This is annoying for me.
Chris Sale would be pretty fantastic in the bullpen. He can close (setting up that rotating closer scenario), he can go multiple innings, he's another plus left-hander to hide Will Ohman from any meaningful action, and he'd be a Mauer-killer on-call. It would be really friggin' great.
But it's not the best decision--even if it would extraordinarily hard for me to be upset about it--because it provides the most value to the team and is best for Sale if he starts.
Don Cooper wants a definitive role for Chris Sale.
He doesn't care which, but he's got a feeling that his 22 year-old
string-bean wonder machine isn't ready to become Tony Pena, and bounce
back and forth from the bullpen to the dugout. Hell, is anyone ready to be Tony Pena? Is Tony?
Sale uses a
stripped-down, high-velocity approach out of the pen, and would at the
very least need to develop his changeup to move to the rotation. On the flip side, if
he stayed at the back of the bullpen, while entrance music doesn't just
pick out itself, preparation would be more minimal. More expressly, it would be reasonable to ask Sale in the middle of a season of starting to revert back to reliever-mode, but asking him mid-season to change his approach for endurance and develop secondary pitches would be kind of a jerk move.
This straddling-the-fence status for Sale is clouding a pretty clear fact; Chris is a starter. He's capable of the increased work load, has the stuff to fool hitters again and again, and would provide more value for the team that way. Starters log more innings, get more outs, and wrack up more WAR as a result. With Peavy on the shelf for the first month, there's a rotation spot open, and Sale is the most talented candidate, so he should fill it...he'll help the team the most that way.
The conflict that arises is when Peavy returns at full strength. Because if his recovery is delayed, if he's not at full strength or if he shows that he needs an extensive rehab assignment, then there's no controversy. There'd be a gaping hole in the rotation and Tony Pena, Lucas Harrell, and I donno, Arnie Munoz, are no substitute for Sale.
Should the somewhat possible scenario of the return of full-blown Jake Peavy arise, the Sox have 6 starters. It's too much, it's unwieldy, and it's a very, very good problem to have.
The Sox could then:
-Move Sale back to the pen. It would give Don Cooper an ulcer, and maybe alienate Sale, but ratcheting back down to his fastball/slider approach and upping his velocity would be something he's actually capable of doing, as opposed to vice versa. It's not optimal, but he could do it...and maybe he's scuffling as a starter and due for a demotion anyway.
-Trade! Kenny Williams is a person who loves pulling a deal with a passion most reserve for barbecue, or macaroni & cheese, or other things that are delicious but potentially awful for you. As such, this is the most exciting scenario. Jackson is the most movable starter because he's gone after 2011, but any member of the rotation could be used to fortify the farm system, fetch a bat, or even aid the bullpen that is less for not having Sale
-Keep him. As J.J. Stankevitz points out, getting all 5 starters through a season is very rare, and Lucas Harrell is very terrible, so keeping Sale in Triple-A, ready to spot start whenever needed is a pretty necessary role as well.
Having a super-elite bullpen as a fan is really cool. It relieves stress, makes the team seem more dominant because they can hold leads, and puts fun exclamation points on games, but doesn't compare in the value of a starter. In ideal scenarios, all you even need are starters. It's best for the White Sox for Sale to be one.....even though I really, really want a super-elite bullpen.