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Chicago Cubs: Chris Sale trade has surprising impact on the Cubs

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Jul 11, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (49) delivers a pitch during the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 11, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (49) delivers a pitch during the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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Chris Sale will stay in the American League after the Chicago White Sox dealt him to the Boston Red Sox. However, this trade still has positive repercussions for the Chicago Cubs and the entire NL.

If you haven’t heard already, the Chicago White Sox traded ace starter Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox today. Sale, who will be just 28 in March, has arguably been the best AL starting pitcher since 2012.

Since becoming a starting pitcher in 2012, Sale has been flat out dominant. His ERA has been sub 3.50 every season, all while throwing at least 174.0 innings. He has struck out 200+ batters every year but 2012, falling just short that season with 192. In 2015, he set a White Sox franchise record with 274 strikeouts in one season.

Before getting traded to the Red Sox, Sale’s name popped up in multiple rumors involving other ball clubs. Notably, the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers and the Washington Nationals were rumored to have an interest in Sale.

One can always play the “what if” game regarding possible trades. Regardless, it’s still interesting to think about the impact trading Sale to the NL would’ve had. The Braves are probably a couple of years away from contention; this is not true for the Dodgers and Nationals.

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The Dodgers and Nationals have several things in common entering 2017. First, both teams won their respective divisions in 2016. Second, both teams have quite formidable starting rotations. Third, both teams came up short in the 2016 MLB Playoffs, as the Chicago Cubs obviously won the World Series.

Because this is all true, a Sale trade to the NL had to have scared Cubs’ fans. Starting with the Dodgers, Sale would have joined Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles. Had he been there, baseball’s best two lefty starters would’ve been in the same rotation.

What if?

During the Cubs/Dodgers postseason series, it was evident that the Cubs’ rotation was superior to the Dodgers, especially in Games 4-6. Now imagine if the Dodgers added a guy like Sale to their team. It seems safe to say that the Dodgers would be far scarier in any playoff series behind the likes of Kershaw, Sale, and even fellow lefty Rich Hill.

By acquiring Sale, the Nationals’ rotation would have instantly become one of baseball’s most formidable, if not the most formidable. The Nationals currently have 2016 Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer and All-Star Stephen Strasburg.

With Sale in the fold, the Nationals would essentially have three aces in their rotation. Minus the Mets and even quite possibly the Cubs, what other NL teams can say the same thing? The Nationals also have Gio González, a former 20-game winner whose 2016 season was one of his career’s worst.

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Whether traded to the Dodgers or Nationals, one team would’ve made the Cubs’ quest to repeat in 2017 much harder. This is no slouch to either of these teams, as both still will be in title contention next season. Rather, this is just a testament to how great of a pitcher Chris Sale truly is.

The Cubs, Dodgers, Nationals and others all will be in contention to win the NL pennant come 2017. All in all though, these teams must be breathing a sigh of relief today. With Chris Sale still pitching in the AL, the path to the World Series will not be obstructed by the dominance that is Sale and his left arm.

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