MLB Hot Stove Lowdown: Braves acquire Chris Sale from Red Sox

We got some action on the Hot Stove to end the year. The Braves added to their rotation, acquiring seven-time All-Star Chris Sale from the Red Sox. Boston added some young infield depth in the trade and took a chance on free-agent Lucas Giolito. In Cincinnati, the Reds brought in a potential bounce-back candidate in Frankie Montas. Let's take a look at what it all means.

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Braves trade Vaughn Grissom for Chris Sale

One of the best teams in baseball added some high-upside depth to their starting rotation on Saturday. Atlanta acquired left-hander Chris Sale from the Red Sox for infielder Vaughn Grissom. Boston also sent cash, covering $17 million of Sale's $27.5 million left on the final year of his contract. For $10.5 million, it's an excellent gamble on the former seven-time All-Star, considering the money going out to free-agent pitchers this winter. While Sale was expected to be the ace of the Red Sox pitching staff, he joins a Braves rotation that already features Spencer Strider, Max Fried, and Charlie Morton. The 34-year-old southpaw has had trouble staying healthy over the last several seasons, pitching a cumulative 151 innings since 2019. He logged 102 2/3 innings last season while missing roughly ten weeks with left shoulder inflammation, recording a 4.30 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and a 125/29 K/BB ratio. Sale can still miss bats at an elite rate for a starting pitcher. His 29.4 percent strikeout rate last season ranked tenth among all starters with at least 100 innings. He ended the season on a strong note, posting a 2.88 ERA with 29 strikeouts over 25 innings across his last five starts. Early Steamer projections have Sale slated for a 3.74 ERA with 163 strikeouts across 141 frames. His NFBC draft cost of 182 in December is sure to rise with the anticipation of more wins in Atlanta, but it could pay off if Sale can avoid extended missed time in 2024.

For the Red Sox, it's an opportunity to start fresh as they add a 22-year-old second baseman in Grissom for Sale's expiring contract. Grissom has struggled to find playing time on a loaded Braves team. His defensive deficiencies have prevented him from taking over at shortstop. And the team has Ozzie Albies locked in a second base. If still with the Braves, he was expected to compete for outfield reps with Jarred Kelenic, possibly ending up in a platoon. Red Sox manager Craig Breslow said Saturday that the team views Grissom as a potential everyday player. With Trevor Story set at shortstop, Grissom should get a chance to be the team's primary second baseman, an area of need for Boston. He's flashed some upside with his bat, posting a .291/.353/.440 slash line with five homers and five steals across 156 plate appearances in 2022, then hit .280 across 23 games with the Braves last season. The ability to make contact and hit for average has been his best skill, but there's double-digit power and speed here with everyday playing time. Grissom had an average draft position of 389 in December NFBC drafts. I'd expect that number to climb into the early 300s, if not higher.

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Red Sox Sign Lucas Giolito

Perhaps in anticipation of the Sale trade, the Red Sox signed free agent Lucas Giolito on Friday to a two-year, $38.5 million contract with an opt-out after the first year. It's a decent price with little risk for a potential bounce-back. The 29-year-old right-hander has struggled on the mound over the last two seasons after an outstanding run from 2019 to 2021. Problems with walks and home runs have led to disappointing results. After recording a 4.90 ERA in 2022, he followed that with a 4.88 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, and a 204/73 K/BB ratio across 184 1/3 innings. If there is anything the Red Sox can count on from Giolito, it'll be volume and strikeouts. He's made at least 30 starts over the last three years. And if he can return to form, Boston has a potential ace or trade chip. He's been drafted at an average ADP of 222 in December NFBC drafts, which feels like a pick for volume if managers have missed out on early pitching. But it's a high-upside pick nonetheless, with comparatively low risk relative to the cost.

Reds add Frankie Montas

The Reds added a starting pitcher on Saturday, signing Frankie Montas to a one-year, $16 million contract. The 30-year-old right-hander made one appearance with the Yankees to end the season after missing most of the year recovering from shoulder surgery. He logged 144 1/3 innings with the A's and Yankees in 2022, posting a 4.05 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and a 142/43 K/BB ratio. His best season came with Oakland in 2021, recording a 3.37 ERA, 1.18. WHIP, and a 207/57 K/BB ratio across 187 frames. Montas appeared to be a budding ace, posting low walk rates while inducing ground balls and swinging strikes behind a sinker-slider-splitter pitch mix. While Cincinnati gives him a polar opposite in park factors from what he had in Oakland, Montas could give them a solid middle-of-the-rotation arm if he can find his 2021 form. On a one-year deal, it's a low-risk gamble. He's a decent dart throw late in deeper mixed leagues as the 370th player off the board in early NFBC drafts.