CHICAGO -- Will the White Sox really trade Chris Sale?
That's a question only the Sox can answer, and all they've continued to say is they're open for business.
Sale, meanwhile, finished fifth in American League Cy Young Award voting announced Wednesday, making this the fifth year in a row he's finished among the AL's top six in balloting for the honor. His club-friendly contract includes team options for 2018 and '19, which contributes to him being one of the in-demand possibilities in what is expected to be an active trade market over the next few weeks.
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Several teams are publicly pursuing him, while others work without announcing their intentions.
Here's the short list of his most likely landing spots:
Need: Having lost in the National League Championship Series four times in the Clayton Kershaw era, Sale could help end the World Series drought that stretches to 1988. There's also a need for a third baseman, with Justin Turner on the free-agent market, and as a right-handed hitter, Todd Frazier could be a nice add for 2017 and possibly beyond.
Top of wish list: With Corey Seager an untouchable, left-hander Julio Urias is the guy. He'll work at age 20 next season after throwing 77 innings and starting against the Cubs in the NLCS.
Video: MIL@LAD: Urias strikes out eight over five scoreless
If a deal happens: It will be a huge one, with the White Sox sending Sale and Frazier -- and what about closer David Robertson, while we're at it? -- for a significant chunk of the young talent that Andrew Friedman has been accumulating. First baseman Cody Bellinger, outfielder Alex Verdugo, second baseman Willie Calhoun and right-handers Yadier Alvarez and Jose De Leon are among the prospects in play. Yasiel Puig, as usual, is a wild card in any talks.
Need: John Farrell's rotation remains thin despite the emergence of 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello and addition of 2015 Cy Young Award runner-up David Price a year ago. Sale would join Porcello and Price to form a daunting 1-2-3 combination.
Top of wish list: Infielder Yoan Moncada cost the Red Sox $63 million to sign from Cuba, and he looks every bit like a future franchise player.
Video: BOS@OAK: Moncada collects his first hit and RBI
If a deal happens: It could include center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who was third among Boston position players in WAR in 2016 per FanGraphs, behind only Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia. Outfield prospect Andrew Benintendi, a first-round pick in '15 who turned in an .835 OPS in 34 Major League games last season, is a target for the White Sox, along with third baseman Rafael Devers and right-hander Michael Kopech, who might be the hardest thrower in baseball. Jason Groome, the New Jersey high school left-hander who slid to the 12th pick of the '16 Draft, is another consideration.
Need: Yu Darvish is expected to opt out of his contract after 2017, leaving Cole Hamels as the only anchor in the rotation. Sale would greatly increase Texas' standing next season and bring certainty through 2019.
Top of wish list: Outfielder Nomar Mazara.
Video: Rangers possibly trading for Sale this offseason
If a deal happens: It would include third baseman Joey Gallo, who is blocked by Adrian Beltre in Texas and isn't eager to move off the position he played growing up. Middle infielder Jurickson Profar, Cuban second baseman Andy Ibanez and left-hander Yohander Mendez, who is expected to be Major League ready by the second half of 2017, are also of interest for the White Sox. The inventory of talent further away from the Major Leagues includes outfielders Leody Taveras and Jairo Beras, first baseman Ronald Guzman and right-hander Michael Matuella, who would have been a top pick in '15 had he not undergone Tommy John surgery right before the Draft.
Need: It wouldn't seem to be as great as with other teams, but don't forget Mike Rizzo added this season's NL Cy Young Award winner, Max Scherzer, when he still had Jordan Zimmermann alongside Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez. The Nationals are hungry to make any move that helps them end their 0-3 run in the postseason.
Top of the wish list: Twenty-two-year-old right-hander Lucas Giolito is regarded as the best pitching prospect in the Minors.
Video: NYM@WSH: Giolito goes four scoreless innings in debut
If there's a deal: The Nationals would have to include center fielder Trea Turner, who was dynamite as the leadoff man down the stretch, or Giolito. Nineteen-year-olds Victor Robles (outfielder) and Carter Kieboom (shortstop) are big talents, but they're years away from being Major League ready. There may not be enough in Washington's system to match up with the White Sox high asking price, but trading Sale out of the AL has its own appeal. White Sox fans would love seeing Sale help keep the Cubs from getting back to the World Series next October.
Need: They've got a stable of position-player talent that can compare to the Cubs, but they haven't been able to land the dominant rotation to back it.
Top of the wish list: Infielder Alex Bregman.
Video: HOU@BAL: Bregman crushes a 433-foot homer to center
If there's a deal: It could include two or three position players who got their feet wet in the Major Leagues last season -- first baseman A.J. Reed, infielder Tyler White, outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, utility man Tony Kemp and Cuban legend Yulieski Gurriel, in addition to Bregman. Pitchers Francis Marte, Joe Musgrove and David Paulino are also of interest, along with outfielder Kyle Tucker and other hitters in the low Minors.
Also worth a mention:
Braves: Sale would dramatically change the narrative at a time when the franchise is moving into a new stadium and seeking to sell seats and luxury boxes.
Video: Bowman on the Braves possibly trading for Sale
Yankees: Gleyber Torres, the run-producing shortstop acquired from the Cubs for Aroldis Chapman, is the exact kind of talent the White Sox have been missing.
Cubs: Take away the politics and there's no better fit than a team that could offer a mix of Javier Baez, Albert Almora Jr., Jorge Soler, Matt Szczur and Jeimer Candelario -- among others -- without kneecapping itself.
Pirates: Sale would enjoy Spring Training in Bradenton, Fla., but more importantly, his salary would fit into Pittsburgh's budget and help extend its window to compete against the Cubs and Cardinals.
Mystery team: Of course.
Phil Rogers is a national columnist for MLB.com.