Usually when someone mentions Boston Red Sox starter Chris Sale, it’s accompanied by one of three well-known facts:
He’s among the best pitchers in baseball
He’s signed to one of the most coveted, and club-friendly, contracts in the sport for a player of his magnitude
At least one of those things will no longer be true after this summer. As Sale prepares to enter the 2019 season, he’s slated to earn $15 million from the Red Sox. It’s the final leg of five-year, $32.5 million deal he signed with the Chicago White Sox before being traded to Boston in 2016.
That contract is partly why Sale cost the Red Sox Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech and Luis Basabe in their deal with Chicago. Sale’s career WAR of 43.1, 2.89 ERA, 1.029 WHIP and a 10.9 K/9 ratio is the other part.
To say Sale has been underpaid for his services is almost putting it too nicely. Now that he’s getting ready to make his first foray into free agency, he’ll finally be able to bargain for what he’s worth.
Sale willing to sign extension with Red Sox
Speaking to media at Red Sox Winter Weekend on Saturday , Sale said he’d be willing to discuss a long-term extension that keeps him with Boston before his contract season begins.
“My phone’s on,” Sale said, per MassLive.com. “Yeah. If they called, I’d answer.”
The lefty will turn 30 this season and has shown his dependability. Though he dealt with shoulder inflammation in the latter half of last year, Sale says he hasn’t felt any pain while working out over the offseason and doesn’t seem concerned it will bother him moving forward. His mindset appears to be the same as always.
“I’ve never really paid attention to stats or numbers, or dollars and cents,” Sale continued. “I look at the left and right columns and try to get more in the left than the right. My goals and my mindset, my everything doesn’t change. I just keep playing baseball.”
What does Sale’s market look like?
While it’s unsurprising that Sale would want to talk about an extension in Boston — after all, it’s not like the Red Sox wouldn’t be inquiring about opening up their wallet for a free agent ace, anyways — it’s certainly more noteworthy given how players have fared on the open market recently.
Before the last two offseasons, conventional wisdom would’ve held that on his current trajectory, Sale was heading for one of the larger free agent deals handed out to a starting pitcher.
Consider that Jon Lester signed a six-year, $155 million deal with the Cubs at age 31 in 2014. That same offseason, Max Scherzer signed a seven-year, $210 million deal with the Nationals at age 30. A year later, 31-year-old Zack Greinke was handed a six-year, $206.5 million. Sale will be younger than all of them when his current contract expires.
Yet those types of deals might not exist anymore in baseball’s current climate. The largest contract handed out to a starting pitcher this offseason (so far) went to Patrick Corbin for six years and $140 million. Corbin is just 29 years old.
Could that type of financial decline lead Sale to more seriously consider re-upping in Boston now?
Hometown discounts are certainly one thing, but this is Sale’s opportunity to try and get every cent he’s worth. And even if the Red Sox do start talking about a new contract now, it’s tough to tell would that would look like. Before Lester agreed to join the Cubs, Boston now infamously low-balled him with a four-year, $70 million extension. Teams across Major League Baseball were all too eager to offer deals topping that. It’s unclear how a similar situation could play out with the value of free agents as depressed as ever.
Even more troubling is the precedent it could set if star players begin looking for ways to avoid free agency altogether.
It’s too early to go down that rabbit hole, but the notion of it all makes Sale’s impending contract situation one to keep a close eye on.
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