The Chicago White Sox continued to build upon their team philosophy of pitching first, announcing on Thursday that second-year starter Chris Sale agreed on a five-year, $32.5 million contract extension, which also included club options for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Under terms of the contract, the 23-year-old left-hander will receive $850,000 in 2013, $3.5 million in 2014, $6.0 million in 2015, $9.15 million in 2016 and $12 million in 2017. The team holds options for 2018 at $12.5 million and for 2019 at $13.5 million. If either option is declined, Sale will receive a $1 million buyout.
The Sox have a history of staying away from long-term deals with starting pitchers, but with Rick Hahn now the new general manager, there has been a focus on pitching, especially young arms in the organization.
"Certainly a pitcher regardless of their mechanics there is a risk involved," Hahn said. "There is concern for potential breakdown, but we are confident in Chris' durability and are very optimistic about his future. What this came down to was bearing one of two risks: The risk of going year to year, which would lead to potential downside of him walking out the door in four years or the risk of a multi-year deal, which leads to the downside risk of potential injury and us being out a few bucks along the way. But what we feel is the more important reward of keeping him here long-term."
With good reason, considering Sale went 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA (65 earned runs in 192 innings pitched), and fanned 192, after spending his first year and a half in the big leagues as a reliever. His 192 strikeouts were the most by a Sox left-hander since Floyd Bannister fanned 198 in 1985, and his 17 victories were the most by a Sox lefty since Mark Buehrle won 19 in 2002. His reward for last season was being named an All-Star.
Sale didn't want the contract extension to be a distraction or take away from his focus, which was another characteristic that the team felt deserved reward.
"My main focus is what we've got going on here," Sale said. "I've got one goal and that's playing baseball and doing everything I can to prepare myself for the season. That's what I do day in and day out and all that other stuff will figure itself out."
Since last season ended in disappointment, the Sox have spent most of their money on pitching. They signed Jake Peavy to a contract extension, keeping him from walking as a free agent, picked up the team option on Gavin Floyd, and now put a deal together for Sale that will keep him the face of the pitching staff for years to come.
"If you have a guy who is talented at what he does and the biggest component is that you just know by the person he is, he's going to come in and work hard and he wants it," team captain Paul Konerko said, "those two things exist (in Sale's case), and it's only a good deal for the team. There's always a risk of injury. That goes at any level."