When a team trades arguably the best pitcher in baseball who is on an extremely team-friendly deal, the return is expected to be a plethora of future all-stars that can be the center of your organizational rebuild.
That hasn’t happened yet. Yoan Moncada still has believers, but his first full season with the Sox was underwhelming and he’s shown nothing in spring training to suggest that he’s going to start swinging more and striking out less. Michael Kopech arrived with much anticipation and a lot of gorgeous blonde hair, but his first few starts were stifled by literal rain clouds, which is perhaps a perfect representation of how this trade will look two or three years from now.
The guy the Sox traded away, Chris Sale, has done nothing but dominate after he changed his Sox from White to Red. Since one of the biggest trades in White Sox history, Sale trails only Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer in ERA and leads the league in ERA+. He has an absurd strikeout percentage, 37.1%, which is also good for best in the league. Most importantly, he has celebrated a World Series victory and a new contract within the last six months. Meanwhile, the White Sox are still waiting for their superstars.
Kopech is now on the shelf until 2020 and Moncada will be playing a new position while trying to figure out how to make more contact. Both still have the potential to become superstars, especially Kopech who was pitching well before going under the knife. Luis Alexander Basabe, another part of the haul that came over from the Red Sox, has performed above expectations and is part of the Sox 40-man roster heading into the 2019 season.
However, even if Kopech and Basabe turn out to be key pieces of the White Sox roster for the foreseeable future, the success or failure of this trade still hinders on Moncada. It’s easy to assume the White Sox made the right move at the time because they received a player who was considered to be the top prospect in baseball, but when comparing his career production thus far to other hitters who have a spent a similar amount of time in the Bigs and were also considered top prospects in 2016, a story of disappointment starts to emerge:
For the White Sox to get the appropriate value from trading a player like Chris Sale who had an extremely team-friendly deal at the time of the swap, Moncada’s name needs to be near the top of this list among Benintendi, Torres, Bellinger and Judge. Instead, it’s very possible that Moncada ends up being the third-best hitter out of the top positional prospects Boston had in 2016, as both Benintendi and Rafeal Devers have a higher career OPS than Moncada to this point.
2019 is an important year for many Sox players, but no player will be under as much scrutiny as Yoan Moncada. With a full season under his belt, more pop in the lineup and the “hot young prospect” distraction now falling on the shoulders of Eloy Jimenez, this should truly be a breakout season for the prized possession that came from a Red Sox farm system loaded with talent. If it’s not, White Sox fans will have to wonder if they received enough talent for arguably the best pitcher in the MLB while watching him pitch in Boston for the next five years.