Chris Sale is probably among the best dozen pitchers in baseball, and the Chicago White Sox are obligated to pay him about $22 million over the next three seasons -- or, about what Zack Greinke will make for 22 starts in 2016. Which makes Sale one of the great bargains in professional sports.
Sale will make $9.1 million in 2016 and $12 million in 2017, and then the White Sox will hold team options for 2018 and 2019, for salaries of $12.5 million and $13.5 million, respectively. So even before David Price set the record for a pitcher's salary and then Greinke broke it three days later, the White Sox already had fielded a number of calls this offseason from teams wondering whether they would part with the left-hander.
The response was always that Sale was probably not going anywhere, barring a ridiculous old-fashioned Vida Blue or Tom Seaver type trade, in which some team hands over the keys to its farm system. Some teams persisted, wondering whether the White Sox were posturing, sources say, pushing to find out what it would really take to get Sale.
But trading the All-Star pitcher would mean forgoing the best chance of competing for the American League Central title in 2016, which is what the team owned by Jerry Reinsdorf intends to do. Reinsdorf will turn 80 in February, and if the White Sox were to swap Sale, it probably would be for the sake of a long-term rebuilding project like the Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves and now the Cincinnati Reds seem to be undertaking. Reinsdorf and the White Sox have no interest in doing that.
And if the White Sox did follow the new strategy of failing to succeed -- finishing at the bottom of the standings to position for the top of the draft, with access to best talent -- they would do so in order to gain access to relatively cheap, high-end players, as the Houston Astros have with Carlos Correa, the Chicago Cubs with Kris Bryant.
The White Sox already have those types of foundation anchors in Sale and first baseman Jose Abreu: big impact players whose salaries are relatively affordable.