Whether he’s available or not depends on whom you ask.
But with the big league team in despair, several key contracts set to expire over the next 16 months and no impact talent ready in the minors, you'd have to believe White Sox general manager Rick Hahn will at least entertain the idea of trading Chris Sale this summer.
The question is: should they?
Last week, a CBSSports.com report said Hahn begun to listen to trade offers on all players with the exception of Sale and Paul Konerko, who have been deemed untouchable.
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Two rival executives said they believed the report was accurate, that Sale is off limits. But Hahn refuted those claims Sunday, noting the team should be willing to listen for offers on everyone should it choose to become a seller.
Even though one rival executive believes the White Sox would receive a huge bounty of prospects were they to deal Sale, bigger than the four-for-one deal the San Diego Padres received for Mat Latos from the Cincinnati Reds in 2011, another expert said they shouldn't make the move.
“I wouldn’t trade (Sale) personally,” said Jim Callis, executive editor of Baseball America. “We love prospects, but they’re not sure things. Prospects don’t always pan out.”
But these wouldn’t just be your run-of-the-mill prospects.
Based on comparable trades of best pitchers in the last few seasons, the White Sox should receive some of the “high-impact premium talent.” Hahn said he’s looking for in any potential deals along with several other players.
When they traded James Shields to the Kansas City Royals this offseason, the Tampa Bay Rays got Wil Myers, whom Baseball America rated the No. 4 overall prospect this season. The Padres received Yonder Alonso (No. 33) and Yasmani Grandal (No. 53) along with an experienced starting pitcher in Edinson Volquez and a minor-league reliever for Latos.
Shields is a free agent after this season.
While Latos had four seasons of team control under his belt, he’s set to hit free agency in 2016.
Sale, on the other hand, is guaranteed $32.5million through 2017 and has team options for the two seasons after.
A season after he went 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA, Sale has only improved. Were he to be up for grabs, one executive opined: “I think he may fetch more (than Latos), with him being left handed. I don't see them moving him though.”
But Hahn said he wouldn’t deem anyone untouchable. Therefore he’s open to listening to every offer or general conversation in the upcoming month to gather information.
“I don’t think we’re doing our job if we don’t listen to people’s ideas on every player within the organization that they want to talk about,” Hahn said. “That doesn’t mean that some players are extraordinarily difficult to acquire, but you have to evaluate on an ongoing basis, not just in any July when you may be a seller or a buyer but throughout the offseason, what are the values of the players that you have.”
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Callis thinks they have an already developed “can’t miss” player on their hands and that’s why he’s skeptical about any deal involving Sale, even if the team’s farm system lacks impact talent within striking distance of the majors.
His reasons include Sale’s status as a front-line starter, something that has been proven hard to come by.
The team also isn’t in a position where it needs to dump payroll. And, unlike the Rays, who probably can’t afford a long-term deal for David Price, Sale is under contract perhaps for another six seasons at reasonable prices.
If those factors aren’t enough, Callis points to the idea of dealing a valuable asset for a number of unknown commodities.
For every Bartolo Colon in exchange for then-prospects Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore, there’s the flip side. Lee was later traded for Justin Smoak, Josh Lueke and Blake Beavan.
The Cubs acquired Matt Garza for Chris Archer, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld, Brandon Guyer and Hak-Ju Lee.
“If you look at what Tampa Bay has gotten to this point, it’s not worked out,” Callis said. “If you trade him for four prospects you might get two who will help your team. But will you be better off?”