Moncada, Kopech switch Sox in Sale trade
NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland -- The blockbuster deal of the Winter Meetings has arrived.
The White Sox on Tuesday acquired No. 1 overall prospect Yoan Moncada, No. 67 overall prospect Michael Kopech, outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe and right-hander Victor Diaz from the Red Sox for All-Star left-hander Chris Sale.
"There was a great level of excitement since we got here about the caliber of players that we were likely to receive back [for Sale]," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "We view Moncada as a premium position player, a guy who's going to play up the middle for us and make an impact both offensively and defensively for a long time. In Kopech, we project him out as a front-end-of-the-rotation starter. That kind of guy is pretty rare in terms of peers around Minor League Baseball. Basabe is another switch-hitting, up-the-middle talent. [He's a] plus defender, one of those fielders who can run. And with Diaz, he's got a plus-plus arm who has some secondary offerings to back it up.
"These are the types of impact players we need to continue to acquire and build to get our system to the point where we have that continued run of success."
Moncada famously cost the Red Sox $63 million -- $31.5 million for his signing bonus and $31.5 million for the international pool overage tax -- to sign out of Cuba before the 2015 season and has lived up to that billing. In 2016, his second full season in the Boston system, the 21-year-old switch-hitter batted .294/.407/.511 with 15 homers, six triples, 31 doubles and 45 stolen bases in 106 games between Class A Advanced Salem and Double-A Portland. He made his Major League debut on Sept. 2 but struggled with the big club, going 4-for-19 (.211) with 12 strikeouts and did not play after Sept. 12.
Moncada has played primarily at second base in the Minors but also saw time at third as the Red Sox hoped he could take over at the hot corner for an injured Pablo Sandoval and a struggling Travis Shaw. With his speed and athleticism, there's also a belief that the 6-foot-2 205-pounder could make the move to center field. Unlike the Red Sox, who have Dustin Pedroia and Jackie Bradley Jr., the White Sox lack players at those positions who could block Moncada's potential ascent, especially if they deal Adam Eaton as part of the signaled rebuild.
With plus grades for his hit, power, run and arm tools, the Cuba native has every chance to be a star on Chicago's South Side, starting as early as this summer.
"There's still some development left in Yoan, obviously. He's extremely young," Hahn said. "He's had some success at the higher levels, but he's not a finished product. In terms of his time arriving, he's a little bit away from forcing the issue, but at this point, we project him in all probability to start in the Minors. Second base, third base, we think he's capable of playing both, but at this point, we have him playing second base for us."
A 2014 first-round pick, Kopech is known primarily for his velocity, reportedly reaching 105 mph this summer, although he typically sits in the mid- to high-90s. His season hit a snag before it began as he broke his hand in an altercation with a teammate at Spring Training. He was dominant after returning and posted a 2.25 ERA and 1.04 WHIP with 82 strikeouts and 29 walks over 52 innings with Salem. Beyond the heater, Kopech has a slightly above-average slider but will need to improve his control as he climbs the ladder toward Chicago. He overtakes Carson Fulmer as the top pitching prospect in the White Sox system.
"We did a lot of due diligence in terms of makeup and background, and with Michael, there were a couple incidents that we looked into and got comfortable with what went into them," Hahn said, referencing the right-hander's 50-game suspension in 2015 and the Spring Training altercation. "He's an extreme competitor. You can see that just from the physicality of his mound presence. The stuff is obvious with the plus-plus fastball and his slider. We project him [to be] just as good as basically any Minor League starter out there right now."
Basabe is an athletic center fielder coming off his introduction to a full-season affiliate this summer. The 20-year-old switch-hitter produced a .258/.325/.447 line with 12 homers, eight triples, 24 doubles and 25 steals in 105 games at Class A Greenville in 2016 before a five-game cameo with Salem. Ranked eighth in the Red Sox system, he'll be 20 for most of the 2017 season and has the potential to show good power and speed as he matures.
The Red Sox traded Basabe's twin brother, Luis Alejandro Basabe, to the D-backs in July for reliever Brad Ziegler.
Like Kopech, Diaz's calling card is his fastball, which can hit triple digits as well, albeit in a relief role. The 22-year-old right-hander posted a 3.88 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 25 walks over 60 1/3 innings at Class A Greenville. He could become a valuable reliever, potentially quickly, but will need to improve his control and secondary offerings at higher levels.
With Moncada and Kopech gone, the Red Sox have three Top 100 prospects remaining in their system in outfielder Andrew Benintendi, third baseman Rafael Devers and left-hander Jason Groome.
Beyond the Minor League context, Sale is the headliner of the deal. The 27-year-old southpaw is a five-time All-Star and finished fifth in voting for this year's American League Cy Young Award after going 17-10 with a 3.34 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 233 strikeouts over 226 2/3 innings. As laid out in the Toolshed Winter Meetings preview, he has one year left on his contract with two option years beyond that. That would be $38 million for three years, assuming his 2018 and 2019 options are picked up. He joins a rotation that already boasts David Price and reigning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello.
"It's a situation where if you have a chance to win, you take every opportunity to do so," Red Sox president of baseball operations David Dombrowski told MLB.com. "Anytime you get there -- short of giving away your entire farm system -- I think you go for it. In baseball, four years down the road is an eternity. So you take advantage of your opportunity. Nothing's guaranteed in life. That being said, I think we're still strong for many, many years."
Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.