NOTE: There is no way anyone can tell what would actually happen, so these educated guesses are based on rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com
On December 6, 2016, the Red Sox acquired starting pitcher Chris Sale for four prospects. These prospects were infielder Yoan Moncada, starting pitcher Michael Kopech, outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe, and relief pitcher Victor Diaz. In this alternate universe, this groundbreaking trade never happened.
Where Does Chris Sale Go?
It was inevitable that White Sox GM Rick Hahn was going to trade Chris Sale, but who would be Chicago’s trade partner? Well, according to Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post, the Nationals had the next highest bid, so Chris Sale would be a Washington National. The package going to Chicago would’ve consisted of outfielder prospect Victor Robles, as well as starting pitcher prospects Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. This also means that the Nationals have to alter the package going to Chicago for outfielder Adam Eaton. So instead of Lucas Giolito, the Nats trade starting pitcher prospect Dylan Cease.
What Happens to the Red Sox’s 2017 Season?
The Red Sox no longer have Chris Sale, so in the offseason they do not trade starting pitcher Clay Buchholz to the Phillies. They need the pitching depth, and the Sox think they can get 2015 Clay Buchholz rather than the 2016 version. Also, since the Red Sox don’t completely trust the starting pitching depth they have, they sign Doug Fister in the offseason instead of in the middle of the season.
Clay Buchholz still tears a flexor tendon in his right arm in early April, so the Doug Fister signing makes even more sense. Also, David Price starts the season on the DL. So this means the Red Sox rotation after the Buchholz injury is Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz, Steven Wright, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Doug Fister. Injuries also hinder Steven Wright in early April, so Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez both get many spot starts to fill the voids.
Yoan Moncada starts the season as the everyday third baseman with Pablo Sandoval on the bench, occasionally DHing.
The Red Sox, headlined by an injury-prone starting rotation and a stagnant offense, still find themselves in the AL East race. They believe one trade can get them over the top. They decide to go after a starting pitcher, because there are a lot of quality starters on the trade market. Since the trade value is the lowest and they have the cap space, the Red Sox trade for starter Justin Verlander. The Tigers receive left-hander Jay Groome, outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe, and catcher Roldani Baldwin in the deal. The Red Sox agree to pay the rest of Verlander’s contract.
Since Justin Verlander is a Red Sock now, the Astros don’t pull off a trade. They were too late for the Yu Darvish and Jose Quintana deals, so they settle with what they have.
The Sox send down Yoan Moncada to AAA because of offensive struggles, so they still bring up Rafael Devers. Also, Boston still releases Pablo Sandoval.
The Red Sox make the playoffs as the first wild card team instead of winning the division. They defeat the Twins in the Wild Card game with Justin Verlander on the mound in Fenway Park. The success stops there, though. The Red Sox lose to the Indians in four games in the ALDS.
The Indians lose to the Yankees in the ALCS, who beat the Verlander-less Astros in six games in the ALDS. The Yankees face the powerhouse Washington Nationals in the World Series. Led by a rotation of Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, and Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals sweep the Yankees in the World Series.
The Red Sox feel that they need to do something to boost the offense, so they make a huge trade. The rumors say that the Red Sox had interest in trading for Manny Machado, so that’s just what they do. The Orioles receive shortstop Xander Bogaerts, prospect Yoan Moncada, and starting pitcher prospect Michael Kopech. Yes, the Orioles were hesitant towards trading Machado, but that is an offer that no one can refuse. Then, the Orioles probably trade Zach Britton. I will say he goes to the Astros,
The Red Sox have to pay the remainder of Justin Verlander’s deal. They also feel that they have to opportunity to extend Manny Machado’s expiring contract. Because of this, the Red Sox do not sign J.D. Martinez. Instead, Martinez signs a one-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
There is no telling what happens afterwards. Even so, it is interesting to think of what could happen if the Red Sox didn’t trade for Chris Sale.