What should Red Sox do about high-priced Chris Sale problem?

Minnesota Twins v Boston Red Sox
Minnesota Twins v Boston Red Sox / Brian Fluharty/GettyImages

The Boston Red Sox have gone through a series of difficult chapters since their championship season in 2018. In the eyes of many trading, All-Star Mookie Betts and moving on from Xander Bogaerts have been viewed as blunders by the organization. However, the team was able to extend Rafael Devers, who they believe to be their franchise cornerstone, to an 11-year, $331 million contract in what felt like the first proper move in quite some time.

The team made a lengthy commitment to their $145 million pitcher, Chris Sale, when they extended him to a five-year deal and an average salary of $29 million in 2020. Just two years into his extension many have questioned when we will see the team's ace return to his prior high-quality form. The left-handed pitcher's set to be paid with the team through the 2025 season leaving him an unrestricted free agent in 2026.

With a vesting club option in 2025, Sale will be making $27.5 million in both 2023 and 2024, with an ERA of 4.48 in just 15 games of action since 2020. Sale hasn't been reliable for the team on or off the field in the past four years which leaves us to wonder if the team should ponder moving on from their ace.

A timeline of Chris Sale's injuries during he tenure with the Red Sox

Chris Sale otherwise known as "the Condor" has been capable of being a top-notch pitcher in Major League Baseball. The seven-time all-star has a career record of 115-77 with 2,094 strikeouts, and 12 saves, and is a two-time AL strikeout leader making a name for himself with one of the most prominent strikeout rates in MLB history. The 34-year-old hasn't had the same spark since the teams' championship season in 2018. Since then, Sale has battled through many injuries and mishaps which have kept him off the mound leaving him to only have pitched 16 games in the last four seasons.

The laundry list of injuries for Chris Sale has diminished his time on the rubber for the team since joining the Red Sox in 2017. In 2019 the team's ace posted a subpar ERA of 4.40 and a record of 6-11 in 25 appearances on the mound. Sale ended his 2019 campaign on the IL which would result in season-ending Tommy John surgery that would keep him out for their entire 2020 season.

Sale returned to the club in August of the 2021 season and showcased flashes of his dominant self where he notched an ERA of 3.16 and a record of 5-1 in just 42 innings pitched. The postseason was not as pleasing for the team's ace as he hurled an 8.00 ERA allowing 10 runs and 12 hits in just nine innings of play.

Last year's outing wasn't the most prestigious return for Sale in which he spent most of his time rehabbing a rib stress fracture on the 60-day IL. The lefty was finally able to make his highly anticipated return in July verse the divisional rival Tampa Bay Rays where he dealt for a majority of the game with five innings of scoreless pitching in his return. But the travesties continued when Sale was shortly placed back on the Injury List due to a diagnosed fractured left pinky due to a lined ball off his pinky finger in a game verse the New York Yankees. Things got even weirder when it was announced that Sale had undergone wrist surgery after suffering an injury while biking riding.

Fast forward to 2023, Sale has an ERA of 8.22 in five games and has allowed a gut-wrenching 30 hits,22 runs, and five home runs in just 23 innings pitched. Sale has manifested moments of his old self during the season when he faced off against the Minnesota Twins posting 11 strikeouts, allowing only three hits, two walks, and one run in six innings in a dominating display.

Last night's outing didn't go as planned, Sale was pulled after four innings pitched where he allowed five runs, nine hits, and had no strikeouts in a 5-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles. Sale's inconsistent play leaves the team and fans wondering what to expect from game to game when he steps on the mound leaving many to wonder how the team should handle him moving forward.

What is the right choice for the Red Sox moving forward?

As the season expands and the lefty grows older the Red Sox will have to choose whether they decide to deal Sale or keep him a Red Sox. With Chaim Bloom in the general manager role, the Sox have made financial constrictions to help secure the pockets of ownership so if a deal were to be made most of if not all of Sale's contract would have to be absorbed by the potential buyer.

The team should ponder a sharp-witted trade that sends the former all-star in a package for younger prospects and pieces for the team to build on. The biggest piece to the puzzle is searching for the right suitor that would be willing to take a flyer based on his previous accolades. If somehow the Red Sox were able to deal Sale it not only gives the team potential value but gives the Sox the ability to move on from the money-trap contract as well.

Moving on from Chris Sale is a move that is well past the power of my abilities but is a move that I believe could benefit the team in the future. Dealing the team's highest-paid pitcher relives the Sox of a multi-million dollar marriage giving the team potential future stock in return. Who knows perhaps this creative move gives the team more financial stock bringing the Sox one step closer to making a big-splash in free agency next season.

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