Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale will not be opting out of the final two years and $55 million of the five-year, $145 million contract extension he signed in March 2019, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier on Tuesday.
Sale, who turns 34 in March, has been limited to just 11 starts and 48 1/3 innings pitched over the last three seasons due to a plethora of injuries. The veteran southpaw missed the entirety of the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his 31st birthday.
The procedure kept Sale sidelined for the next 17 months. He returned to the Sox’ rotation last August and posted a 3.16 ERA with 52 strikeouts to 12 walks across nine starts (42 2/3 innings of work) before pitching in both the American League Division and Championship Series’.
Boston was anticipating on having a fully-healthy Sale coming into the 2022 season. But the lefty sustained a right rib stress fracture while throwing a bullpen session at his alma mater (Florida Gulf Coast University) during the MLB lockout in February. His recovery from that was slowed down in May due to a non-baseball related medical condition.
After making four rehab starts, Sale again re-joined the Red Sox in early July. He tossed five scoreless innings in his season debut against the Rays on July 12, but then broke his left pinkie finger in the first inning of his start against the Yankees five days later. The fracture came as a result of a 106.7 mph line drive off the bat of Aaron Hicks at Yankee Stadium.
Though Sale was forced to undergo surgery to repair his broken finger, the Red Sox were optimistic that he would be to pitch again in 2022. That outlook changed in August, when it was revealed that Sale fractured his right wrist in a bicycling accident and would be out for the remainder of the year.
Despite this recent string of freak injuries, the Red Sox expect Sale to be ready to contribute once spring training begins in February. The 33-year-old hurler is slated to earn $27.5 million in each of the next two seasons now that he has opted in. His deal also includes a vesting option for 2025 if he finishes in the top 10 in American League Cy Young voting and is not on the injured list at the end of the 2024 campaign.
Originally acquired from the White Sox for four prospects (including Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech) in December 2016, Sale made a strong first impression in Boston by finishing second in AL Cy Young voting and ninth in AL MVP voting in 2017. The following October, Sale put the finishing touches on a dominant season by recording the final three outs of the World Series against the Dodgers.
Entering 2019, Sale was in the final year of the five-year, $32.5 million extension he had signed with the White Sox in March 2013. The Red Sox, under former president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, rewarded Sale by signing the seven-time All-Star to a more lucrative five-year extension.
Sale made 25 starts for Boston in 2019 and produced a career-worst 4.40 ERA in 147 1/3 innings before being shut down with left elbow inflammation in mid-August. The following spring, Sale tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow and ultimately underwent Tommy John surgery.
Since putting pen to paper a little more than three years ago, Sale has received $90 million from the Red Sox. Although the extension did not officially kick in until 2020, Sale has made just 36 starts and pitched to 4.09 ERA over 195 2/3 innings dating back to the start of the 2019 season.
While Sale’s outlook may be cloudy at the moment, the Red Sox remain optimistic that he can play a pivotal role in the club’s success come Opening Day.
(Picture of Chris Sale: Elsa/Getty Images)