With the White Sox mired in a stretch of three consecutive losing seasons and no clear path out, it becomes a little too easy to think about trading Chris Sale.
Then one of his peers signs an open-market deal, and we remember how difficult it would be for the White Sox to get equal value.
The Boston Red Sox landed David Price, and Dave Dombrowski had to pony up in order to acquire him for the second time in three seasons -- seven years, $217 million, although Price can opt out after three years and $90 million.
There isn't much of a difference between Price and Sale when it comes to performance. Since 2012, when Sale jumped into the White Sox rotation:
If you prioritize durability, Price is your guy. If you're looking at per-start dominance, Sale has the edge. I could see Price commanding a little bit higher in a head-to-head competition just because he's missed fewer starts, but a team would be quite fortunate to have either fronting the rotation regardless.
The White Sox are luckier to have their ace on their terms, though. Price gives us an idea of what Sale -- who is three years younger -- would command if his salary were opened to the highest bidder.
Even giving Price a little bit of an edge, we're still looking at a gap of $60 million between Sale's actual value and his market value over the length of his commitment. Good luck drawing up a trade where the White Sox could feel certain enough about the return without the other side feeling like it's giving up everything they have.
At any rate, Rick Hahn should walk into the winter meetings with Sale's contract lining one side of his sportcoat, and Jose Quintana's lining the other. Then he should reach for his phone and pens early and often. That's about the only power move at his disposal after winning last winter resulted in only three more wins during the regular season, but it's not a bad one.
Other notable news
Zach Greinke: His course was connected to Price, as the Red Sox were pursuing both pitchers. Once Boston settled on Price, speculation about Greinke's future heated up. The Dodgers and Giants are the favorites to land him, and at possibly a higher average annual salary than Price received.
Jordan Zimmermann: Since he was looked at as a potential consolation prize for those who missed out on Price and Greinke, it was surprising to see Zimmermann sign with the Tigers before either of the two aces made up their minds, and for a figure that wasn't entirely cringeworthy (five years, $110 million). It makes a little more sense knowing that Zimmermann received a full no-trade clause for the first three years, and a list of 10 teams for the final two.
Shelby Miller: In case you want to see what it looks like when a cost-controlled pitcher can be had, the Braves have been dangling Miller, who is entering his first arbitration season projected at $4.9 million, but nobody has met their asking price yet (they reportedly asked Arizona for A.J. Pollock). Miller is a notch below Quintana in all respects, though -- track record, contract length, and even luck (he was 6-17 with a 3.02 ERA with the Braves this past season, which seems impossible).
Byung-ho Park: The Twins finalized the deal with the 29-year-old KBO slugger, and the result is a lower AAV than the league average. He signed for three years and $12 million, which is a low enough number to draw scrutiny to Park's representation:
Most Korean fans/media (incldn myself) not thrilled with Alan Nero today. Looks like he didnt put up much fight for Byung ho Park. #MNTwins— Daniel Kim 대니얼 김 (@DanielKimW) December 2, 2015