White Sox

Sold: White Sox trade Chris Sale to Red Sox for package including baseball's No. 1 prospect

Sold: White Sox trade Chris Sale to Red Sox for package including baseball's No. 1 prospect

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The White Sox got their bidding war and found a price to their liking enough to trade Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday afternoon.

The teams completed a deal that sends the five-time All Star east to Boston in exchange for top Red Sox prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others. The White Sox also received Single-A outfielder Luis Basabe and Single-A pitcher Victor Diaz in a deal that has significantly boosts the farm system overnight. Three of the four players received were ranked in the top 10 players in Boston’s minor leagues, according to MLB.com, and all were within the top 30.

All the White Sox had to do was trade a homegrown pitcher who had the potential to be the best in franchise history and signal the start of what could be a massive rebuild.

“It’s hard,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “It’s real hard. He is one of our own. Or was one of our own. A homegrown guy who made his way to five All-Star Games and was controllable and projected to be damn good going forward. And it’s tough to give that up. At the same time, we have to be realistic about where we are and the likelihood of this current group getting to where we want to be. In the end you 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 will help put us in a better position long term.”

The trade comes on the heels of a furious first day at the Winter Meetings where the White Sox saw multiple suitors make significant increases in their offers as part of a bidding war for Sale, who has finished in the top six in the American League Cy Young vote all five seasons he’s been a starting pitcher.

Moncada is the top player returning to the White Sox, the 2016 minor league player of the year and one Boston has previously insisted it wouldn’t part with after giving him a $31.5 million bonus in 2015.

MLB.com has Moncada, who turns 22 in May, listed as the No. 1 overall prospect in baseball. He hit .287/.395/.480 with 23 homers and 94 steals in 187 minor league games before he reached the majors at the end of the 2016 season.

Converted to third base by Boston, the rookie stuck out 12 times in 20 plate appearances in the bigs. But Hahn suggested Moncada could spend most, if not all, of 2017 in the minors and that he’ll return to second base.

Kopech is a hard-throwing right-hander who was the No. 5 prospect in the Red Sox farm system and is already No. 2 with the White Sox. He’s also listed as the No. 30 overall prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com.

After missing time because of a broken hand sustained in a spring training fight — “Basically, it was me trying to protect (a teammate). I’ll leave it at that. Yeah, and it kind of blew up on us,” Kopech told the Boston Globe last month — he went 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA in 11 starts at Single-A Salem last season, striking out 82 and walking 29 in 52 innings.

Kopech, who also received a 50-game suspension in 2015 after he tested positive for oxilofrine, followed up his regular-season showing with more dominance in the Arizona Fall League. He went 3-0 with a 2.01 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings, walking eight.

Basabe, who spent last season at Single-A Salem, was the No. 8 prospect in the Red Sox system and moved up to No. 7 with the White Sox. Diaz was No. 28 and is 29th with the White Sox after spending 2016 at Single-A Greenville.

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Two months after he said the first major move would highlight the White Sox direction, Hahn suggested more trades and that a deep rebuild is on the way.

“Today was the first step in what will very likely be an extended process but one that we feel, if we continue to acquire similar-type players with the upsides of the individuals that we acquired today, will be for the extended long-term benefit of the organization,” Hahn said.

The White Sox worked early into Tuesday morning as they began to field stronger offers from teams for Sale — who is owed $38 million over three years if his team options are exercised in 2018 and 2019 — starting late Monday.

The Washington Nationals reportedly offered a package that included pitcher Lucas Giolito and outfielder Victor Robles among others late Monday. The Houston Astros also made a strong push for Sale. But the Astros reportedly never included their top prospect Alex Bregman in any deals, and Washington wouldn’t part with Trea Turner.

All three teams offered four prospects in their packages for Sale, who is 27.

The White Sox had considered a deal for Sale since last July when Hahn said his club was once again “mired in mediocrity” as they fizzled after a 23-10 start. While Hahn said he wouldn’t tip his hand as to what direction the White Sox were headed, he has dropped a number of hints that they would begin a rebuild. Dissatisfied with a postseason drought now eight years long, the White Sox have decided to look at the long-term view as opposed to trying to piece together a club full of short-term fixes and what Hahn has described as “stopgaps” and “half-measures.”

Red Sox general manager Dave Dombrowski said as recently as last month that his club was satisfied with its rotation even after it was hit hard in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians in the playoffs. Dombrowski reportedly wouldn’t include either Moncada or outfielder Andrew Benintendi in any deals for Sale as Boston was happy with its rotation, which includes 2016 AL Cy Young Rick Porcello.

But given they didn’t have to trade Sale unless their demands were met, the White Sox held firm knowing that suitors would come calling. Those offers began to improve as Monday wore on, especially after top free-agent pitcher Rich Hill signed a three-year, $48-million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Had he stayed with the White Sox, Sale had a chance to be the best pitcher in franchise history. The left-hander went 74-50 with a 3.00 ERA in 228 games (148 starts), striking out 1,244 batters in 1,110 innings. Sale has produced 27.9 Wins Above Replacement in his career, according to fangraphs.com.

The team’s first-round pick in 2010, Sale reached the majors that season, appearing in 21 games in relief. He was converted to a starting pitcher in 2012 and excelled almost immediately, earning his first All-Star Game nod that July.

Citing the desire to win a title with the White Sox, Sale signed a five-year contract extension at spring training in 2013, a deal that included club options for 2018 and 2019 that totaled $57.5 million. The left-handed didn’t disappoint, averaging 203-plus innings in each of his five seasons as a starter.

Perhaps frustrated by the team’s mediocrity, Sale was involved in two high-profile incidents in 2016 that brought attention from the national media and several Vine-worthy moments. He ripped executive vice president Kenny Williams for 15 minutes several days after a dispute between Williams and Adam LaRoche led to the veteran slugger’s abrupt retirement. Sale also received a five-game suspension in July for insubordination and destruction of team property when he destroyed the throwback jerseys the team was scheduled to wear that night because he didn’t like how they fit.

Hahn said the incidents didn’t impact the team’s decision nor did they affect Sale’s value.

“Certainly was uneasy with some of the situations, but at the same time, as Chris and I talked about today, it was usually motivated — rightly or wrongly — it was usually motivated for him out of competitiveness and a desire to fight for what he felt was right,” Hahn said. “That competitiveness and that fight is part of what makes him good in between the white lines.

“Sometimes it may have spilled over a little in a way I think he would say in retrospect wasn’t quite appropriate. But he understood that, and we understood where he was coming from.”

Carlos Rodon's first win in 10 months showed he could still be the ace of the future for White Sox

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USA TODAY

Carlos Rodon's first win in 10 months showed he could still be the ace of the future for White Sox

As encouraging as the reports are on many of the White Sox’s minor-league pitching prospects, Carlos Rodon’s effort against the Athletics on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field could prove just as significant to the rebuild on the South Side.

Looking much like the ace the Sox envisioned prior to Rodon’s rough 2017 season that ended with shoulder surgery, the left-hander put together his most successful effort of ’18 during a 10-3 drubbing of the Athletics before a sun-drenched crowd of 21,908.

Making his fourth start of the season, Rodon matched a career-high by going eight innings. He yielded two runs on seven hits with no walks and three strikeouts. Rodon earned his first win of the season to help the Sox salvage a split of the four-game series.

“I felt good today—a lot of strikes,” Rodon said. “It was good to go eight and just be ahead of guys.”

Helping matters for Rodon was an offensive explosion by the Sox, led by Yoan Moncada’s career-high six RBIs. After falling behind 2-0, the Sox plated five runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings as Moncada cleared the bases with a double off the base of the wall in the fifth and launched his 10th home run of the season to drive in three more an inning later.

“Today was a great day,” Moncada said via a team interpreter. “I just went out to play the game the way that I play. Just to have fun. It was a very good game for me.”

Daniel Palka and Yolmer Sanchez also homered as the Sox won for just the second time in their last 11 games.

Rodon was the happy recipient of the run support to win his first game since Aug. 21, 2017, against the Twins. On Sunday, he threw 99 pitches, 69 for strikes and was consistently in the mid-90s with his fastball.

“I’m looking to do that every time out,” Rodon said. “Just show up and establish the strike zone with the fastball and be aggressive.”

The 25-year-old’s second-inning strikeout of Khris Davis was the 400th of Rodon’s career. It is a career that is continuing after a surgery that was a setback, but one that did not derail Rodon’s confidence that he would again pitch effectively.

“There are up-and-down days when you go through shoulder surgery or any surgery for any player,” Rodon said. “You've just got to work through it and try to make your way back. I'm here now and it’s looking up and I’m trying to get better.”

So is it reasonable to view Rodon as the future ace after all?

“You certainly can’t discount that,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He has to go out there and continue to get his feet underneath him and get through the rest of the season healthy and climbing.”

In other Sox pitching news, Renteria said starter Dylan Covey, who was removed in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game due to a hip flexor injury, “felt better” Sunday and the team will continue to monitor the right-hander’s progress.

Meanwhile, veteran Miguel Gonzalez made a rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte as he continues to recover from inflammation in his right rotator cuff. Gonzalez went three innings and allowed one hit with a walk and a strikeout. Outfielder Eloy Jimenez belted his first homer for the Knights in the game.

Joakim Soria knows he is turning into a valuable trade asset for White Sox

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USA TODAY

Joakim Soria knows he is turning into a valuable trade asset for White Sox

No one knows better than Joakim Soria that the more successful he is as the White Sox’s closer, there is an increased likelihood that the veteran right-hander will be headed out of town at some point.

Soria has not only solidified the back end of the bullpen, the 34-year-old has emerged as perhaps the Sox’s most valuable trade asset to a contending team in need of relief help.

Over this last 14 appearances, Soria has not allowed an earned run and has converted all seven save chances with five hits allowed, two walks and 15 strikeouts.

“My body feels good and my arm feels good,” Soria said before the Sox defeated the Athletics 10-3 on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field. “I come to the ballpark expecting to pitch and … I try to be out there and help this team win.”

While the Sox haven’t done a whole lot of winning of late—Sunday’s win was just their second in their last 11 games—when they are victorious it’s accompanied by a Soria save. With the Sox’s rebuild in full swing, Soria understands that general manager Rick Hahn won’t hesitate to flip him in a trade.

“Players say they don’t think about it but you have to think about it,” said Soria, who was acquired from the Royals on Jan. 4 in a three-team trade also involving the Dodgers. “When you have a family with three kids and a wife you have to be prepared for everything. But it’s not like I come to the field thinking about that. It’s just God’s plan and whatever happens it’s a business and you prepare.”

Soria has 215 career saves, including 162 in seven seasons with the Royals, but hadn’t been a full-time closer since notching a combined 24 saves with the Tigers and Pirates. With the Sox, Soria won the closing job over fellow veteran Nate Jones in spring training and has been nearly unhittable in recent weeks.

Over his last 13 2/3 innings pitched, Soria has held opponents to a .109 batting average and sports a 2.89 ERA for the season. He has issued five walks in 28 innings and is averaging 10.29 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

The two-time All-Star has settled in nicely in a Sox clubhouse featuring a mix of veterans and promising talents. Soria has to balance that with the knowledge he might not be around as the season progresses.

“It’s something I can’t control,” Soria said. “I have a really good relationship with these guys and the chemistry with this team is very good. I can’t think outside of the box because (a trade) hasn’t happened yet. You have to keep focused and be ready for today’s game.”