The Braves have been among the busier teams this offseason after they added Bartolo Colon and RA Dickey from the free agent market on short deals. These deals make sense given the Braves stated goal of not wanting to block any of their young pitching prospects while improving the rotation going into 2017.
While GM John Coppolella and the rest of the front office have shown little to no interest in trading for players with little team control left, especially if it would be at the expense of their impressive farm system depth. However, they have repeatedly left the door open to acquire a player that they like and who could contribute to the club beyond the next season or two.
As a result, the Braves have been connected to Tampa Bay pitcher Chris Archer this offseason and now it appears that they are connected to an even bigger name in White Sox ace Chris Sale.
sources: Braves r among teams showing strong interest in chris sale. they have the pieces to get it done, too. great farm!— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 15, 2016
Heyman isn’t saying that a deal is close for Sale, but that the Braves are actively engaging with the White Sox seems to indicate that the potential price tag for Sale (which at the trade deadline last season was extraordinarily high with the White Sox asking for multiple top 100 prospects at minimum in return) doesn’t appear to be scaring the team off.
The Braves do have the added benefit of not HAVING to make a deal given their previous signings. A rotation of Teheran/Folty/Colon/Dickey and one of Aaron Blair, Matt Wisler, or even someone like John Gant is likely to start the season. However, Sale would obviously be an appreciable upgrade over any of those spots and getting Sale who is among the best pitchers in the entire league would create a ton of buzz going into the new ballpark in 2017.
That said, the Braves despite not being in an awful negotiating position, will still have to pay a king’s ransom in order to acquire Sale. It very probable that multiple players in their top 6 prospects or so will have to be included to acquire him which would be extremely painful for a team who has spent the last couple offseasons rebuilding that very farm system.
One option for the Braves to mitigate some of the cost in prospects would be to take on the contract of James Shields (who fell off a cliff last season production-wise) who is owed a lot of money ($21 million a year over the next two years with a team option after that). Such a deal could impact the Braves ability to go after big free agents in subsequent years, but getting Sale back in the deal could be worth it.
Chris Sale sports a 3.00 ERA during his career while striking out over 10 batters per 9 innings pitched while finishing in the top 6 in Cy Young voting 4 times in the past 5 years for the White Sox. In 2016, he finished with career highs in complete games and innings pitched while putting up a 3.34 ERA, 3.46 FIP, and striking out 233 batters against 45 walks in 226.2 innings pitched.