Sale on yielding ace role: 'We play for a trophy, not a tag'
BOSTON — Chris Sale said he isn't worried that he might not be the ace of the Boston pitching staff after being added to a Red Sox rotation that already includes David Price and reigning AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello.
"We play for a trophy, not a tag," Sale said on a conference call Wednesday, a day after the AL East champions acquired him from the Chicago White Sox for a package of four minor leaguers that includes No. 1 prospect Yoan Moncada. "It takes some pressure off of everybody. Just go out there and pitch, because you don't feel like you have this huge weight on your shoulders to win this game."
A five-time All-Star who finished in the top six of the Cy Young voting the last five years, Sale was traded to Boston on Tuesday at the winter meetings for four prospects — including Moncada, who was Baseball America's minor leaguer of the year this season. Sale was the premier pitcher on the market following a season of spats with White Sox management over clubhouse issues.
Among them: A bizarre incident in which Sale was suspended for five days after taking a scissors to the day's throwback uniforms because he said they were uncomfortable. (He also had to pay for the shredded jerseys.) During spring training, Sale also complained about new limits on Adam LaRoche's son hanging around the clubhouse, a management decision that prompted LaRoche to retire.
"It didn't work out. I really wish it did," Sale said on Wednesday. "I appreciate my time with the White Sox and I'm looking forward to the next chapter."
The next chapter brings him to Boston, where he will join Price, the 2012 Cy Young winner, and Porcello in a lefty-heavy rotation that also could include All-Star Steven Wright, Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz and Clay Buchholz. Asked before the official start of winter who his opening day starter will be, manager John Farrell said, "We'll have plenty of time to figure that out."
"There's a surplus right now," he said on Tuesday. "But when you think about the high end of it, this is an exciting group."
Sale was 17-10 with a 3.34 ERA and 233 strikeouts this season, one year after his 274 strikeouts led the majors. He is scheduled to make $12 million next year, with club options that could keep him in Boston for two more years at $12.5 million and $15 million.
The relatively affordable contact had contenders coveting him since last year's trading deadline, and the White Sox knew he was their best trading chip if they were going to rebuild the roster that finished fourth in the AL Central last year. While the crosstown Cubs won the World Series in 2016, the South Siders have not made the playoffs since 2008.
Trade talk also had Washington as a potential landing spot for Sale.
"It's kind of like being monkey in the middle," he said. "You're glad when you just get the ball."
Sale's affordable contract made him even more attractive to the Red Sox, who are trying to remain under the luxury tax threshold. It also made it easier for them to eat the $31.5 million signing bonus they are paying the 21-year-old Moncada — the largest ever for an amateur player; the amount was doubled as a penalty for exceeding their international signing cap.
But in a brief stint in the majors this season, Moncada batted .211 with one RBI in eight games.
"If I get an opportunity to play every day, I can improve," he told reporters on Wednesday. "And I can be a better player (with) that experience."
The other three prospects were all in Class A in 2016: Michael Kopech, 20, went 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA; Luis Basabe, also 20, hit .264 with 53 RBIs; Victor Diaz, a 22-year-old righty, went 2-5 with a 3.88 ERA in relief.
"These are the type of impact players that we need to continue to acquire and build up to get our system to the point where we are able to have that extended run of success," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said.
Kopech is a 6-foot-3 righty who has hit 105 mph with his fastball. With his height, power arm and long blonde hair, he has been compared to Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard.
"I don't want to be that to be my ceiling. No disrespect to him, but I want to set my own ceiling," Kopech said. "I don't like to make comparisons, but that's not a bad person to be compared to."
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