Contract extension season continues around Major League Baseball, as the Boston Red Sox have reportedly locked up their ace, Chris Sale, on a five-year extension beginning in the 2020 season.
Alex Speier of the Boston Globe was the first to report that the two sides were closing in on a deal.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and Jeff Passan of ESPN followed up and confirmed that the deal was in place.
The deal will not be considered official until Sale passes his physical and all the paperwork is then filed through the league offices, but the extension is agreed upon, in principle, by both sides. This means that Sale will earn the remaining $15 million from the existing contract that he signed with the Chicago White Sox several years ago in 2019. After the conclusion of this season his new contract with Boston will activate, running through the 2024 season.
Rosenthal later revealed the monetary details of Sale’s new deal with the Red Sox.
It is a large payout for a Red Sox team that still has to worry about paying their other superstars such as Mookie Betts following the 2020 season, plus Rick Porcello and Xander Bogaerts after the upcoming 2019 season. However, the Red Sox know what Sale is when he is fully healthy. He is the best left-handed starting pitcher in baseball and a true ace that gives them a formidable rotation anchor.
The Red Sox are still assuming quite a bit of risk as it pertains to Sale and his overall health, however. The 29-year-old lefty has missed time towards the end of the last two seasons with inflammation in his throwing shoulder. While the injury has not been significant enough to necessitate surgery of any kind, there is still reason to be concerned as Sale continues to tack on more innings and mileage to his arm.
That being said, one would have to believe that the Red Sox and their medical staff did their due diligence on Sale’s shoulder before offering him a long-term deal. The team may have to take the same approach it did in 2018 and limit Sale’s innings and appearances towards the end of the year to preserve his health going forward. It is hard to imagine that anyone would have a problem with that since that method allowed Sale to be healthy enough to record the final out in a World Series victory for the Red Sox in 2018.
Despite his limited workload, Sale still performed like a pure ace for the Red Sox in 2018, going 12-4 with a 2.11 ERA in 158 innings. Sale would also go on to record five wins throughout Boston’s postseason run towards its eventual World Series Championship, including striking out Manny Machado to record the final out of the series.
The Red Sox were determined to show their fan base that they learned from their previous mistakes when it came to letting good players walk away in free agency. The most notable case of this was when the team failed to re-sign left-hander Jon Lester several years ago after trading him midseason to the Oakland Athletics. The Red Sox did not offer Lester a fair deal which caused him to feel alienated and disrespected by the team and organization.
The organization made sure to avoid a nightmare scenario from unfolding yet again. They recognized Sale for just how great he is and what he is worth, and they paid him handsomely for it. It remains to be seen how Sale’s new contract will affect the future status of his teammates, most notably Betts, when it is their turn to get paid. It would appear that the Red Sox have a plan as it pertains to those pending free agents and the team’s payroll, and that plan starts with Sale in a Red Sox uniform for the foreseeable future.