LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — He might not be untouchable, totally off limits, keep your hands out of the cookie jar, but pitcher Chris Sale is pretty damn close.
So even though he was the hot topic on the hot stove throughout Monday, the White Sox have made it clear they know just how strong of a commodity they have in the two-time American League All Star.
On Monday night, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn echoed the sentiments of team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who earlier in the day said Michael Jordan is the only untradeable player he had encountered in 33 seasons. While Sale hasn’t reached the same heights as “His Airness” yet, Hahn has let it be known that if other clubs wish to acquire the lanky lefty they better ready to pay a king’s ransom.
“We know how important this guy is to our club and to our future success,” Hahn said. “You are talking about what we see as a perennial Cy Young candidate. Someone who can be a Game 1 starter for you in the postseason. Someone who the club controls for the next six seasons, a window in which surely expect to be having our own Game 1 of a playoff series. This room isn’t doing what we are here to do if we don’t at least listen when people have ideas and evaluate ideas. At the same time, we know the value of what we have here.”
The Arizona Diamondbacks, a franchise with several pitching prospects considered to be among the top 25 in baseball, likely have enough minor league talent to acquire Sale in a blockbuster deal. Yet the Diamondbacks don’t believe the White Sox have any interest in moving Sale, per a baseball source.
The New York Post also quoted an executive who said he has asked about Sale’s availability “a million times” and never once felt like the White Sox would make a trade. Yahoo! Sports later reported the White Sox would need an even bigger haul than the Tampa Bay Rays are expected to get in return for David Price, who will cost a pretty penny.
The White Sox have come to the conclusion they’re in a good spot with Sale because of any number of factors. A 17-game winner in 2012, Sale improved in his second full season as a starter, finishing with 226 strikeouts in 214 2/3 innings. He finished 11-14 overall with a 3.07 ERA in 30 games last season and finished fifth in the AL Cy Young vote.
He’s also signed to an extremely club-friendly contract that averages $6.5 million in annual average value through 2017, a number that wouldn’t be a detriment to the White Sox payroll were Sale to get hurt.
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There’s also the pinpoint control, a slider that opposing batters fear and a strong mental makeup to boot. As if that weren’t enough, the White Sox learned plenty about Sale’s character in 2013 as he never once lashed out publicly despite more frustrating personal moments than one should ever have to handle.
Finally, were the White Sox to move Sale, they know how extensive a search they would then have to undergo in order to unearth yet another No. 1 pitcher. As it stands, Hahn believes there might be 10 or 12 frontline starters in the majors and the White Sox are fortunate to possess Sale.
“Getting that true ace is certainly difficult and comes at a high price whether it comes through free agency or a trade,” Hahn said. “If you look at all things considered in terms of the talent, being left-handed, the control for the next several years, I'd certainly say he's extraordinarily valuable, yes.”