CHICAGO -- The unthinkable has become feasible.The White Sox, who were already listening to trade offers for Chris Sale, could be more likely to deal him after the relationship between the star and his club appeared to come apart at the seams on Saturday after a peculiar incident that took
CHICAGO -- The unthinkable has become feasible.
The White Sox, who were already listening to trade offers for Chris Sale, could be more likely to deal him after the relationship between the star and his club appeared to come apart at the seams on Saturday after a peculiar incident that took place before Chicago's suspended game against Detroit.
This is sad for all the parties involved, except for one.
That would be any team that ponies up for the next three-plus seasons of the greatness that has been Sale in a White Sox uniform.
That team -- the Rangers, Red Sox, Dodgers, Astros or Cubs, to name five of the 29 that covet him -- would have just added a difference-maker in his prime.
Sale, 27, is the 2016 American League Cy Young Award front-runner, a five-time All-Star, the White Sox record-holder for strikeouts in a season and signed to a contract that includes club options for '18 and '19.
Sale was scratched from a scheduled start and sent home from U.S. Cellular Field on Saturday, and according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, this was after he cut up the team's throwback jerseys because he didn't want to wear them when he pitched against the Tigers. On Sunday, Sale was suspended for five days by the White Sox for "for violating team rules, for insubordination and for destroying team equipment," White Sox senior vice president and general manager Rick Hahn said.
Without Sale, the White Sox started reliever Matt Albers, who was pitching for the third day in a row. Manager Robin Ventura used six pitchers to get through eight innings before the game was suspended with a 3-3 tie, to be completed before Sunday's scheduled game.
Albers, Dan Jennings and Tommy Kahnle worked two innings each to keep the situation with Sale from turning into a mess on the field.
Ventura had little to say about Sale afterward.
"I''m not going to discuss what went on in there," Ventura said. "But [it's] unfortunate he didn't start tonight, and I'm proud of the guys that came in and filled in."
It's possible the incident could blow over and that the Sox will not be major sellers before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline. But Sale's timing could not have been worse.
Sale's insubordination came about 48 hours after Hahn publicly declared that the White Sox have been "mired in mediocrity" and said he was listening to trade offers on everyone, including Sale and fellow left-hander José Quintana.
Sale, who embraces the opportunity to represent the White Sox even though he's never been part of a postseason team, understands baseball is a business but still had to be hurt.
That's no excuse. Trade rumors are part of the game.
"That's happened to me the last two years," third baseman Todd Frazier said about being the subject of trade rumors. "You just gotta be professional and play baseball. That's it. Control what you can control, that's playing the game."
The health of a franchise is never about one or two players, and the most significant part of Hahn's session with reporters was that he seemed to be signaling a shift in the front office's thinking.
After the White Sox lost 99 games in 2013, they took a $68-million risk on Cuban slugger José Abreu. They continued adding personnel the next two offseasons, always intent on competing for an AL Central title.
Hahn believed he could build a postseason team behind Sale and Quintana, but he isn't as sure after the 23-40 unraveling that followed this year's 23-10 start. He said Thursday he'll evaluate all trade offers, even those a team would only do if it was rebuilding.
"Over the last couple of seasons, we have not elected to go that route," Hahn said. "We've instead been focused more on the immediate term future. At this point in time, I'd say there's a very open-minded approach not just from [Chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf], but from the entire front office about what is the most prudent course to get us on an annual basis to where we want to be. … We may well have to adjust and take a longer-term view and take a different approaching going forward."
Trading Quintana, not Sale, would seem to be an easier path to follow. But the returns could be great if the White Sox do choose to trade Sale (and maybe also Quintana) in this seller's market for starting pitching.
Sources with the Rangers have told MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan that Texas would deal two of its top prospects, power-hitting third baseman Joey Gallo and infielder Jurickson Profar, in a bigger package to get Sale. Outfielder Nomar Mazara also interests the White Sox, but it's unclear if he's available.
But it speaks strongly of Sale's trade value that Gallo and Profar are both in play.
Would the Red Sox deal Yoan Moncada, the super prospect from Cuba, to have Sale pitching alongside David Price? Would the Cubs make Kyle Schwarber available to add Sale to a rotation that already leads the Major Leagues in starter ERA?
Schwarber has been off the table in talks with the Yankees about Andrew Miller, but this is a different matter entirely. It's asking a lot for the White Sox to treat their city rivals like any other team, but it might be impossible to ignore how much young hitting the Cubs can offer.
Point is, if the White Sox do move Sale, they'll be sure to get some key building blocks in return, but this incident isn't the way you'd want his time on the South Side to come to an end.
Phil Rogers is a national columnist for MLB.com.