Could the Twins target Chris Sale?
Losing out on Carlos Correa was interesting. It was both a gut punch and completely expected. I’ve seen Carlos Baerga be right too many times to not get a little into the idea that Correa might actually eschew the great weather, prestige and generally winning culture of the San Francisco Giants for less money with the Twins.
It unfolded how it should have. Once the Giants got to a certain number, maybe 310M, they were betting against themselves. The Twins only got to 285M- I doubt the Cubs offered more than that. It doesn’t sound like the Yankees made an offer, nor the Mets. The Dodgers took themselves out of the bidding, and the Padres have got to a have a limit at some point. So there was competition with one other team, and the only way Correa was coming back was if there was no competition.
The pivot options are pretty harsh and most of them involve trading Luis Arraez, who feels pretty important to this team. Other trade chips include Brooks Lee, Jhoan Duran and Alex Kirilloff. Any increase in the WAR gained by trading for such a player is going to be partly (if you’re lucky) offset by the WAR of the traded player. It’s hard to find a player worth a guaranteed five WAR- not Corbin Burnes or Brandon Woodruff, definitely not Pablo López; heck even Correa didn’t hit five WAR last year according to Fangraph’s formula. If you can’t find that then you are risking losing value in the first year of a trade which would figure to look worse and worse as the targeted player hits free agency and the trade chips are just starting arbitration.
Signing Carlos Rodón would solve a lot of issues, and we wouldn’t have to compare his performance to any cost in prospect capital. But his shoulder could go, and if it does you may be paying an 85 MPH throwing bullpen lefty 28M for several years. He also doesn’t like Minnesota, from what I hear, and sees himself as some sort of tough guy. I would overpay for him, but even that might not be enough.
So they aren’t signing Rodón and don’t want to make a trade. The next logical step would be to take on salary.
To acquire a number one starter at a cheaper price than the Brewers pitchers.
Of course I am referring to Chris Sale.
You might be asking yourself, who is that twiggy alien? Why, one of the best pitchers of the past decade, and one who currently maintains the highest K/9 rate in baseball history. The catch is he has a no-trade clause and any acquiring team would be taking on the salary of a man who has pitched in eleven games since the 2019 season. He’s owed 55M over the next two seasons with a 20M vesting option for 2025 based on how well he pitches in his age 35 season. The Twins have room for that kind of AAV, but why would the Red Sox be trying to dump Sale’s salary given they have just lost their star shortstop, Xander Bogaerts? Maybe because the Red Sox are cheaper than people realize, having doled out but a few big contracts since the David Price signing in 2015, the biggest being Trevor Story’s 140M and Sale’s current 145M deal. They still run decent payrolls, but they have to be sure to have the money to lock up Rafael Devers, who represents the last hope the Red Sox have of signing extensions with one of their home-grown stars from their 2018 championship year. The Sox have never given out a 300M contract, or even a 250M. They also weren't good in 2022, and are losing Bogaerts as well as what is left of J.D. Martinez.
What would it cost to pry Sale from the Red Sox? Despite his negative value on a given trade simulator, Sale still holds significant value for the team in context. He hasn’t looked terrible in the brief time we’ve seen him the past four years, and they know if he regains 85% of his previous form, he is the ace that could lead them back to the playoffs. But if Boston is at all sick of dealing with Sale, the Twins should see if they would take a couple top 10 prospects and Max Kepler for his entire salary.
The payoff could include an escape hatch from playing out the 2023 season in a weak division with Kenta Maeda, Sonny Gray and Tyler Mahle all on expiring contracts, no real ace and Kyle Farmer hanging out at shortstop. It would mean Sale agreeing to any deal as well as parting with some prospects, though presumably not the caliber that Milwaukee would command for Burnes or Woodruff. Maybe the Red Sox truly are bound by math to be both dumb and stingy and will give up on Sale because a WAR projection model told them so. Not likely, but maybe they think Josh Winder is the real deal and David Festa is a real up-and-comer. Maybe the deal requires Arraez. The Twins should find out.