In a shocking turn of events, Chris Sale has officially informed the Boston Red Sox that he will opt into the remainder of his contract.
This news is about as shocking as David Ortiz hitting a home run in the postseason or the Yankees losing big after getting cocky. It was all but guaranteed that Sale would opt in. There’s absolutely no chance any other team would’ve come close to matching the money he’ll get from the Sox in the next two years, a whopping $55M.
Chris Sale opts into final two years of Red Sox contract
Many fans are still rooting for the once-formidable pitcher and the organization keeps calling him ‘a huge part’ of next season, but this will go down as one of the worst contracts in franchise history.
To be clear, that’s mostly not Sale’s fault. He had a year remaining on his deal when the Sox gave him the extension and had missed significant time during the 2018 season; had they waited to see him pitch in 2019, there probably wouldn’t be an extension at all.
Originally, it was the trade of the century when the Sox acquired Sale from the Chicago White Sox ahead of the 2017 season. And over parts of five years in Boston, he has a 3.09 ERA across 95 starts spanning 568 innings. During his first season with the Sox, he led MLB with 308 strikeouts, his first 300-K season, and officially became the fastest pitcher (by innings) in MLB history to reach 1,500 career strikeouts.
But since going on the Injured List in August 2019, Sale has pitched exactly 48 1/3 big-league innings. The Sox exhausted every option before Sale finally got Tommy John surgery in April 2020 that he probably needed months before. He pitched fairly well when he returned in August 2021, almost exactly two years to the day of his last Red Sox start, but then suffered a stress fracture to his ribcage before the 2022 season.
Sale finally made his season debut in July and pitched well against the Rays, but in his following start, a scorching line drive from Aaron Hicks broke the pinkie finger on his pitching hand. After having surgery to repair the break, he began throwing in August, and the Sox were hopeful he could return before the end of the season. Instead, he broke his right wrist, supposedly riding a bike in Chestnut Hill, a suburban area right outside Boston that’s notorious for terrible potholes.
Tommy John is a fairly common need for pitchers nowadays, and freak accidents in games are beyond player control. But Sale has drawn criticism for things within his control, including remaining unvaccinated despite getting COVID-19 multiple times and throwing a tantrum in the WooSox tunnel after a rehab start, a moment caught on camera that went viral on social media.
Sale’s salary adds $25.6M to the Sox luxury tax allocations for 2023, the highest salary by that metric on the roster. Currently, only Trevor Story and Xander Bogaerts, who could very well opt out after the World Series, have contracts with an AAV over $20M.
The Sox desperately want Sale to be able to contribute going forward. Hopefully, he’s healthy enough to finally get going again.