The Foundation sends: SP Chris Sale ($93), 2017 4th Round Pick, 2017 3rd Round Pick
Who’s Your Haddy? sends: SP Alex Reyes (minors), LF/CF/RF Nick Plummer (minors), 2017 1st Round Pick, 2018 1st Round Pick
Andrew’s thoughts: At first glance, I really, really like this deal from the perspective of both teams.
To be clear, Chris Sale is the only piece The Foundation is sending away here. Third and fourth round picks are just whatever. To me, future draft picks that late are only a slight tick above nothing. They’re what you ship to someone if you need to buy a seventh start or what you ask for if you’re waffling about whether or not to cut a player. Or, in this case, they’re what you kick back to the team giving up first round picks to be a fair trade partner.
For Haddy, acquiring Sale this late in the season gives him not just a force at the front of his rotation to maybe go from an unexpected 9-7 to a playoff spot, but it also gives him a big time asset that he can keep. Just like I said with the recent Max Scherzer trade, I don’t believe this is a rental by any means. Earlier this year, Haddy swung a deal that effectively downgraded from Mookie Betts to AJ Pollock in 2017, while also freeing up $53. He doesn’t have a ton of easy cuts on his roster, but I think if you couple that savings with cutting someone like $30 Adrian Gonzalez or $32 Todd Frazier and then keeping Sale, you’re coming out ahead. So it’s a win-now move and sort of a long play into next year.
Let’s be clear though: Sale has some concerns. And I don’t mean his being a sociopath. His strikeouts are way down. Like, way down. He’s striking out three fewer hitters per nine innings than he did last year. He and the White Sox have been preaching a “pitch to contact” philosophy, but who knows if that’s just dancing around decreased performance. His walks are also up slightly, his home runs are up, and his BABIP is the best it’s ever been, so in some ways he’s been lucky. His FIP has gone from 2.73 last year to 3.69 and his xFIP from 2.60 to 3.74. He’s still Chris Sale. He’s still really good. He’s averaging almost 35 points a start. I’m just saying… his profile has some warts this year.
Meanwhile, for The Foundation, this move turns a lot of gears. The draft picks are fine. Haddy’s pick currently projects to be 10th overall and theoretically his team should improve, so that’s likely a pick in the 10-12 range. All first round picks are not created equal, of course, so while “omg a 1st round pick!” is cool, that really comes out to the 10th- or 12th-best prospect that is several years away from reaching the big leagues. The one in 2018 is nice too. Picks are just really hard to gauge, but for me personally, I’d always rather have them than not and they’re something I like to try to upgrade when possible. I think if you’re trading a player of Sale’s caliber, you need to recoup as much value as possible, and wildcard draft picks help accomplish that.
The headliner though is obviously Cardinals pitching prospect Alex Reyes. I think you could easily make the case that he’s better than Tyler Glasnow, the headline piece for Scherzer, and maybe even the second best pitching prospect in baseball behind Lucas Giolito. Some might even debate that. Reyes projects to be really, really good. And as a bonus, he’ll get to pitch in a park that does a good job suppressing home runs for a team that is always competitive.
But here’s the other thing moving Sale does: it opens up the space to keep $111 Bryce Harper, $90 Paul Goldschmidt, and $59 Jon Lester. Or anyone, really. One swift trade opened up a bunch of space. And yeah, he could have just held Sale until the off-season and explored something else to free up space, but I think now was the time to strike if you can land a prospect like Reyes and some picks to tinker around with.