Andrew Benintendi

David Price to White Sox trade rumors continue to churn

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USA TODAY

David Price to White Sox trade rumors continue to churn

Here's what we know: The White Sox left the Winter Meetings without starting pitching help, and the number of free-agent hurlers is dwindling. Sure, Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-jin Ryu are still available, but the rumor mill hasn’t connected those names to Chicago in a serious way. So perhaps the trade market is a more likely avenue for the team to upgrade the rotation.

David Price has been coming up frequently in trade rumors because the Boston Red Sox are looking to cut payroll. Not many teams have the payroll flexibility to take on the final three years of Price’s contract, which will pay him $96 million. The White Sox are one team that could potentially take on the money, albeit with plenty of risk.

Peter Gammons has the latest rumor mill talk about a Price trade to the White Sox.


There’s a lot to digest here. For starters, Gammons admits the teams aren’t close to a trade, and it’s easy to see why considering the outline of the deal.

Start with Price, who is 34 and no longer near his Cy Young-caliber peak. The left-hander pitched only 107.1 innings last year with a 4.28 ERA, but his strikeout rate (10.7 per 9 IP) was the highest of his career. He did that without seeing spikes in his walk or home run rates, at least compared to the last few years.

Price is a reasonable candidate for a bounce-back season, but as he gets older, that’s a tougher thing to forecast. Not to mention that while Price could be a solid boost to the 2020 White Sox rotation, would he be good enough to put them into a playoff spot? That’s hard to justify.

So then the deal becomes about 2021 and 2022 more than 2020, and who wants to gamble on a 35- and 36-year-old in your contention window? Especially when considering the cost of losing top prospects in Andrew Vaughn and Nick Madrigal. 

Next up is Andrew Benintendi, who would have made a lot more sense for the White Sox before they traded for Nomar Mazara at the Winter Meetings. The 25-year-old Benintendi could plug the right field spot, but, like Mazara, he's a left-handed hitter. Benintendi has been a better all-around player than Mazara in four MLB seasons, but both are better against right-handed pitching. Mazara had an .844 OPS against righties last year while Benintendi’s was .764. Benintendi was actually better against lefties last year (.796 OPS), but that hasn’t been true for his career so it’s unclear if that’s a trend or a one-off.

The point is Benintendi would have been more enticing, and perhaps was a significant part of the talks, before the White Sox got Mazara. Now? He’s not as much of an upgrade as he used to be.

The fact that trade talks have taken place and may continue is interesting from a White Sox perspective, but it seems like the teams are far apart if this is what has been discussed.

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White Sox reportedly 'in play' for David Price, but how much sense would a trade make?

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USA TODAY

White Sox reportedly 'in play' for David Price, but how much sense would a trade make?

SAN DIEGO — David Price on the South Side? Maybe.

According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the Boston Red Sox have had trade conversations involving Price with at least five teams, and the White Sox are “in play” for the veteran left-hander.

Boston is trying to shed salary, and getting rid of the $96 million remaining on Price’s deal over the next three years would be a good way to accomplish that goal.

The White Sox, given their financial flexibility, are a team that could absorb that kind of money in a trade. While much discussion of Rick Hahn’s statement in February that “the money will be spent” has focused on high-priced free agents, the general manager said Wednesday that such fiscal positioning could be beneficial on the trade market, too.

“Absolutely,” he said during his final media session of the Winter Meetings. “You’ve seen over the years us use our financial flexibility to acquire some contracts. I think back to the (Joakim) Soria trade with the Dodgers. The thing we brought to the table there was the ability to absorb some contracts. That flexibility doesn’t always have to be spent on free agents.”

But here’s the thing. ESPN’s Jeff Passan got this whole Price conversation going when he reported the interest of multiple teams on Tuesday, and he suggested the Red Sox might be able to ship Price out of town if they included a “player of value.” A young player with affordable club control would sweeten any such deal, and speculation latched onto outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who is under team control for three more years.

That’s the kind of deal — before we hear what it could cost, obviously — that would look like a good one for the White Sox.

Well, another nugget in Feinsand’s report throws that idea out the window.

“One scenario that has been floated in recent weeks would have the Red Sox attaching a young player — Andrew Benintendi's name has been mentioned often — to Price in order to dump the pitcher's contract.

“A source said that concept has not been considered by Boston's front office — nor will it be, especially not with Benintendi.

“‘That's not going to happen,’ the source said.”

If that’s the case, if the Red Sox are talking about a Price trade that doesn’t involve a young, controllable player coming back, is there any reason for the White Sox to consider such a move? Is there any reason to trade for Price alone?

The White Sox do need pitching, quite badly, as a matter of fact. Their quest for two arms to add to the starting rotation has yielded no additions yet, with their high bid for Zack Wheeler spurned in favor of a lower offer from the Philadelphia Phillies. Price would be an upgrade to the White Sox rotation, and they could potentially get him without having to give up any of their prized prospects (a trade involving someone like Benintendi might cost a high-level prospect, in addition to salary relief).

After turning in some memorable performances during the Red Sox championship run in 2018, Price got off to a great start in 2019, with a 3.16 ERA in his first 17 starts. But due to a cyst in his wrist, he made only two starts over the season’s final two months. He finished with a 4.28 ERA, second highest of his career.

Considering the White Sox are heading into 2020 with just three rotation spots spoken for, they could do a lot worse than Price from a production standpoint. But the veteran lefty doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation as a clubhouse presence. NBC Sports Boston’s John Tomase listed several red flags in a recent piece: “He's no longer a 200-inning pitcher. His elbow could blow. He considers himself a great teammate, but he consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse, which multiple rival executives have noted warily. He's too expensive. He hasn't made an All-Star team or earned a Cy Young vote since 2015. He's past his prime.”

Do the White Sox need those headaches? Aren’t there options out there, via trade or free agency, that would bring in similar levels of production without all that other stuff? It doesn’t seem like a young team that is developing what appears to be a very positive culture needs someone who “consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse.”

Now, if someone like Benintendi — or, for example, the large contract of designated hitter J.D. Martinez — comes along with him, maybe it’s a pill you’re willing to swallow. Of course, that would require other unpleasant possibilities, such as letting a recent first-round draft pick like Nick Madrigal or Andrew Vaughn go. Hahn talked about the team’s unwillingness to deal away its prized prospects for a short-term gain. The White Sox lost a combined 195 games to end up with the draft picks that produced Madrigal and Vaughn. That was an awful lot of suffering just to trade those guys away.

A potential Price trade has its upsides, but ones contingent on other aspects of such a deal. If those aspects go by the wayside, acquiring Price doesn’t make quite as much sense.

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Martinez? Betts? Benintendi? Could White Sox seek big splash via trade with Red Sox?

Martinez? Betts? Benintendi? Could White Sox seek big splash via trade with Red Sox?

When J.D. Martinez decided not to opt out of the remainder of his contract with the Boston Red Sox on Monday, you could hear the groans coming from the South Side of Chicago.

"Here we go again."

It wasn't quite like the Manny Machado saga from a year ago, which dragged on for months before a conclusion that still has White Sox fans stewing with anger. But it was another case of wishing, hoping and — perhaps most notably — hearing about speculation. Martinez made all the sense in the world as a potential White Sox target this winter, just as there was so much upside to chasing an elite talent like Machado last winter. But the result was the same: no superstar on the South Side.

Of course, this offseason is just beginning, and the White Sox certainly plan to be aggressive once more in pursuing big names. One of the goals of Rick Hahn's rebuilding effort is to bring in an impact talent from outside the organization. With all that Machado money still able to be allocated, the possibility exists that this winter, with its Coles and its Rendons and its Bumgarners, could be the time to deploy those dollars.

There's been a heavy focus on free agency not just because of the big names out there, but because of the perception of the White Sox ability to make trades. Past Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal and Michael Kopech — all firmly part of the White Sox long-term plans — the next tier of guys in the minor leagues was plagued by injuries and under-performance. And as a result, it seems, from the outside, it would be rather difficult for Hahn to construct a package of prospects alluring enough to pry away one of the game's great talents. Just look back to the deals Hahn pulled off that sent Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana away. The White Sox don't have prospects the caliber of Kopech, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease to construct those kinds of packages.

But the White Sox, when dealing away Sale, Eaton and Quintana, weren't exactly desperate. The Red Sox might be.

Up in Boston, there's a well publicized effort to trim salary, chiefly with the goal of getting under the luxury tax. The Red Sox had one of the three highest payrolls in baseball last season, and Dave Dombrowski lost his job for inking pricey long-term deals that now sit like albatrosses around the necks of the Beantown-based ancient mariners. Sale got one of them. David Price got another. Nathan Eovaldi got one, too. And with Martinez opting to stick with the remaining $62.5 million on his contract — for now, anyway; he can opt out again next winter if he so pleases — the Red Sox are going to have to shed salary via trade. Because those three pitchers are so pricey and not exactly the guys they were when they signed those deals in the first place, that leaves Boston with the very real necessity to trade away either Martinez or Mookie Betts.

Those are two players who would qualify as the kind of big splash the White Sox are looking to make. Could a deal with the Red Sox be the route the White Sox take to get there?

Martinez still seems like a perfect fit, and you can't blame him for sticking with the $23.75 million he's set to make this season and three potential years of job security rather than testing a free-agent market that might have been limited to a small handful of American League teams. But maybe there is still a chance he ends up on the South Side. The Athletic's Chad Jennings had this to say about a potential union between the two differently colored pairs of Sox:

"The White Sox do have quite a few young starting pitchers who either underperformed or were hurt in 2019. Among them was 25-year-old Reynaldo Lopez, who became a source of frustration. Perhaps the Red Sox could find a way to get one of those pitchers involved to fill an immediate need. If not, the Red Sox could be satisfied with a lesser prospect or two, which would still be more return than they would have gotten if Martinez had opted out."

Now certainly Lopez or a "lesser prospect or two" sounds like a reasonable return for up to three years of Martinez. Of course, therein lies the rub with any deal for Martinez: He can opt out of his deal at this time next year, meaning any team that were to deal for him would be doing so for potentially just one season. The same is true in any deal for Betts, who like Martinez is one of the game's elite hitters. Yes, perhaps the return package would be uniquely lessened with Boston wanting to get rid of salary — Betts is projected to receive a whopping $27.7 million through arbitration — but Betts is supposedly dedicated to reaching his own free agency next winter, making him a mere a one-year rental.

If Hahn's front office wants to stick to their focus on the long term, shopping for one-year rentals might not make a lot of sense. But there are other ways to help the Red Sox shed salary, ones that might line up better with the White Sox planned contention window.

That's where The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal comes in. He threw out a lot of possibilities when talking about the Red Sox situation Tuesday morning, and one seemed mighty intriguing from a White Sox standpoint.

"A better path might be to move left-hander David Price, who is owed $96 million over the next three years, or righty Nathan Eovaldi, who is owed $51 million over the next three. Impossible, you say? Well, what if the Red Sox included cash in a trade and also attached left fielder Andrew Benintendi, who remains cost-effective as he enters his first year of arbitration?"

Now that is interesting. Yes, it involves paying and dedicating a roster spot to Price or Eovaldi, who despite their heroics in the 2018 World Series, aren't very dreamy adds for a White Sox team looking to ramp up to perennial contention. Those guys' contracts are albatrosses in Boston. They wouldn't get much better in Chicago, even though the White Sox are in no danger of bumping up to the luxury tax. But both Price and Eovaldi could be usable pitchers for the White Sox in 2020 and beyond, even if they aren't performing at a level their contracts say they should be.

The real appealing element of that suggestion, though, is the upside of Benintendi. He has three affordable, arbitration-eligible seasons remaining until he hits free agency, making him a long-term piece. He's also very good, with a .277/.354/.442 slash line to go along with 51 homers in his 471-game big league career. Like much of what happened last season in Boston, 2019 was nowhere near as good as 2018 for Benintendi, who posted career highs in hits, runs scored, doubles, stolen bases, walks and on-base percentage during the Red Sox march to a world championship. In 2019, he slashed .266/.343/.431 with 13 homers, 40 doubles, 68 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 138 games. He also struck out 34 more times in 10 fewer games.

Benintendi brings additional value as a left-handed hitter, something almost completely missing from the White Sox lineup. He is also a left fielder, a position the White Sox have filled with Jimenez. Neither player has ever played right field, and putting either there could be signing up for some unwanted defensive issues down the road. But Benintendi is a young, controllable, very good baseball player, and that seems like the kind of thing the White Sox, who have worked hard to achieve their much discussed financial flexibility, would be interested in.

Who knows if the White Sox are looking to make a move for any of these potentially acquirable Red Sox. But their supposed availability — at a price you rarely see for such talent — given the situation in Boston could make for interesting opportunities.

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