Going into 2019, Chris Sale had not proved he was healthy or could sustain his electric stuff for a whole season. Sale had a history of fading in August and September, and broke in the postseasons of 2017 and 2018. He had a good 7 or 8 months with the Red Sox, and ultimately helped them deliver a world championship. However, Sale still had a lot of problems.
So what does Dombrowski do? Offer him $145 million over 5 years. He had a history of fading towards the end of the season and just came off a season where he missed two of the final three months. Sale would be nuts if he didn’t take it!
The Red Sox now have $30 million every season locked up in a pitcher who you hold your breath every time he pitches. Now, while Sale was not good in 2019, by far his worst season, there were some bright spots.
Sale’s ERA was 4.40. For a pitcher who had a career ERA under 3.00, looking back on 2019 has to sting for Sale. However, his 3.39 FIP indicates he was very unlucky. Despite how unlucky Sale was in 2019, it does not excuse him for not performing. He has a lot to live up to in 2020 and he has some obstacles in his way.
In mid-August, all of Red Sox Nation waited in anticipation, fearing that Sale would miss 2020 after Tommy John surgery. Luckily, Sale avoided surgery, but now has shown he has a weakened shoulder that could limit him throughout 2020.
Also, Sale’s fastball velocity was so inconsistent on a nightly basis in 2019 that every start you pray it is above 93. Per Fangraphs, Sale’s fastball average fastball velocity per start was as low as 89 MPH and then 97 on other nights.
Sale will have to figure out how to pitch with diminished velocity or learn how to get his velocity back. Sale showed the ability to do both. In a start against Oakland, his fastball sat around 89 MPH and he managed to throw 6 innings of 1-run ball. Two starts later, Sale got his fastball velocity to 96 MPH.
Overall, this contract extension hasn’t been horrible for the Red Sox (it technically doesn’t even kick in until next year) and Sale can still make the contract a huge success if he can lead the Sox to the postseason. But right now, it looks like a bad contract the Red Sox have given out.
The best that Bloom can do for Sale in 2020 is to not rush him and to utilize the opener. No team would even consider taking Sale off the Red Sox hands so all Bloom can do now is pray that Sale gets healthy and back to pre-2019 form.