By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
The silly season has started early for the Red Sox this off-season. It began when new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski intimated that the Sox had a deal that fell through at the last minute during the first day of the winter meetings in Nashville, and it has intensified when a report from CSN Chicago offered the slightest chance that White Sox ace Chris Sale might be on the block.
Let’s stick with the facts, as the author of the original story Dan Hayes points out, Sale is under contract for the next four seasons at a team friendly $49 million (two years guaranteed, two team options), and he led the league last year with 274 strikeouts. He is 26 years old, has a career 2.91 ERA, and is one of the cornerstones general manager Rick Hahn is using as the foundation of the rebuild that is taking place in the south side of Chicago.
Even if the White Sox were to entertain an offer from the Red Sox for the tall, hard-throwing left-hander, Hayes speculates that the talks would have to begin with superstar shortstop in the making, Xander Bogaerts.
For Dombrowski and the Boston brain trust, that has to be a non-starter.
While former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington had a hard time assembling a competitive major league roster – outside of the outlier that was the 2013 lottery ticket he was lucky enough to hit on big time – he did continue Theo Epstein’s work of building one of the best farm systems in baseball. And while there is no doubt that Dombrowski is more than willing to use some of the chips that his predecessor accumulated in order to help the club return to being a playoff contender next season, I highly doubt he would be willing to move his future face of the franchise for anybody this off-season.
Depth up the middle is what gives the Red Sox the hope to be able to turn yet another last-place finish into playing meaningful games next fall. Bogaerts, along with Mookie Betts and either Blake Swihart or Christian Vazquez – who likely will not be healthy enough to start the season at the major-league level due to Tommy John surgery he had last spring – are thought to represent the best young, up the middle lineup in baseball beginning next year.
Although it is likely one of the young catchers will be dealt – Swihart is thought to be someone the White Sox have an interest in according to the CSN Chicago story – it would certainly take a whole heck of a lot more for Chicago to consider sending Sale to Boston.
This, no doubt, is a scenario that will fill sports talk radio call lines and fuel hot stove talk in each town, but you have better odds of hitting Saturday’s Powerball jackpot than you do seeing Sale in a Red Sox uniform opening day next April 4th in Cleveland.
Silly season indeed.