The Chicago White Sox traded Chris Sale to Boston on Tuesday for four prospects, but there’s no denying which prospect sealed the deal. That would be 21-year-old infielder Yoan Moncada, who is the top prospect in baseball.
“He’s the No. 1 prospect in baseball, kind of a franchise changer,” MLB Network insider Richard Justice said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “He’s just got that look about him. When you have a chance to get a player like that, you do it.”
Boston also sent pitcher Michael Kopech, outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe and right-hander Victor Diaz to Chicago for Sale’s services. Sale, a five-time All-Star, went 17-10 with 233 strikeouts last season. He joins an already star-studded rotation featuring David Price and Rick Porcello.
“The risk for the Red Sox is you now have three years of Chris Sale; you got to go to the World Series,” Justice said. “They give up a pitcher, (Michael) Kopech, who was throwing 100 miles an hour in the Arizona Fall League. That’s a trade that can haunt you for years, but that’s why people like me love Dave Dombrowski. He’s the guy that has traded prospects through the years to get David Price, Miguel Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes, Max Scherzer. That’s what he does. If we got a chance to win now, we’re going to try to win now.”
Justice does not believe that the Yankees will try to “match” the Red Sox in the rivals’ annual free-agent war.
“No way,” Justice said. “Hal Steinbrenner is in charge now and they have a long-term view that these kids are going to be a foundation for 10 years.”
The Yankees, of course, may also be clearing room for Bryce Harper, who is reportedly seeking a deal in excess of $400 million. Harper, 24, is a free agent after 2018.
“I think Scott Boras takes all of his clients to free agency,” Justice said. “The only reason he didn’t take Stephen Strasburg to free agency is Strasburg said, ‘I’m happy in Washington. I want to stay here.’ Scott believes that the market should set the value of a player. Also, if you’re Bryce Harper, Steph Curry’s salary, a small portion of it comes from the Golden State Warriors. A small portion of LeBron James’ income comes from the Cleveland Cavaliers. So where is Bryce Harper’s earning power greatest? In pinstripes or in Washington? We know what the answer to that is. Now, (two years), it’s a lifetime. A couple of years is a lifetime. He could be happy there. He could be a great player. He could regress. We don’t know. But I think the idea that he could be signed – it would have to be something so outrageous that even those of us accustomed to being shocked would go, ‘Wait a minute. That one doesn’t compute.’”
Especially since Harper had a down year. He hit .243 with a .373 OBP, 24 homers and 86 RBIs in 147 games in 2016; by comparison, he hit .330 with a .460 OBP, 42 homers and 99 RBIs in 153 games in 2015.
“Knowing him and knowing what kind of player he is, if we had had this conversation a year ago, I’d say he’s probably underrated (and that) he’s one of the great players you’ve ever seen,” Justice said. “Just the way he played last year, there had to be something physically wrong with him. That’s not who he is. But his career arc is still bring written. We don’t know quite what he is yet. But in terms of the things you can measure, I don’t know if there’s ever been a player you’d be more happy to have on your team.”
Except for maybe Mike Trout.
“Mike Trout is the best player on the planet – by miles,” Justice said. “The thing about Bryce Harper is we’re talking about potential; Mike Trout’s done it, and he does it every day of the week. Any way you draw up what you want – intangibles, tangibles, all that – that’s Mike Trout. He’s the gold standard.”