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White Sox rumors: Chris Sale vs. the untouchables

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With three years left on his deal, White Sox have reason to aim high

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

This is a big week for baseball, especially in terms of this particular offseason.

  • Today: The MLBPA will meet in Dallas with MLB representatives on hand for negotiations.
  • Thursday: Collective bargaining agreement expires.
  • Sunday: The winter meetings open.

If a CBA can’t be resolved and owners lock players out instead of granting an extension, then Sunday won’t mean a whole lot since players can’t be signed or traded.

The pace of the offseason indicates that the White Sox will need a fully functioning winter meetings in order to pick a lane. All indications still point to selling — or at least trading Chris Sale — and Ken Rosenthal did us the favor of providing a summary of the stand-off. There’s nothing preventing the White Sox from trading Sale today for a grab-bag of good prospects, but there’s a risk in giving quantity the edge over quality:

Of course, such deals also can backfire: Three teams traded lefty Cliff Lee between July 2009 and July 2010, and righty Carlos Carrasco proved the best of the 10 players acquired in return — and still needed more than five years to establish himself as one of the better starters in the game.

So the White Sox would ideally like a legit centerpiece player in return for their five-time All-Star pitcher, which seems fair, and Rosenthal comes up with six “can’t-touch” players whose teams are loath to part with them:

  • Red Sox: Andrew Benintendi
  • Rangers: Rougned Odor
  • Dodgers: Julio Urias
  • Nationals: Trea Turner
  • Astros: Alex Bregman
  • Braves: Dansby Swanson

About half those teams can make a strong claim that trading their “can’t-touch” player would do more harm than good. We’ve talked about why it would likely be self-defeating for Atlanta to trade Swanson at this juncture, and while the Nationals already have the contender built, the surprising early success of Turner is a big reason. You could also lump Bregman into this mix, although it’s the weakest argument of the three since the Astros could cover for him on the left side of the infield (there’d be a vacancy at first base).

The other three teams have the luxury of depth while lacking the luxury of time. Or, at least they’re already on the cusp and can make the argument that a pitcher like Sale can have them as strong as they’re ever going to be for three seasons, and so regrets are a waste of time.

Rangers: Odor is the strangest candidate of the bunch. He’s a nice player and just 22, so it’d be hasty to consider him a finished product. Yet he only has a .302 lifetime OBP with the strike-zone peripherals to match, he’ll have a considerable salary trajectory through arbitration starting in 2018, and the Rangers have a built-in replacement with Jurickson Profar. He might be an integral component to the Rangers’ success, but he doesn’t look like a “next core” guy for another team.

Dodgers: Rosenthal makes the case for Los Angeles’ reluctance: “He’s only 20, possesses Sale-like potential and, as a homegrown Mexican left-hander, profiles as the logical heir to Fernando Valenzuela, a potential mega-star in Los Angeles.” Which is all true, but his single-season high for innings is 119, so therein lies the rub for a team that has won four consecutive NL West pennant with not even a World Series appearance to show for it.

Red Sox: The Red Sox are so deep that they can cover for any trade. Rosenthal laid out one scenario:

If the Sox traded Benintendi, they still would be left with Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. in the outfield, and the ability to spend on a free agent in the other spot. (They also could substitute Yoan Moncada for Benintendi, and wait for Rafael Devers as the long-term solution at third base).

Must be nice.