Byline: Vinnie Duber
We don't know when the 2020 baseball season will start. But we know Chris Sale won't be pitching when it does.
The former White Sox ace is slated for Tommy John surgery, the Boston Red Sox announced on Thursday, ending weeks of speculation that the guy who pitched the final outs of the 2018 World Series would undergo the procedure.
The White Sox dealt Sale away in December 2016, jumpstarting their rebuilding effort with a blockbuster trade that brought Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech to the South Side. After struggling in 2018, Moncada broke out in a big way, emerging as the best all-around hitter on the team in 2019. Kopech spent 2019 recovering from his own Tommy John surgery and figures to make his return to the big league mound at some point this season.
Sale's surgery is the latest blow for a Red Sox team that's gone through a rapid fall from grace after winning the World Series just 17 months ago.
Their epic championship hangover kept them out of the postseason last year. As they stumbled through 2019, they fired their top baseball executive, Dave Dombrowski. This winter, they were involved in their own sign-stealing scandal (which still hasn't reached a resolution), and their manager, Alex Cora, is one of the prominent figures in the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal. He lost his job, too. On top of it all, they dumped two massive salaries in a trade that sent their best player, Mookie Betts, to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team they beat to win the World Series.
Though the Red Sox are on a pronounced downturn, and the White Sox seemingly on an upswing, it's pointless to suggest that the White Sox "won the trade." After all, Sale has a World Series ring on his finger, and the Red Sox probably don't win that championship without him. That gives them the emphatic win.
Of course, the White Sox can still win the trade if Moncada and Kopech become key contributors on a championship team. Then both teams can claim victory in the trade.
The situation certainly presents an interesting case study in the short vs. long-term goals of organizations across the game.
The Red Sox dealt away two of the highest rated prospects in baseball and mortgaged their future for a shot at short-term glory, with Sale leading their rotation. And it worked. But now, they're seeing the dangers of such a move, with Sale, who's entering the first season of a five-year, $145 million contract, facing an uncertain future.
Meanwhile, the White Sox traded away a pitcher who could have been the anchor of a menacing rotation. The short-term was sacrificed while Moncada, Kopech and the rest of the young core developed, and now, the future is incredibly bright.
Moncada and Kopech have a chance to do more in White Sox uniforms than Sale ever did. He spent seven seasons on the South Side and never played in a postseason game.
It's a bummer for baseball fans, who have to live without one of the game's best pitchers. Of course, they have to live without any sort of baseball at the moment...