A top of the line starting pitcher is arguably the missing piece on this year’s Astros team.
The Houston Astros rotation is a quality one right now. Dallas Keuchel has begun to pitch well once again. Lance McCullers is a pitcher on the rise. Collin McHugh is a solid mid-rotation piece. Heck, even Mike Fiers and Doug Fister have been serviceable. According to Richard Justice, the Astros have had the best pitching staff in the majors the past six weeks, 24-9, with a team ERA of 2.91.
But there is no denying that another top-notch starting pitcher in the rotation would greatly benefit this Astros team. And one name that comes to mind is none other than Chicago White Sox star Chris Sale.
Before you roll your eyes at the possibility of adding a pitcher who just cut up his own uniform like “Edward Scissorhands,” it does make sense to at least inquire about Sale. You know when you look at a house, you can look for free. The same can be said for when you ask about another team’s player.
Sale is only 27-years old, and he is under club control through 2017 with a club option for 2018 and 2019. This season he has boasted a 14-3 record (hint: records don’t really matter) and a 3.18 ERA/3.70 FIP. More impressive is his 29 walks compared to 129 strikeouts.
Sure, Sale has given up a few home runs (17) this season, but he has also been the lock-down ace for the White Sox more times than not. And he has only five starts in which he has pitched less than seven innings.
One cause of concern though has to be Sale’s recent starts. In his last ten starts, Sale has posted a 4.87 ERA/4.59 FIP. And in that same period of starts, he has also allowed 12 home runs. But considering the overall talent and track record, that poor string of starts will likely not decrease Sale’s trade value to other teams.
The boys at Talking Stros Don’t See a Big Trade.
So say if Sale did end up in Houston, the Astros would be adding one of the top pitchers in baseball to an already solid rotation. Imagine Sale, Keuchel, McHugh, and McCullers in a playoff series. Yes, it’s alright to smile at the thought of that rotation.
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But what about the cost?
Rumor has it that the White Sox would like multiple top prospects in return for their ace pitcher. That is actually not outlandish considering the team friendly deal and Sale’s record of success.
For the Astros, that trade demand could basically mean parting ways with some combination of A.J. Reed, Joseph Musgrove, Francis Martes, David Paulino, and Kyle Tucker along with a few other highly regarded prospects.
Honestly, I can see the Astros front office parting ways with a few of these top prospects if the White Sox are truly interested. Not saying the Astros would, but the front office would likely entertain the notion. Trading Martes or Musgrove along with a couple of other prospects would be a tough pill to swallow. But Sale is undeniably good. To acquire talent, you must be willing to part ways with talent.
However, Chicago’s front office may insist on including Alex Bregman in the deal. Possibly even McCullers, another young starter under club control for the foreseeable future, may be another target of the White Sox if the Astros jump into the fray. The Astros may also balk if Chicago is insistent on both Musgrove and Martes being included for Sale.
Needless to say, the Astros should flat-out say no to such a deal, even if it is for Sale. You have to set limits on how far down the rabbit hole you are willing to go. And Bregman might just be that limit. That is why this type of deal remains unlikely.
**Statistics provided by Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs**