By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Both White Sox general manager Rick Hahn and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein have admitted they’d had preliminary talks from time to time between the two Chicago teams making a trade.
That’s no surprise as the White Sox have embarked on a rebuild and the Cubs are in their championship window, and there are logical areas of need that line up for each.
Nonetheless, a trade between the two teams is a longshot, as Epstein reminded Thursday on the Mully and Hanley Show on 670 The Score. The discussion between the White Sox and Cubs regarding ace left-hander Chris Sale last year lasted “about 30 seconds,” Epstein said.
“This has been a kind of overblown media story,” Epstein said of a potential deal between the teams. “I think the teams are always going to talk, but it’s really unlikely to go anywhere from his standpoint or from our standpoint.
“But there’s no ill will, there’s no animosity, it’s just the reality of the situation. But will we exclude them from our coverage or our talks? No. Will they exclude us? No. But realistically, that’s not one you want to bet on.”
The Cubs thirst for high-quality starting pitching under contract control. Sale fit that bill previously, and now all eyes are on White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana, who’s on the trade block. Conversely, Cubs infielder Javier Baez and outfielder Kyle Schwarber are the types of players the White Sox desire — young big league talent that can serve as foundational pieces amid a rebuild.
So why is a trade so, so unlikely?
Simply put, neither franchise wants to endure the possible embarrassment of losing a major trade to a team in its own city. The last deal between the teams was in late 2006, when the White Sox sent reliever Neal Cotts to the Cubs in exchange for reliever David Aardsma and a prospect. No one had an impact for their teams.
Prior to that, both teams were hurt by intra-city deals. Sammy Sosa-for-George Bell in 1992 was a disaster of seismic proportions for the White Sox. Sosa went on to hit 545 homers for the Cubs, while Bell flopped a year after having an average 1993 season.
The reverse occurred in 1998, when the Cubs sent right-hander Jon Garland to the White Sox for reliever Matt Karchner. Garland won 140 games for the White Sox. Karchner melted down as the Cubs’ closer in a playoff run.
Hahn and Epstein have each said they’re willing to trade with each other, but the marketing ramifications can’t be ignored. The White Sox would be hurt if, for example, Quintana was atop the mound during another championship for the Cubs. Likewise, an elite young talent leaving the Cubs for the White Sox would be a buzz kill for a Cubs fan base that has become so attached to this core of affable players.
Sexy as it may be, don’t expect a blockbuster deal between the Cubs and White Sox any time soon.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.