CHICAGO -- Chris Sale stands as one of the best starting pitchers in Major League Baseball.
The 27-year-old is under White Sox control through 2019 and is set to earn $12 million in '17, with team options at $12.5 million and $13.5 million in '18 and '19, respectively, and a $1 million buyout. Add those numbers to a player who has expressed a strong desire to stay in Chicago, and Sale emerges as a key roster component going forward.
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But if the White Sox move toward a full roster rebuild, these factors make Sale one of the most-wanted trade chips within the organization. There have never really been untouchable players on the roster, with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf joking a few years back at the Winter Meetings that Michael Jordan was the only untouchable player he ever witnessed as an owner.
"We've said over the years that none of our players are untouchable and we have an obligation to listen on everybody," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn told reporters Wednesday at the General Managers Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz. "At the end, it was going to be about feeling like we got fair value back in exchange and did something that makes sense for the long-term benefit of the organization.
"That hasn't changed. Perhaps there may be a heightened anticipation in the market that this time there may be a greater likelihood of a deal than in year's past, but really our approach hasn't changed in that regard. We've always listened and we've always evaluated our options."
This week's meetings have allowed Hahn to follow up on conversations concerning potential moves and have more face-to-face dialogue, while perhaps getting more specific in trade talks. According to Hahn, the White Sox have taken advantage of that opportunity to sit down with a handful of teams and have conversations with agents, while hopefully moving things closer to the direction they want to go.
Sale will be the main focus because of how his talent translates in a starting-pitching market in which the free-agent options are not strong. If the White Sox choose to rebuild, there also will be interest in players such as José Quintana, José Abreu, Adam Eaton, Melky Cabrera, Todd Frazier and Dan Jennings, to name a few.
Much like Sale, these players want to win with the White Sox. But ultimately, moves might be made to give the club more sustainable success for years to come in the future.
"A lot of our guys, given their druthers, want to win a championship in Chicago," Hahn said. "And we've made no secret the last several years that is has been our preference to win with the high caliber of players we have here now. Again, until there starts being transactions in that direction, we're evaluating all our options."