All Winter long Braves Country has been waiting for Alex Anthopoulos to make a move for a starter, and over the weekend, SportsTalkATL broke the news that Atlanta had acquired Chris Sale from the Red Sox.
Little birdie told me Sale is coming to Atlanta
— SportsTalkATL.com (@SportsTalkATL) December 30, 2023
Later, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that Boston would receive Vaughn Grissom in exchange for the lefty veteran. In addition, the Sox will be covering $17 million of Sale’s $27.5 million salary for the 2024 campaign, according to the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.
The long-time Red Sox starter had a tumultuous time in Boston. He was initially acquired in the blockbuster deal with the White Sox in 2016 and lived up to the billing over his first two seasons in Fenway, notching two top four finishes in the AL Cy Young race, playing a pivotal role in the 2018 World Series run.
Sale and the club agreed to a new deal that locked him up for five additional years for $145 million that covered the 2020-24 seasons with a $20 million club option in 2025.
Unfortunately for both sides, the extension didn’t quite work out. Sale struggled with injuries, eventually undergoing Tommy John surgery that cost him the entire 2020 season and most of 2021. Things didn’t get better, though. Sale only threw 48.1 innings in 2021-22 but did remain healthy enough to throw for 102.2 frames last season.
He’ll likely never return to that Cy Young-caliber pitcher we saw years ago, but at the very least, the Braves got an experienced veteran who might still have some left in the tank as he enters his age-35 season.
The Braves don’t need him to be that frontline starter. Atlanta needs him to be a third or even fourth option behind Max Fried, Spencer Strider, and Charlie Morton while Bryce Elder, A.J. Smith-Shawever, Hurston Waldre, Reynaldo Lopez, and Huascar Ynoa compete for that final spot in the rotation.
An important note in all of this is Sale’s salary, which will only cost the Braves $500K in 2024 because the extension with the Red Sox contained $10 million of deferred money per season. That kind of value cannot be found on the free agent market. The Braves could also very well pick up his $20 million club option in 2025. If Sale proves productive, he could effectively replace Charlie Morton next season at the same price tag, which is a below-market cost for today’s starting pitchers.
Now, what did the Braves give up? A promising young bat with six years of team control is what Boston received. Grissom will likely slot in at second base immediately and provide the Sox with an elite contact bat. Grissom hit .291/.353/.440 over 156 plate appearances in 2022 but had no obvious role with the major league club in Atlanta.
It’s difficult to give up a player like Vaughn Grissom, who is comprised of the right stuff to carve out a long career in this league. Unfortunately, with the acquisition of Jarred Kelenic and Grissom’s inability to play shortstop, there was no place for him with the Braves.
Atlanta gets a pitcher in Chris Sale who has more fire than just about any starter in the league, with plenty of postseason experience, and can potentially give the Braves two seasons’ worth of starts at a very palatable price.