It’s no secret that Chris Sale is one of the top pitchers in the league. The Sox ace has finished in the top five in Cy Young voting in each of the last six seasons. Which is why the Red Sox decided to sign him to a 5-year/$145 million extension that will kick in after the 2019 season.
While Sale has the highest strikeouts/9 innings and strikeouts per walk ratios of all-time, durability and sustainability have been a real issue for the All-Star lefty in recent years. There has been a noticeable falloff in his performance in September over the past two seasons.
In the 2017 playoffs, Sale got rocked by the Astros in the divisional series after pitching 214 innings, which was the most in the majors, and striking out 308 during the regular season, also a league leading mark.
When the Red Sox hired new manager, Alex Cora, he mad it clear that they would watch Sale’s inning count in order to ensure he would be whole come playoff time, but the seven time All-Star suffered from injury that sidelined him for most of the second half of the year.
Despite his injury, Sale went 13 straight appearances giving up 2 earned runs or less, including eight where he didn’t allow a single run. He also notched 11 games with 10 or more strikeouts, including a monster 15 strikeout performance.
I’ll be the first to tell you that I love having Chris Sale on the Red Sox and he is without a doubt the best pitcher they have, but a contract of this magnitude is a huge mistake in my opinion. The Sox already have $96 million committed to David Price from the 2020-2022 seasons, and now will have another $90 million going to Chris Sale in that time.
With Mookie Betts set to hit free agency at the end of the 2019 season, and J.D. Martinez having an opt-out at the end of the 2019 season, he will almost certainly be looking for a restructure of some sort after a monster first year and likely repeat of that this season.
With $62 million going to just David Price and Chris Sale in the 2020 season, and the recent developments of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, and Mike Trout all signing deals worth over $30 million a year, Mookie and J.D. both certainly have cases for that type of money going forward.
This puts the Red Sox in a very tough position to keep the centerpieces of their offense after this Sale deal.
I felt that either 3 years/$72 million or 4 years/$88 million would have been a better deal the team, while still giving Sale over a $10 million pay increase, but obviously the Red Sox brass didn’t feel the same way and locked Sale down for the next half decade.