Red Sox ace Chris Sale helped recruit an undrafted free agent pitcher.
Many of us wouldn’t bother to answer the phone if we saw it was from a number we don’t recognize, assuming it was a scam or an unwanted sales pitch. Jordan DiValerio was warned ahead of time that he should pick up even if he was uncertain where the call was coming from because it might be Boston Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale on the other end.
DiValerio could hardly believe it when Ray Fagnant, a Northeast area scout for the Red Sox, texted him to say that he should expect a call from Sale. The right-handed pitcher from St. Joseph’s University already had the Red Sox at the top of his list when he became a free agent after going unselected in this year’s shortened draft. Apparently the feeling was mutual since the club sent in their ace to close the deal.
According to MassLIve’s Chris Cotillo, DiValerio was already leaning toward singing with the Red Sox despite interest from a handful of other teams but a phone call from Sale helped put his mind at ease about the decision.
DiValerio was understandably nervous about speaking with one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last decade but he was relieved to find that Sale was a “normal dude” who was very easy to talk to. Sale wasn’t pressuring him with a full-on recruiting pitch, he simply wanted to pass along some advice and explain why he’s enjoyed being a part of the Red Sox organization.
"“He said it’s one of the best, if not the best organization in baseball,” DiValerio said, per MassLive. “He said once you get in, the family environment is really just incredible. He’s so happy to be a part of it. He told me I’m going to be happy to be in it as well.”"
The Red Sox have been one of the most active teams in the undrafted free-agent market. That’s no surprise considering their thin farm system. Boston was also stripped of their second-round pick as punishment for stealing signs in 2018, limiting them to only four picks in the five-round draft. The undrafted market gives them an opportunity to make up for that loss by signing players who would have been drafted in a typical year for a mere $20K bonus.
DiValerio was among the first of these undrafted free agents they pursued. The right-hander led his team with five wins, 73 1/3 innings, 67 strikeouts and he held opposing hitters to a .241 batting average last season. He was 10-10 with a 3.97 ERA over parts of four seasons with St. Joseph’s.
With bonuses capped at a meager amount for undrafted free-agents, putting every team essentially on the same level from a financial standpoint, they need to find a way to differentiate themselves from the competition.
The Red Sox have several advantages in their favor. The storied history of the franchise and the allure of Fenway Park could sway the decisions of some young players. They have a winning culture and an ownership group that has proven they are wiling to spend when they have a chance to contend. Boston’s thin farm system allows thriving prospects to quickly climb the minor league ladder.
If none of that is enough to convince a player to sign, the Red Sox have one more ace up their sleeve with Sale. Every team is vying for undrafted players but not all of them have a superstar willing to take the time to reach out with some words of wisdom. That extra attention can leave an impression on a young player preparing to begin their professional career.
DiValerio was surprised to hear from Sale but the gesture showed him how much the Red Sox wanted to make him a part of their organization. If the right-hander pans out as a key contributor to the rotation at some point in the future, the Red Sox can thank their current ace for helping to make it happen.