager Robin Ventura for not defending his players.

During spring training, Sale was quite vocal about the decision to limit the time teammate Adam LaRoche's son was allowed in the clubhouse. That flap led to hard feelings all around, along with LaRoche's retirement.

The White Sox went 78-84, and haven't made the playoffs since 2008.

Boston went 93-69, then got swept by Cleveland in the AL Division Series and finish out the career of retiring slugger David Ortiz.

The Red Sox signed Moncada in March 2015 for a $31.5 million bonus, the largest ever for an amateur player, and paid an additional $31.5 million in tax. For that $63 million, the 21-year-old played a total of eight games in the majors, all this season, and batted .211 with one RBI. He hit .294 with 15 homers in the mid-minors.

The 20-year-old Kopech was the 33rd overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft. The right throws hard and went 4-1 with a 2.08 as a starter in Class A.

Basabe, also 20, hit .264 with 53 RBIs in Class A. Diaz, a 22-year-old righty, went 2-5 with a 3.88 ERA in relief in Class A.

Five free agent starting pitchers still available for A's to target

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USATSI

Five free agent starting pitchers still available for A's to target

It's no secret the A's could use some starting pitching help.

The problem became more dire this week when the team announced talented left-hander Jesús Luzardo would be shut down for four to six weeks with a rotator cuff strain.

Though the season is already underway, there are still several starting pitchers available on the free agent market. Former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel tops the list, but don't expect the A's to throw massive money his way.

Instead, Oakland may choose to pursue one of these five starters:

Edwin Jackson

Jackson certainly makes the most sense of anyone. The 35-year-old right-hander was the most pleasant of surprises last season. Jackson went 6-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 17 starts and was a key part of the A's clubhouse chemistry.

The two sides have been in contact for much of the offseason but have not been able to come to terms on a deal. That could change now that Jackson and the A's both figure to be a little more desperate.

James Shields 

At the age of 37, Shields is obviously nearing the end of his career, but he figures to get a shot somewhere in the league. The former All-Star went just 7-16 with a 4.53 ERA last season with the White Sox but did pitch over 200 innings.

Shields has a career ERA of 4.01 in 13 seasons. The right-hander would likely fair better on a team like Oakland, especially playing his home games at the pitcher-friendly Coliseum.

Miguel González

González is coming off season-ending rotator cuff surgery, but at just 34 years old he has a chance to bounce back. The right-hander went 8-13 with a 4.62 ERA in 2017, his last full season, but recorded a solid 3.73 ERA the year before.

González has a career ERA of 4.06 in seven major league seasons and could be another pitcher who would benefit from the Coliseum. He will be available for cheap, making him a low-risk signing.

Yovani Gallardo

Gallardo has struggled the past few seasons, but at just 33 years old, he still has time to regain his form. The right-hander has a career ERA of 4.06 in 12 big league seasons.

Gallardo's last productive season came in 2015 with the Texas Rangers. The former All-Star finished that year 13-11 with a 3.42 ERA. Like González, he should be available for a low cost.

[RELATED: A's have options at first base after Olson injury]

Bartolo Colón

Yes, Big Sexy is still going strong at the age of 45. You've got to think someone will take a flier on the former Cy Young Award winner, who will be entering his 22nd major league season.

Colón has 247 career wins and a 4.12 ERA, though he struggled to a 5.78 ERA last season in Texas. But three years ago, the right-hander went 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA and made his fourth career All-Star Game.
 

What Matt Olson injury means for A's offense, defense at first base

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What Matt Olson injury means for A's offense, defense at first base

The A's fears became a reality Friday when Gold Glove first baseman Matt Olson had to undergo surgery on his right hand.

No timetable has been provided for Olson's return, but a 2018 article in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine which studied similar procedures suggests he will likely miss three to seven weeks.

This is obviously a huge loss for Oakland. Beyond Olson's terrific defense, the 24-year-old provided tremendous power in the middle of the lineup.

Last season, Olson slashed .247/.335/.453 with 29 home runs and 84 RBI. That production won't be easy to replace, but the A's do have some reasonable options.

Platoon players Mark Canha and Chad Pinder can both play first base, and carry plenty of power in their bats. Canha clubbed 17 home runs and 22 doubles last year in just 365 at-bats. Pinder, meanwhile, hit 28 homers in 580 at-bats over the last two seasons.

Another option for the A's is to move Jurickson Profar to first base -- where he played 24 games last year -- and start Franklin Barreto at second. Barreto is coming off a terrific spring, hitting .375 (12-for-32) with a home run, four doubles, three RBI, five walks, and eight runs scored.

Barreto now has a great chance to make the 25-man roster in Olson's place. The 23-year-old has long been considered one of the A's top prospects, but has never had a chance to get consistent playing time in the big leagues. Oakland moved him from second base to the outfield this spring, but now a return to second makes sense.

[RELATED: Can A's regroup after rough beginning to season?]

The A's are fortunate to have enough offensive depth to survive the loss of Olson, but the biggest impact will likely show up on defense. Olson's height and scooping ability at first base will be incredibly hard to replace.

Nonetheless, Oakland showed the ability to overcome injury adversity last season. The A's just have to do it again this year.