NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- If anyone still fostered a shred of doubt regarding the White Sox direction, Tuesday's trade of Chris Sale to Boston answered any lingering questions.
The Red Sox picked up a front-of-the-rotation hurler in Sale, who gives them quite possibly the best rotation in the American League and reinforces Boston's standing as a postseason frontrunner. In adding infielder Yoan Moncada, right-handers Michael Kopech and Victor Diaz, and outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe, the White Sox rebuild began in full force.
Moncada, MLBPipeline's No. 1 overall prospect, was the centerpiece of the deal. Kopech, with his 100-mph fastball, is ranked No. 30, and the two take over at the top of the White Sox prospect list. All four players acquired were listed among the Red Sox Top 30.
"We feel very strongly about Kopech, and the upside of Basabe and the tools he brings, and the arm of Diaz," general manager Rick Hahn said. "But Moncada was essential. We view him as a young, controllable, premium position player who is going to help us both offensively and defensively for a long time.
"I'm not going to put any big league names on him in terms of who he's similar to, but a little Google search will show you who he is compared to. We shared that kind of view of his future. That was an important piece. We weren't looking to move Chris unless it was a situation where we were going to acquire premium-type talent back."
Some have compared Moncada with Robinson Cano, but after the switch-hitting 21-year-old hit .211 in 19 at-bats with Boston last season, he probably won't even be considered for the Majors until at least midseason.
"He's already been [in the Majors], but there is still some development with him," said Hahn. "Certainly, he could be a factor in some point in '17, but given his age and where he's been, if that's not the case, that is fine.
"Part of this process is not rushing the guys just to show some benefit or to feel like this is working. We do view Moncada and Kopech as guys who could come quickly. Basabe will start in A ball, as will Diaz, and it will take them a little longer. The other guys could come quickly."
Boston's president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski, said that Hahn called on Friday to let him know Sale was going to be traded and to gauge his interest. Dombrowski tipped his cap to Hahn for handling the situation professionally and directly.
In moving Sale, the White Sox traded one of the best starters in the game who was under control at $38 million over the next three years if two team options were exercised. In moving Moncada and Kopech, the Red Sox weakened a strong young talent pool.
But both Dombrowski and Hahn understood the costs. They also realized the moves made the best sense for the true direction of each team.
"There is no question we gave up two of the better prospects in baseball in Moncada and Kopech," Dombrowski said. "We liked the other two guys, but it came down to a point where we thought this gave us a significant chance to win."
"Today was the first step in what will very likely be an extended process," Hahn said. "But it's one that we feel, if we continue to acquire similar-type players with the upsides of the individuals that we acquired today, will be for the extended long-term benefit of the organization."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Having already proven his dominance for an American League club with a hitter-friendly home park, Sale will be among the top-five starters in 2017 fantasy drafts now that he has the support of a high-scoring Red Sox lineup. Fantasy owners should project the left-hander to produce at least 18 wins with 235 strikeouts and an ERA in the low-3.00s during '17. Sale will join David Price and Rick Porcello as pitchers with guaranteed spots in Boston's rotation, meaning Steven Wright, Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez and Clay Buchholz will likely need to compete for two starting jobs.
Now a member of the retooling White Sox, Moncada could soon find himself with a regular big league role. The consensus top prospect in baseball, Moncada has the potential to make a major impact in '17 fantasy leagues after producing 15 homers with 45 steals and a .407 on-base percentage in the Minors last season. Even if he is not on the Opening Day roster, the 21-year-old will be a prime stash candidate in all formats.