Last year, the Red Sox made David Price the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history. But then he got shelled in the playoffs once again, adding another postseason loss to his résumé. In Boston, that’s not good enough, which is why the Red Sox depleted their farm system to acquire another ace pitcher this winter.
The Red Sox traded with the Chicago White Sox Tuesday, bringing aboard left-handed Chris Sale in exchange for No. 1 ranked prospect Yoan Moncada, flamethrower Michael Kopech and two additional young players. The price is steep: Moncada, who the team spent $63 million to sign out of Cuba as a teenager, is pegged for superstardom. Kopech, 20, was a first-round pick in the 2014 draft and can throw a 105-mph fastball. But according to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the White Sox were asking for Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi during the season. Given President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski’s affinity for big deals, it’s a surprise he actually waited this one out.
Price’s pathetic playoff performance likely pushed Dombrowski to make this trade. The $217 million hurler allowed five runs in 3.1 innings against the Cleveland Indians, dropping his postseason record as a starter to 0-8. Rick Porcello, the American League Cy Young award winner, surrendered five runs in 4.1 innings to the Indians, pushing his career playoff record down to 0-3.
With $50 million locked up in Price and Porcello next season, it seemed unlikely the Red Sox would add another big-time pitcher to the top of their rotation. But in addition to being dominant, Sale is price controlled. He’ll earn just $12 million next year—less than Clay Buchholz—and has two team options worth $26 million remaining on his deal. Not bad for a pitcher who’s received Cy Young Award votes in each of the last five seasons. During that time span, he’s posted a 3.04 ERA with an average of 10 strikeouts per nine innings.
The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner might be his team’s No. 3 starter.
— Brian MacPherson (@brianmacp) December 6, 2016
Now that Sale is on board, there’s less pressure on the Red Sox to directly replace David Ortiz. The only hitter on the market who comes close to matching Ortiz’s production is slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who’s reportedly seeking $100 million in free agency. Though Encarnacion has averaged 39 home runs per season over the last five years, it’s risky to shell out that kind of money to a 33-year-old player.
Even if the Red Sox only make up a percentage of Ortiz’s production, they should still have more than enough offense to win. They lead the league in runs scored last season and will field a lineup next year that features Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, Hanley Ramirez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Dustin Pedroia. With Ramirez possibly spending the season at DH instead of first base, his power numbers could increase as well.
On paper, Price and Porcello should be more than enough to lead the Red Sox to a deep playoff run. But last season, they showed they shrink in October. To rectify those concerns, Dombrowski brought in the best pitcher available—for the second straight year.
If Sale is successful, he could be the missing ingredient to a dynastic run. This may go down as one of the most consequential trades in Red Sox history.
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