Grading the Braves trade and extension for Chris Sale

MLB: MAY 08 Red Sox at Orioles

The Braves will have a new face in the middle of the rotation come Opening Day, as seven-time All-Star Chris Sale joins Max Fried, Spencer Strider, and Charlie Morton.

The return was notably steep for a pitcher who’s only made 31 starts since the beginning of 2021, totaling 151 innings of work. However, Sale was able to make 20 starts last year, flashing a lot of the traits that made him one of the best pitchers in baseball from 2012-2018.

Vaughn Grissom was the player the Braves sent to the Red Sox. The 23-year-old made his major-league debut in 2022 as a 21-year-old and immediately experienced success. But like with a lot of young players that were prematurely rushed to the majors, that success faded out towards the end of the season.

In 2023, a lot of people expected Vaughn Grissom to win the starting job over Orlando Arcia as the team’s shortstop. Despite looking more than adequate at the plate, Arcia was named the starter. We later saw why when Grissom was forced to fill in for Arcia due to injury. Grissom isn’t capable of playing shortstop at the major-league level, at least not right now, putting the Braves in a precarious position.

With no obvious place to slot him into their everyday lineup, Grissom spent most of last season raking in AAA. He hit .330 with 48 extra-base hits over just 102 games for the Stripers. That’s remarkable for a player his age. The Red Sox, who plan to slot Grissom immediately into their everyday lineup at second base, got a fantastic young player, but the devil is in the details.

Boston is sending the Braves $17 million in the deal, and the Braves chose to extend Chris Sale days after the trade. The Red Sox will be covering the entirety of his salary this season, and the Braves will owe him $22 million next year, and they added an option for 2026 worth $18 million. Essentially, the Braves get Chris Sale for $10.5 million AAV over the next two seasons with an $18 million option in the third year.

From a money standpoint, it’s a helluva bargain for a pitcher that still has a ton left in the tank when healthy. Of course, that’s why the Braves had to include Vaughn Grissom, but he had become somewhat expendable in the grand scheme of things.

Sale finished last season on a high note. Over his last 14 starts, he posted a 3.31 ERA and struck out 90 batters in just 73.1 innings. He wasn’t going deep into ball games like he had in the past, but he was still striking out nearly 30% of the batters he faced and walking next to nobody. The Braves don’t need him to be a workhouse at the front of the rotation. They have a few of those; they just need him to be the best version of himself come the postseason.

The final aspect of this deal that must be discussed is what Sale brings to the clubhouse. At times over the last two seasons, it has seemed like the Braves have been missing some characters with brash personalities that just don’t give a damn. Enter Chris Sale, who has one of the more fiery personalities in the game. His experience on the bump will also be instrumental to the numerous younger arms that will be making starts in Atlanta this season.

Grade: A

Photo: Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire


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