Red Sox manager John Farrell (L) speaks with the media as Red Sox president of baseball operation Dave Dombrowski (R) listens after the Red Sox acquired Chris Sale on Tuesday. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)
The Red Sox have wanted Chris Sale since Dave Dombrowski took control of the baseball operations in 2015. But only in the last week did the White Sox finally decide they were ready to deal.
On Friday, after baseball and its players agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement, Dombrowski’s phone rang. White Sox counterpart Rick Hahn wanted to know, as Dombrowski recalled, “if we were going to be in.”
“He was going to move him, he felt, at this point,” Dombrowski told reporters at the winter meetings in Maryland. “After the CBA they were committed to making some moves in the organization, did we have interest. I said, ‘Well, of course we have interest in Chris Sale, anybody in baseball would have interest in Chris Sale.’ It would be a matter of what you were looking to acquire and we talked a little bit.”
Without mentioning specifics, Dombrowski said the White Sox moved off their demands for players on the big league roster who had been the focus of prior talks. Many have long believed All-Star center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. to be one such target.
The sides agreed to one player in the deal on Friday night and another on Saturday. By the wee hours of Monday night into Tuesday morning, they had the framework of a deal complete that would end up being a blockbuster: Sale to the Red Sox for top prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, as well as highly regarded minor leaguers Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz.
“It’s a very difficult deal to make, but I’ve also been in a spot where you have to give something to get something,” Dombrowski said. “The ability to get a Chris Sale doesn’t come along that often. This is one of the best pitchers in baseball, proven. We’re trying to win. There will come a day when Moncada is putting in his 15-year career that we will be saying, ‘The Red Sox, geez, I can’t believe we traded that guy.’ So yes, it does complicate it.”
Because Sale is signed through this year with options for 2018 ($12.5 million) and 2019 ($13.5 million), the Red Sox liked the certainty of acquiring an ace in his prime at an affordable rate.
They’ll enter the season as American League favorites, and they’ll take their chances from there.
“Nothing is guaranteed in life,” Dombrowski said. “It doesn’t mean that you’re going to win by any means, but I think you keep taking a chance and going for it as much as you possibly can and hopefully it works for you some day. Every one of these moves made us better. Because of the strength of the system that people built and because of the young players that we still have, I think we’re still strong for many, many years.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell saluted Dombrowski’s ability to seal the deal.
“This is Dave’s second year as our GM, president. When he targets a guy, he gets him,” Farrell said. “I think there’s a lot to be said for his boldness, his aggressiveness, and even if it’s not — he’s not really worried about what the perception is. He’s most concerned with acquiring players that are going to allow us to win the most right now.”