NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - Things heated up for a little while late last night on the first weekday of the 2016 Winter Meetings in the Gaylord Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill/National Harbor, MD, with reports emerging that a trade between the host city Washington Nationals and Chicago White Sox was becoming increasingly likely.
Multiple reports had Nationals’ prospects Lucas Giolito and Victor Robles on the table in a deal that would bring three years of control of Chris Sale to the nation’s capital.
Sale, 27, is due $12M in 2017 and $12.5M in 2018 (with a $1M buyout), with a club option for 2019 at $13.5M (or another $1M buyout). Sale finished (17-10) in 2016, posting a 3.34 ERA, a 3.46 FIP, 45 walks (1.79 BB/9) and 233 Ks (9.25 K/9) in 226 2⁄3 innings for the Sox, over which he was worth 5.2 fWAR.
Would the White Sox take two of the Nationals’ top prospects in return for the seven-year veteran left-hander? It seemed for a while that it was going to happen, but then things slowed down...
Entire #Nats baseball ops department currently at dinner. Certainly looks like any deal for Sale isn't on the verge of completion.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) December 6, 2016
A few hours later, a follow-up tweet by USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale changed the narrative slightly:
Multiple reports, including one by New York Post writer Joel Sherman, cited sources who said that Giolito and Robles were indeed part of the offer for Sale, with the Sox considering the package and waiting to see if any other teams jumped in.
“An executive from a team that has been pursuing Sale said he thought it was an ‘80-20’ likelihood Sale would get dealt to the Nationals,” Sherman wrote.
“Sources familiar with both clubs’ thinking did not expect a trade to be completed before Tuesday at the earliest,” MASNSports.com’s Mark Zuckerman wrote today.
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo had previously been unwilling to include his top prospects in any deals, a stance he seemingly reaffirmed in his first meeting with reporters Monday afternoon.
At last July/August’s non-waiver deadline, Giolito, Robles, Reynaldo Lopez and Trea Turner were reportedly untouchable. And now?
“Our strategy very rarely wavers,” Rizzo said. “We’ve got a plan in place, we’ve got a strategy that we’ve employed. Prospects are important to us for the viability of the long-term, like we talked about before, of the organization and like I said, prospects, we have a lot of them, we couple that with a good young core of players already at the big league level, a 95-win team, we’re coming off a 95-win season with a good young team, flexible positionally and an organization that we feel is viable for a long time.”
The thinking around the baseball world is that the Nationals are willing to move some of their top prospects now, in the right trade, because they see a two-year window in which Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy are under contract, Max Scherzer is at his best and they have the opportunity to do something big. Rizzo’s take on that idea?
“I think we have an extremely bright window in 2016, for a two-year period and for well beyond that,” he said.
“The scouting and player development system that we’ve put into place here is second to none. We’ve got ourselves, like I said, a good nucleus of a ballclub in the big leagues, we’ve got good prospects to come. The prospects, we can put them into our lineup or we can package them together and trade them for immediate help, so there a lot of different avenues we can go. We’ve got player flexibility and positional flexibility.”
So will the White Sox bite? It’s a waiting game now. Stay tuned...