A Bargain on Sale

Extensions have trumped free-agent signings this offseason, with big names like Clayton Kershaw, Nolan Arenado, Mike Trout, and Paul Goldschmidt getting locked in by their respective clubs for a long time. And after a fairly quiet offseason, the Red Sox have decided to get in on the fun. The club and ace pitcher Chris Sale have agreed on a five-year, $145-million extension through the 2024 season.

I’m always wary of lengthy contracts, but I’m not too worried about Chris Sale; he’s an absolute monster who will do anything to play baseball.

Of course, this deal is contingent on Sale passing a physical, an obvious stipulation for any player, but especially for the pitcher who missed a good chunk of the team’s championship season due to shoulder problems. Sale went on the Injured List (formerly the Disabled List) twice in 2018, and only made one start between July 27 and September 11 due to shoulder inflammation. That start was against the Orioles, basically a rehab assignment for the ace. Sale also had problems in 2017 due to not pacing himself for the lengthy season. So it makes sense that both sides be on the same page about his health and work together to keep him in the filthy form to which we’ve all come to expect from Sale.

This news will likely upset the rival Yankees, against whom Sale is particularly ferocious. In 17 regular season appearances against them, he’s started 14 games; he’s 6-4 with a 1.61 ERA. At Yankee Stadium, he’s 2-2 with a 1.86 ERA. His ERA against them is the lowest of any starting pitcher since the Live-Ball Era began 1920.

In a somewhat incomplete 2018 season, Sale was still 12-4 with an AL-best 0.86 WHIP. He struck out 237 batters (his third-most in his career) and walked just 34 (also his third-best in his career) over 158 innings of work. He finished second in the ERA race with a deliciously-low 2.11, the second-lowest he’s posted in his 9 seasons in the majors. Overall in his first two seasons in Boston, he’s 29-12 with a 2.56 ERA.

After missing roughly two months of the regular season last year, Sale, who somehow still is without a Cy Young Award, famously pitched the 9th inning of the final World Series game last fall, striking out Boston enemy Manny Machado so hard that the slugger fell to one knee. He also had also been a vocal motivator the night before, memorably scaring his teammates into remembering how to hit by screaming in the dugout.

Red Sox Nation is understandably thrilled at the news, as the Red Sox have a number of core players nearing free-agency in the next couple years, including fellow starter Rick Porcello, AL MVP Mookie Betts, and star shortstop Xander Bogaerts, both first basemen, Gold Glove Mitch Moreland and World Series MVP Steve Pearce, and beloved utility infielder Brock Holt. They won’t be able to keep everyone, and it’s going to hurt to say goodbye to at least a few guys in the coming year

But with Chris Sale under contract for the next five years, the Red Sox starting rotation will continue to be one of the most formidable in baseball. Sale is locked in through 2024; David Price chose not to opt out, so he and Nasty Nate Eovaldi, who signed a four-year deal after his spectacular postseason, will both remain with the team at least through 2022. And the youngest pitcher with a very bright future, Eduardo ‘ERod’ Rodriguez is here until 2021. Cy Young Rick Porcello is currently the only question mark in this star-studded rotation, and we’ll have to wait and see what Sale’s extension means for him.

Sale will be the Red Sox Opening Day starter next Thursday in Seattle. In five career Opening Day starts, he’s 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA.

Photo: NESN

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