Bizarre Chris Sale Clubhouse Blowup Further Muddies Complex Trade Talks

As if trading Chris Sale wasn’t going to be complicated enough for the Chicago White Sox, then he had to go and carve up some jerseys.

If that second part lost you, boy do you have a story to get caught up on.

After Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported Thursday that the White Sox were prepared to sell at the August 1 trade deadline, the talk around Sale earlier on Saturday concerned whether he would be dealt. When the White Sox then scratched their ace left-hander from his start against the Detroit Tigers, MLBTradeRumors.com presumably started having some pretty good traffic.

But then, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said in a statement that Sale had actually been sent home due to a “clubhouse incident before the game.” A few vague reports later, Tommy Stokke of FanRag Sports provided the gory details:

Yup. This is a thing that actually happened.

And thanks to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, we have a clear-ish picture of why. A source told him Sale’s initial protest was over the jerseys—of which the White Sox had earlier tweeted a picturebeing “uncomfortable.” When the White Sox wouldn’t relent, Sale let his frustration over his perception that “PR and jersey sales were more important than winning” guide his actions.

This is not the first time Sale has lashed out at his superiors. Although Rosenthal says he was not involved in this incident, you’ll recall Sale had an angry exchange with White Sox Vice President Kenny Williams over the Adam LaRoche fiasco that unfolded in spring training.

Sale’s 14-3 record, 3.18 ERA, 4.45 strikeout-to-walk ratio and recent All-Star start are just a few things that confirm the 27-year-old is still a very good pitcher. But in the last 24 hours, we’ve learned he’s also a piece of trade bait who’s less than pleased with the way things are going in Chicago.

It’s hard to blame Sale for that. The White Sox entered Saturday at 46-50, putting them in line for a fourth straight losing season. But it’s easy to blame him for creating this latest controversy. Instead of sucking it up and taking the high road, he played the part of a problem child crying over spilled milk.

By all accounts, this had nothing to do with the trade rumors. But now we wait to see if said trade rumors will be affected by it.

The early indication is there’s no change on Chicago’s end. Rob Bradford of WEEI.com’s latest report says the White Sox are no more willing to trade Sale than they were before. If that’s true, it tells us the White Sox understand what they should be doing: carrying on as if nothing’s happened and seeing what’s what.

On the trade market, that means continuing to peddle Sale at an enormous price. A report from Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports put it at “five top prospects.” That’s the kind of asking price that makes it loud and clear that suitors have to come to the White Sox, because the White Sox don’t have to go to them.

“I would expect them to ask for the moon,” a rival general manager told Heyman. “I think they have no interest in moving him unless it’s a no-brainer deal.”

But the question now is whether any of Sale’s biggest suitors—i.e. the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox or Los Angeles Dodgers—are any more willing to meet that price after Saturday’s events. As Stokke suggested in a radio interview (via Adam Kaufman), the answer may be no:

This could actually be true. The White Sox can act like Sale doesn’t want out, but potential trade partners can just as easily act like he does and try to call the White Sox’s bluff. That creates two possible scenarios.

Scenario No. 1: There is no bluff to call.

Despite the bad blood between Sale and his employers, the fact remains he’s an ace pitcher. Not only that, but he’s also still an affordable ace pitcher. The contract extension he signed in 2013 is only paying him $9.15 million this year, with just $39.5 million more on the way if his options for 2018 and 2019 are picked up. That’s a small price to pay for a guy who’s been a top-five pitcher since 2012.

So unless Hahn, Williams or White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is feeling petty over Saturday’s drama, nobody in a position to make a call on Sale is going to stand up and say, “He has to go.” That would be easy if he was some scrub threatening to drag down a winning team, but he’s a star who can only buoy a team that’s already bad.

Scenario No. 2: There is a bluff to call. Or at least just enough of one to get the White Sox to relent.

It would be one thing if Sale had done something bad enough to shave more than just a prospect (“maybe”) off his trade value, but he didn’t. And although four top prospects isn’t the same as five top prospects, the downgrade is only from “really strong offer” to a plain ol’ “strong offer.”

If 2016 was just one bad year on a timeline with a bright future, rejecting it would be the obvious choice for the White Sox. But in their case, 2016 is the latest in a string of down years, and their farm system doesn’t offer much hope of a turnaround. Baseball America had Chicago’s system ranked at No. 23 in the spring, and now it’s without shortstop Tim Anderson and right-hander Carson Fulmer.

And even if the White Sox don’t want to get rid of Sale, they could at least be open to it. If the bad blood subsides, there will cease to be questions about his trade value. But if it doesn’t, the questions could persist or multiply. So, perhaps they’ll make a blockbuster deal now that they might not be able to make later.

Which will it be in coming days? That puts us in best-guess territory, so here’s mine: Sale ends up staying in Chicago.

The odds of a trade were probably low to begin with. There are only a handful of teams that can afford to pay the White Sox’s price, and his talent and contract gave them two reasons not to budge. Although it makes for good headline material, the White Sox shouldn’t let what happened Saturday overrule either of those motivations.

But if nothing else, there’s no denying this whole situation is weirder than it was before. Maybe it wasn’t his intent, but Sale effectively voiced his say in his trade value when he cut up those jerseys. As a result, talks between the White Sox and his suitors are going to have a different tenor.

That shouldn’t matter…but we’ll see.

 

Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Source: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2653718-bizarre-chris-sale-clubhouse-blowup-further-muddies-complex-trade-talks

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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest on Chris Archer, Jonathan Lucroy and More

With time running out until MLB‘s non-waiver trade deadline, nearly half of the league is sandwiched together atop the standings.

Fourteen teams have accumulated at least 50 victories. Shortly before the non-waiver trade window shuts on Aug. 1, a clear line divides the contenders and pretenders. Given the parity at the top, every playoff hopeful can convince itself that one or two shrewd moves will catalyze a championship run.

Such a climate could create chaos over the next 10 days. Some of the most popular trade candidates remain on the rumor mill, even if all of them aren’t veterans on expiring contracts.

Their availability might be only for show, but let’s examine the latest buzz on some of baseball’s best players on the market.

                

Chris Archer

If there’s a player a small-market seller shouldn’t shop, it’s a 27-year-old ace, especially not when he’s on the books for a team-friendly contract through 2021. And especially not during a down year.

A year after registering a 3.23 ERA and 252 strikeouts for the Tampa Bay Rays, Chris Archer has posted an inflated 4.60 ERA in 2016. He’s on the hook for an MLB-worst 13 losses, only two of which qualified as quality starts.

It’s a poor time for Tampa Bay to move a struggling franchise centerpiece, but an anonymous team executive expressed confidence that the Los Angeles Dodgers would land him, per ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark:

Even if the Rays deal Archer, don’t expect them to sell low. Stark clarified their high asking price, which makes a move feel less certain than the previous source suggested:

Will the Dodgers pay up? Per Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, an executive said they “have almost no choice but to overpay for a controllable starter such as Archer or [Chris] Sale,” with ace Clayton Kershaw possibly needing surgery. Another source previously told Rosenthal the Chicago White Sox turned down a “king’s ransom” for their rotation anchor.

If motivated to stay in playoff contention without Kershaw, the Dodgers have a deep enough farm system for an aggressive move. Top pitching prospects Jose De Leon, Grant Holmes and Frankie Montas could grab Tampa Bay’s attention. The crown jewel of their young talent, 19-year-old Julio Urias, would especially force the Rays to consider a blockbuster move.

Despite his 2016 struggles, Archer remains a top-shelf arm who has punched out 147 batters over 123.1 innings. Unless the Dodgers make a Godfather offer, he’ll stay put, with Matt Moore or Jake Odorizzi potentially moving instead.

                       

Jonathan Lucroy

Milwaukee Brewers teammate Ryan Braun is a flashier household name, but Jonathan Lucroy stirs more excitement among contenders. The 30-year-old catcher is hitting .301/.357/.484 during a bounce-back year, and few peers garner more respect for their defensive work.

A $5.25 million club option for 2017—chump change for an elite two-way catcher—fortifies his trade value but allows Milwaukee the flexibility to stand pat if no offer whets its whistle. As a cheap upgrade for every team besides the San Francisco Giants, he’ll draw plenty of eager admirers before Aug. 1.

On Wednesday, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported the Cleveland Indians are one such suitor:

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s Tom Haudricourt added that the two sides will expand those negotiations to include relievers: 

Contrary to Olney‘s tweet, Cleveland.com’s Paul Hoynes reported Michael Brantley’s latest setback won’t intensify Cleveland’s pursuit of offensive help. Yet it’s reasonable to expect the American League Central leaders to address the worst catching production in baseball. 

Yet Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball dampened the likelihood of a transaction. 

“While an Indians person confirmed they talked about Lucroy, that possibility was downplayed, which makes sense since the Indians probably want to save their bullets for pitching,” Heyman wrote.

The Indians boast one of baseball’s premier rotations, but their bullpen is a sore spot, aside from Dan Otero and closer Cody Allen. Baseball Prospectus gives them an 97.3 percent chance of making the playoffs, so they should give serious thought to obtaining Lucroy and bullpen help from Milwaukee.

         

Jay Bruce and Josh Reddick

Not every maneuver needs to set the baseball community ablaze. For teams needing an offensive boost in a corner-outfield slot, Jay Bruce and Josh Reddick represent sensible choices who shouldn’t command top-flight prospects in return.

Since they fit the same role, it’s natural for their markets to intertwine. According to Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi, a few teams are eyeing both sluggers:

Boasting a .528 slugging percentage and 19 homers, Bruce represents the grander offensive upgrade. A $13 million club option for next year also tacks on more future worth than Reddick‘s expiring contract. Yet any buyer must consider the defensive repercussions.

Because of his minus-12.3 ultimate zone rating, the worst mark of any outfielder, Bruce grades out as a replacement-level player despite his demonstrative power. The Dodgers might be desperate enough for the power, and the Cubs could mask his shortcomings with baseball’s best defense. Heyman tossed the Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals into the mix as well.

Reddick is no defensive wizard, and he has delivered significantly less power, with six long balls for the Oakland Athletics. The 29-year-old also, however, wields a higher weighted runs created-plus mark (121) than the Cincinnati Reds bruiser (117) thanks to his keen batting eye.

Per the San Francisco Chronicle‘s John Shea, Reddick indicated he “would love to” remain in Oakland. 

“It’s kind of disheartening something hasn’t been worked out so far, and we’ve been four months into it. It is what it is,” he said.

Oakland has rarely shown loyalty to its tenured players, so expect Reddick to go when the last-place franchise unloads before the deadline. He’s a two-month rental who can help a handful of contenders.

                  

Note: All advanced stats courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. Contract information obtained from Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Source: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2653510-mlb-trade-rumors-latest-on-chris-archer-jonathan-lucroy-and-more

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