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White Sox Thu Nov 29 2012
Whether you like Grantland or not, you have to admit that Jonah Keri is one of the best national baseball writers. He can appeal to both new school and old school, weaving in eye-witness observations and sabermetric stats to make thorough arguments. I love his Simpsons references too, but that's just me.
Keri released his top-50 MLB Trade Value column on Tuesday. (For a full explanation, Keri breaks down what he is doing in the intro and sidebar to Part 1). Weighing player potential and team-controlled contracts more heavily than superstars in their prime already making big money, we get to see who is the most valuable in baseball.
The White Sox, not surprisingly, only have one player on the list, Chris Sale. Keri didn't take into account minor leaguers (not that it would matter for the Sox), ignored most expensive veterans (too many to name on the Sox), downplayed relievers (affecting Addison Reed and Nate Jones), and took into account talent depth at certain positions (Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza are good, but MLB is filled with young talented outfielders).
Sale, who will be 24 next season, is ranked 16th, ahead of pitchers like Jered Weaver, Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. He's in the same class as Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez. Not bad at all for a guy who was pegged as a fourth starter, then was moved to closer, early in 2012.
Sale was dominant last season, posting the fourth-highest WAR in the American League. Over his three year career, he's shown that doesn't rely on the defense much, posting a microscopic WHIP (1.125) and a robust K/9 ratio (9.5) in 286.1 innings. He's a top power pitcher in the sport.
The Sox will have control of Sale for the next few years. He made only $500,000 in 2012, and figures to make a similar amount in this upcoming season. His earliest arbitration year is 2014, and the earliest he can become a free agent is 2017. Even if the Sox don't offer an extension, Chicago will get four more seasons with their top pitcher.
It seems that the only thing that could hinder Sale's Sox career is arm trouble, which should be of some concern since he had a "dead arm" in July. It's yet to be seen if Sale's slingshot sidearmed delivery is to blame for the injuries, or if it was just his usage rate (192 innings) in his first full season in the big leagues.
I agree with Keri's ranking. While Sale's not as dominant as Verlander or Hernandez, his age and contract situation makes him a top asset. Though the article sought to judge where players rank in terms of trade value, the Sox can just ignore it when it comes to Sale. They will not be parting with their ace anytime soon.