It’s Dec. 6. And the Red Sox already have won the winter.
Doesn’t mean they will win the 2017 World Series. Doesn’t mean the Chris Sale trade will be a guaranteed success. But that projected roster on paper? Someone laminate it and find a frame for that sucker.
As Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told reporters, referring to the Sale trade, “That’s a wow … Boston’s like the Golden State Warriors now of baseball.”
Sale, one of the best pitchers on the planet, joins a rotation that includes last year’s free-agent prize (left-hander David Price) the reigning American League Cy Young winner (righty Rick Porcello) and, oh yes, a 2016 AL All-Star (righty Steven Wright).
Lefties Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez and righty Clay Buchholz are the other rotation candidates; at least one of them figures to be traded. And uh, in case you missed it, the Red Sox also traded for a terrific reliever Tuesday, right-hander Tyler Thornburg.
The cost in prospects? Like Dave Dombrowski cares.
The Red Sox traded seven players in all – third baseman Travis Shaw and two prospects to the Brewers for Thornburg, plus four prospects to the White Sox for Sale, including two doozies, infielder Yoan Moncada and right-hander Michael Kopech.
Moncada, a switch-hitter, could develop into a five-tool superstar. Kopech, scouts say, could be another Aaron Sanchez or Noah Syndergaard. Outfielder Luis Basabe, another switch-hitter, projects as at least a fourth outfielder, and right-hander Victor Diaz, another hard thrower, could develop into a back-end reliever.
Dombrowski, the Red Sox’s president of baseball operations, rightly thanked former GM Ben Cherington and two other departed staffers, Mike Hazen and Amiel Sawdaye, for building a farm system that also enabled him to acquire closer Craig Kimbrel last offseason.
This is how Dombrowski rolls, how he has always rolled, in case you’ve forgotten Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin for Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera at the 2007 Winter Meetings.
It was foolish to count Dombrowski out on Sale at the ’16 meetings, even Monday night when the Nationals stood a legitimate chance of acquiring the lefty.
When Dombrowski locks in on a target, it’s usually over.
For the White Sox, the trade is a coup, albeit a high-risk one. It also is the beginning of a near-certain tear-down. The fact that the White Sox did not land a major leaguer such as Jackie Bradley Jr. or Andrew Benintendi in the deal is a clear tip-off that they will keep going, and do not intend to compete in 2017.
Potential free agents such as third baseman Todd Frazier, second baseman Brett Lawrie and outfielder Melky Cabrera are the most likely to go, but the White Sox do not figure to stop there. Left-hander Jose Quintana also could bring back a big haul, closer David Robertson is a pointless luxury at this point and even right fielder Adam Eaton could be expendable, though he is under control through 2021.
Obviously, the White Sox will need to field a major-league club next season, but at this point there is no sense stopping. Honestly, the South Side reconstruction is long overdue. And most in the industry were impressed by general manager Rick Hahn’s return for Sale.
Oh, and one other thing: Make no mistake, this trade was made possible for the Red Sox by an old-fashioned, big-market bully tactic, the type that no longer is possible under the new collective-bargaining agreement.
The Red Sox paid $63 million for Moncada, including a including a 100 percent penalty on his $31.5 million signing bonus (they will send the White Sox the remainder of his bonus as part of this deal). For their money, they got eight major-league games out of Moncada, 12 strikeouts in 19 at-bats – and, ahem, Sale for three years at $38 million.
The new hard caps on how much each team can spend on international players 25-and-under will prevent a team from ever pulling off another Moncada-style signing, and perhaps enhance competitive balance. But give the Red Sox credit – they exploited the rules to their advantage, and will hardly bemoan the brevity of the Yoan Moncada era.
To the victor belongs the spoils. And the Sale. And the title of Winter Champions, 2016.