The Boston Red Sox offseason just keeps getting worse. Team ace Chris Sale recently suffered an elbow injury and might need season-ending surgery. It’s too early to say whether he can recover without surgery, but it sure isn’t looking good. Meanwhile in Chicago, the White Sox extended up-and-coming star infielder Yoan Moncada to a five-year, $70 million extension.
Moncada, of course, is the primary prospect the Red Sox traded in order to obtain Sale’s services. With Moncada on the rise and Sale seemingly on the decline, some in Red Sox nation are starting to look at the trade as a bad decision. While things don’t look great now, it’s worth remembering that this trade was a success for the Red Sox, and they’d do it again every single day of the week.
The Chris Sale, Yoan Moncada Trade Still A Good Move
They Won the World Series
After consecutive last-place finishes in the AL East, the 2016 Boston Red Sox took the world by storm thanks to their homegrown core. Mookie Betts looked like a perennial MVP candidate and Xander Bogaerts looked like the shortstop of the future. Hanley Ramirez bounced back from a disastrous 2015 to be a reliable part of the lineup, and the rotation already had some great arms in David Price, an emerging Eduardo Rodriguez, and reigning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello.
The Red Sox were close, but they needed one more piece to put their roster over the top. The cost was steep, but former General Manager Dave Dombrowski did what he had to do to get arguably the best pitcher in baseball on a true contender. Boston’s farm system was loaded at the time, so parting with Moncada and Michael Kopech was a small price to pay for an elite talent on a win-now roster.
Sale immediately proved to be worth the cost. In 2017, the former White Sox pitched 214.1 innings to the tune of a 2.90 ERA, 2.45 FIP, and a 2.65 xFIP. Boston’s offense regressed in 2017, and Price suffered a nasty elbow injury that cost him a large part of the season. Nevertheless, the Red Sox still managed to win the division, largely due to Sale’s efforts.
Sale followed up his 2017 efforts by onc again being the stud the Red Sox needed. During his 158.0 innings on the mound, the lefty recorded a sterling 2.11 ERA and a 1.98 FIP. Although he battled injuries in the second half of the season, he was arguably the best pitcher in the American League when on the mound. Additionally, Sale recorded the final out in the World Series to win Boston’s fourth World Series since 2004.
The Real Mistake With Chris Sale
Chris Sale was a godsend to the 2017-2018 Red Sox, but the mistake came in not knowing how much Sale had left in his tank. Even though he was a great pitcher, there were warning signs that he wouldn’t age so well. Sale’s 2018 shoulder injury never truly recovered, and his relatively undersized frame and cumbersome delivery suggested he could fall off a cliff early.
Additionally, there were some whispers early in 2018 that the Red Sox wanted Sale to change the grip on his slider in order to reduce arm fatigue. After the new grip proved somewhat ineffective, Sale went back to his old grip. The results were great in the short-term, but this could have been the cause of his 2018 injury.
The Red Sox should have let Sale play out the 2019 season before extending him. Even if had stayed healthy in 2019, they probably shouldn’t have extended him. Sale never profiled to age well, and the Sox could have used some of Sale’s money to retain a high-caliber star like Mookie Betts. Unfortunately, they didn’t want to have a repeat of the Jon Lester situation, so they ignored a few glaring red flags to lock up their ace.
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