By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The Red Sox sent executive Frank Wren to watch White Sox left-hander Chris Sale pitch against the Royals on Sunday. It’s no secret in baseball that the Red Sox, Rangers and Dodgers all stood up tall and tried their best to acquire Sale before the non-waiver trade deadline pass back on Aug. 1.
Since that time, Sale has struggled to pick up wins but has thrown well. The more efficient Sale has learned how to pitch and stay in games longer than ever before. On Sunday, he went allowed two runs in eight innings on eight hits while striking out 12 in a 2-0 loss to the Royals at U.S. Cellular Field. Both Kansas City runs came on solo homers.
It was the fifth straight start that Sale (15-8) went at least eight innings, and his 12 strikeouts gave him 205 for the year. Sale has now struck out 200 or more batters four a White Sox-record fourth straight seasons.
With the present state of the White Sox’s farm system, the team will have no choice but to listen to offers for one of the game’s top pitchers this offseason. That doesn’t mean Sale or left-hander Jose Quintana will be dealt, but the White Sox know they must improve the infrastructure of their club. With astute deals involving some players on the present 25-man roster, the franchise could take a giant step foreword.
For his part, Sale has publicly expressed hopes for staying in Chicago for many years to come despite the interest from the outside.
“I don’t worry about that stuff,” Sale said. “That will shake out on its own. I wear this uniform with a lot of pride. I hope I can continue to do that.”
The Red Sox have young position players who could entice a blockbuster trade of Sale and other teammates to Boston. Infielder Yoan Moncada, 21, has been called up to the Red Sox after being considers the top prospect in the game. He has great offensive tools.
Class-A third baseman Rafael Devers, outfielder Andrew Benintendi and catcher Blake Swihart are three other young players to watch. And does Boston consider outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. untouchable? This isn’t to say Sale would be worth all that talent, but some form of those players in a Sale-centered trade package could prove to be a franchise-altering deal for the White Sox in the offseason.
What causes the White Sox front office pause is the young pitching talent they have under contract control. Sale and Quintana are both 27 and on team-friendly deals, Sale through 2019 and Quintana through 2020.
Second-year pro Carlos Rodon, 23, has also blossomed late this season, winning five of his last six starts. The White Sox have five seasons of control left on him, and he looks to Sale to be a mentor and team leader.
“He is a really great guy and always gives me the right information,” Rodon said of Sale. “I am not the GM, None of my opinions really matter. If they did trade Chris, it would probably be one of the worst decisions they ever made.”
The Rangers and Dodgers also have gifted young talent to trade for top pitching this offseason. The other factor that makes Sale so valuable on the open market is the poor free agency crop of pitchers this offseason. Andrew Cashner, Edinson Volquez and Rich Hill figure to be the headlining pitchers on the open market this offseason.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.