Adam Eaton won the World Series, but no, the White Sox did not 'lose the trade'

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USA TODAY

Adam Eaton won the World Series, but no, the White Sox did not 'lose the trade'

Adam Eaton is a World Series champion. Just like Chris Sale before him.

Yes, the players the White Sox dealt away on consecutive days during the Winter Meetings in 2016 have won consecutive championships: Sale got the final outs for the Boston Red Sox last October, and Eaton played a sizable role — a .320/.433/.560 slash line with two homers, six RBIs and five runs scored in seven games — in winning the first World Series in Washington Nationals history.

White Sox fans likely won't view those facts as good signs for their favorite club, what with teams reaping the benefits of players the White Sox once employed while the South Siders themselves have lost a total of 284 games since making those trades three years ago.

But it's important to remember that teams don't care about beating the team they traded with. They care about beating their opponents on the field and winning championships. In that sense, yes, the Red Sox and Nationals have "won" the trades. But that doesn't mean the White Sox can't win them, too.

In fact, the states of those trades, from a White Sox perspective, are looking infinitely better than they did a year ago. Rick Hahn's front office hauled in seemingly terrific prospect packages in both those deals, acquiring Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech (among others) for Sale and the pitching trio of Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning for Eaton.

In 2018, Moncada struck out 217 times, Giolito was statistically the worst pitcher in baseball, Kopech made four brief big league starts before having Tommy John surgery, Dunning was battling injuries en route to eventual Tommy John surgery and Lopez — was actually fine and probably the White Sox best big league starting pitcher.

One year later, Moncada has blossomed into the best all-around hitter on the team, Giolito is an All Star and the ace of the staff, Kopech is nearly through his recovery and set to make an impact in 2020, Dunning is similarly making his way through recovery mode and Lopez — was actually frustratingly inconsistent in 2019 to the point of his long-term future in the rotation being a frequent discussion topic.

Moncada, Giolito and Kopech are three of the reasons why the White Sox future looks so bright. And while Kopech has still yet to show what he can do at the major league level, Moncada and Giolito are fresh off sensational seasons that show the hype that accompanied their acquisitions way back when might have been warranted. Dunning and Lopez could similarly play roles for contending teams.

If we're judging the Red Sox and Nationals' championships as "wins" in these specific trades, then the White Sox are certainly able to grab their own "wins" should the players they got in those trades lead to titles. That was obviously the hope for all sides when the trades were made. The Red Sox and Nationals, being in contending modes, were in a much better position to grabs "wins" than the rebuilding White Sox, who were planning for years in the future.

It's also important to think about the alternatives: What would the White Sox have accomplished in keeping Sale and Eaton? The 2016 team they were dealt away from lost 84 games. It's not as if the White Sox were in a position to contend with those two guys on the roster. They might be in that position soon with the guys they got in those trades.

So congratulations to Eaton. But even with two championships in two years for the guys they traded away, it's still way too early to determine how those deals worked out for the White Sox.

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Who won the Chris Sale trade? Both colors of Sox might claim multiple victories when it's all said and done

Who won the Chris Sale trade? Both colors of Sox might claim multiple victories when it's all said and done

Who won the Chris Sale trade?

Despite what the world of sports talk might have to say, trades aren’t like the games themselves. They aren’t competitions. They can have multiple winners and multiple losers.

Unless they run up against Sale in the postseason one day, the White Sox won’t judge the decision to ship him to the Boston Red Sox ahead of the 2017 season based on what he does in the remainder of his potentially Hall of Fame career. They’re far more concerned with what Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada and Luis Basabe do in White Sox uniforms. That’s how they’ll claim a win or loss.

Of course, the Red Sox have already claimed a big victory, with Sale playing a starring role in their World Series championship a little more than six months ago. Sale put up a 2.11 ERA during their 103-win regular season, then allowed just seven runs and struck out 24 batters in his 15.1 postseason innings, which included striking out all three hitters he faced in the ninth inning of the Game 5 win that clinched the championship.

Kopech and Moncada could go on to be star players. But the Red Sox got what they wanted out of Sale, and he’s got a ring to prove it, something (other than the memories, of course) to confirm his dream came true.

“It was awesome,” Sale said Saturday during his first conversation with Chicago reporters since he won the World Series. “Definitely one of those lifelong dreams you think about when you're a kid. I got to live out basically everybody's dream of being able to throw the last pitch and win a World Series and celebrate with my team, with my city, with my family. That's what you sign up to play this game for is to be the last man standing, and we were.”

Sale never came close to doing that while he pitched for the White Sox. They missed the postseason in all seven of his seasons, five of which saw him represent the team at the All-Star Game. But the reason they traded one of the best hurlers in franchise history away was to get there one day.

Sending Sale to the Red Sox brought a big haul back to the White Sox, headlined by Kopech and Moncada, two players that have fans on the South Side pretty excited. Moncada’s gotten off to a nice start in 2019, the owner of a .298/.361/.521 slash line heading into Saturday’s game.

Kopech is out for the 2019 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery but still carries hopes of being a front-of-the-rotation guy — the kind of thing Sale is for the Red Sox. There’s obviously a long way to go before that comp can be made, but someone who would know sees a few similar qualities between the two.

“(Sale is) a competitor, and I think he's one of those guys that shows it,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said Saturday. “He shows his competitiveness, he'll show his emotion when he's disgusted with something and also show you an extreme amount of joy when he sees something done well. He's driven for success. He knows what he has and he expects the most out of himself and I think if it doesn't happen he always feel bad about not getting the result he wants. That's just the drive the man has.

“(Kopech is) real similar in terms of personality and drive. He does not like not performing well.”

The idea is that Kopech and Moncada will be part of a White Sox championship team. The best-case scenario is that they’ll be part of multiple White Sox championship teams. And that, more than anything and certainly more than what Sale does in Boston, will determine if the White Sox win the trade — and how many times they win it. If they win the World Series with Kopech and Moncada as featured contributors, that’s a win. If they win twice, that’s two wins. And so on.

The goals are the same for those two players, obviously, but they have no interest in winning trades. They do, of course, have interest in winning.

“I know that (Moncada) and myself probably would rather almost put that behind us, but not in a negative connotation,” Kopech said Friday. “Just in the fact we want to have our own careers and build a name for ourselves. It’s not a bad thing by any means. Chris Sale is Chris Sale.

“Obviously when he was here, he was a big part of the team, and me and (Moncada), we want to be our own addition to the team. We want to be able to help this team win a championship someday and hopefully someday soon. We are not really trying to prove anyone right or wrong or anything like that. It’s just now this is the team. This is who we are.”

While the White Sox bevy of uber-confident prospects have not been at all shy when it comes to talking about their championship aspirations, Sale opted not to play talent evaluator when it comes to the rebuilding White Sox.

“That’s not my area, man. I play for the Boston Red Sox. I got this team to worry about,” he said. “I enjoy coming back here and seeing everybody, and they obviously have great talent over there.

“But I’m trying to win the same thing they are. I’ll leave it at that.”

In that aspect, there is a bit of competition between Sale’s Red Sox and the White Sox. But the ultimate factor in whether the White Sox win the trade or not is if it helps get them to the place they want to be, the place Sale was at the end of last season.

Sale might have decided against handicapping the team’s chances of reaching the sport’s pinnacle, but he does think the right man is at the helm. He was very complimentary of Renteria and touted him as the right man for the job of getting the White Sox to their planned contention phase.

“He's a great baseball mind, he's a great person,” Sale said. “I think he's a guy that can get anybody in that clubhouse or anybody in any clubhouse to buy in to something. He's a fun guy to be around, but he's that no-BS (type). He wants you to run hard, he expects the best out of you. I think we've seen that at times from him as a manager already, and I think that's where the respect comes from. I've said it before, I think he's the right guy in the right place for what they've got going on.”

So who won the Chris Sale trade?

Well, the Red Sox did. And maybe they will again. Despite the ugly start to their 2019 season, the Red Sox would surprise no one by figuring things out and challenging for the crown again. And in future seasons, thanks to new contracts for Sale and Xander Bogaerts and the league-wide extension trend potentially keeping Mookie Betts in Boston, they’re sure to be contending for those championships, too.

But maybe the White Sox will win the trade, too. If Kopech returns from his recovery and turns into the ace so many expect him to be. If Moncada is more April 2019 than 2018 as he continues to develop at the major league level. A lot of other pieces of the White Sox plan would have to come to fruition if they’re going to get to the point the Red Sox were at last season. That certainly could happen, though, and if Rick Hahn’s project of building a perennial contender ends up a success, it could equal multiple championships and multiple wins of this trade.

So it’s an ongoing thing. The point is, both teams had the same goal with the deal: to win the World Series. Sale and the Red Sox got there last season. Someday, the White Sox might, too.

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Sounds like a Chris Sale reunion won't be happening as extensions keep shaking up next winter for White Sox

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USA TODAY

Sounds like a Chris Sale reunion won't be happening as extensions keep shaking up next winter for White Sox

A certain segment of White Sox fans were wishing for a Chris Sale homecoming. It looks like those wishes will not be coming true.

Sale, who just won a World Series ring with the Boston Red Sox, is reportedly the latest to jump aboard the extension bandwagon, joining huge names like Mike Trout, Alex Bregman, Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt and more who are taking themselves off future free-agent markets and re-upping with their current teams for long terms and big dollars.

Given the current state of free agency — yeah, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper cashed in big, but other great players like Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel remain jobless just a week away from Opening Day — and the looming uncertainty surrounding the collective-bargaining agreement, these extensions make plenty of sense. Even if the goal for every player always seemed to be getting rewarded with a huge free-agent payday, that seems to be changing, and that's changing things for the White Sox.

It might have never seemed that a Sale reunion on the South Side was very likely, even if some fans wanted one of the best pitchers in franchise history to return. Sale had multiple, highly publicized beefs with members of the organization during the 2016 season, including anger over the Drake LaRoche situation and the infamous jersey-cutting incident.

But Sale is just the latest player to remove himself from what figures to be an important round of free agency for the White Sox next winter. Arenado, Sale, Goldschmidt, Aaron Hicks and Miles Mikolas all looked to be part of a loaded free-agent class. Trout was supposed to headline the group of available players following the 2020 campaign. Now, none will be available for the White Sox, who will be looking to add impact talent from outside the organization to a team planned to be transitioning from rebuilding to contending. And other players could follow suit. Anthony Rendon has been mentioned as a possible extension candidate. J.D. Martinez could decide not to opt out of his current deal. And considering how surprising some of these extensions have been, particularly Trout's, these could seemingly come at any time and dramatically shake things up months ahead of the offseason.

Again, while Sale specifically might not have been a White Sox target — same, potentially, for the likes of Trout and others — this trend is altering the landscape on a daily basis. Next winter's free-agent class seemed a safety net of sorts after the White Sox missed out on Machado and Harper this offseason, a shining example of the remaining opportunities Rick Hahn's front office has to add big-time talent from outside the organization. Those opportunities have undoubtedly diminished in recent days and weeks.

They haven't been completely eliminated, of course, and that free-agent class could still feature big names like Rendon, Martinez, Gerrit Cole, Xander Bogaerts, Justin Verlander, Madison Bumgarner, Josh Donaldson, Yasmani Grandal, Nicholas Castellanos, Marcell Ozuna and more. Plus, there's the ever-present trade market, which the White Sox could be in a unique position to take advantage of thanks to their loaded farm system.

And the White Sox, too, are reportedly a part of this trend. They're supposedly close to finishing off a new deal with top-rated prospect Eloy Jimenez, one that could keep him on the South Side for the next eight seasons.

But for a team still likely to be searching for help via the free-agent market over the next two offseasons, some of the biggest potential additions are taking themselves off the market. That limits the opportunities for Hahn's front office, and it might force the White Sox down some previously less-considered paths in an effort to finish off the rebuild.

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