Chicago White Sox: A Look at The Club Without Chris Sale

The Chicago White Sox and Chris Sale have been in trade rumors for quite a while now, and this week those rumors are starting to intensify. Yay hot stove season!

Last week I put together a look at each team’s WAR (Wins Above Replacement) heading into this offseason, accounting for free agents to-be and players that were traded midseason. To my surprise, the Chicago White Sox finished 12th on the list, thanks in large part to Adam Eaton (6.0 WAR), Jose Quintana (4.8) and Sale (5.2) accounting for more than half of the team’s total WAR output in 2016.

While WAR is by no means a perfect stat, in that taking Sale off the team does not directly mean that the White Sox will go from 78 wins to 73 with a league average pitcher in his stead, it does show the importance of Sale to the pitching staff.

The problem that the Chicago White Sox have (much like the Angels) is that they are a bit too top-heavy, meaning that their best three or four players are really good, while much of the rest of the squad is not nearly on the same level. Trading Sale could help that a bit.

One could argue that adding another position player that had the same WAR as Sale could have a bigger impact on the club’s season since they’re more likely to play in closer to 162 games, instead of making 32 pretty darn good starts. Of course the flip side of that argument is that a pitcher like Sale accomplished in his 32 starts what it take a position player to do over the course of a season.

So let’s say the Sox decided to trade Sale. In any deal they swing, Chicago would be perfectly within their right to ask for the negotiating club’s top pitching prospect, or former top prospect that has had some time in the big leagues.

Of course they could go after someone like Julio Urias from the Dodgers and gain some team control (read: more years), but that could also hurt the rest of their return, and as I just pointed out, they have been top-heavy the past few seasons. Looking for a solid pitching prospect or two that isn’t too far away from the big leagues, and another two to three position players with some upside could be enough to completely overhaul the White Sox and return them to contention in short order.

With Sale, the White Sox have a chance to be a bit more competitive in 2017. The Tigers may be selling off their high-ticket players this winter, and the Twins don’t appear to be ready to make any big moves to improve their fortunes dramatically. The Royals could bounce back. Cleveland is going to be the cream of the AL Central crop unless anyone comes and takes it from them with some shrewd moves this offseason.

With that in mind, 2018 may be the season to make a play at the division. The Royals will likely have lost a big part of their core, leaving only the Indians to worry about.

At the very worst, the White Sox can hold onto Sale through the winter and see how the first half of the season goes. If James Shields has bounced back and is producing solid innings, and Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and the rest of the bats are producing as well, the Sox could have a chance. If they’re out of it, nothing drives up other team’s willingness to deal that the potential that this could be the year. With 2018 in mind, the White Sox are in the driver’s seat when it comes to dealing Chris Sale. On the other hand, that would give them just a one-year window until Jose Quintana and David Robertson likely depart via free agency.

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