The belief here is that the Atlanta Braves indeed have, as reports suggest, an interest in Chris Sale. Why would they not? He’s 27. He’s left-handed. He’s among the 10 best pitchers in baseball. He’s under team control for $36 million over the next three full seasons, dirt cheap for a No. 1 starter.
The Braves have seized — probably the wrong verb — a 4 1/2-game lead — probably the wrong noun — over dogged Minnesota as the worst team in the majors. (The two meet Tuesday and Wednesday at Target Field. Must-see TV!) If you’re this awful, you have to be creative to get good again. Landing a pitcher of Sale’s eminence and pairing him with Julio Teheran would give them one of the very best starting tandems in the business.
(And no, they wouldn’t trade Teheran for Sale. I believe John Coppolella when he says he’s not trading Teheran, who’s both younger and cheaper than Sale. The Pale Hose man may have won 14 games this season, but Teheran has had the better statistical year — lower ERA, lower WHIP, higher WAR value.)
The White Sox aren’t thought to be looking for established players in return. They’re seeking prospects, the number most reported being “at least five.” (I’ve heard it’s more like seven.) The Braves, whose farm system is regarded as the best in the business, are one of the few club that might have enough prospects to open the bidding, but why would they? It’s not as if they’re chasing a wild card; on the contrary, they’re closing in on next year’s No. 1 draft pick.
The only reason you pay that sort of price for any player — especially one who works one game of five — is if you’re desperate. (Like the wild-card-chasing Braves were in 2007 when they traded five prospects for Mark Teixeira. We saw how that worked out.) The Rangers and Dodgers and Red Sox, three teams that need pitching now and mightn’t make the playoffs if they don’t find it, fit the profile of Sale-buyers. The Braves do not.
A team that has gone from a bottom five farm system to No. 1 in the span of 20 months shouldn’t consider such a deal unless it could persuade the White Sox to take five/seven prospects without any of them being Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies or Ronald Acuna, and that would never happen. The ChiSox have scouts. They surely know what’s what.
Say you land Sale but lose the three position prospects listed above. Who’s going to drive in the run so Sale/Teheran can win 1-0? The Braves were last in the majors in scoring last season. They’re last again. They just played four games in the rarefied air of Coors Field and managed 12 runs, which is akin to being shut out four times at sea level.
If the Braves were to say, “We’ll give you two of our top five pitching prospects and anybody you want off our big-league roster except Teheran or Freddie Freeman,” I’d call that a deal worth doing. Trouble is, it wouldn’t be a deal worth doing if you’re the team selling Sale. (This not just in: The Braves’ big-league roster is terrible.) ChiSox scouts would surely have noted that, too.
I understand that the Braves would be intrigued by the possibility of getting a good and affordable pitcher — even if he is a bit nuts — but I can’t see anything close to a match between these parties. In sum, no Sale.