Chris Sale and the Braves have agreed to a new deal that will pay him $38 million over the next two years. The Wasserman client will make $16MM in 2024, $22MM in 2025, and $18MM in 2026 when they choose to join the club. Sale already had a deal with the Red Sox because he signed an agreement, but this will replace that.
Dealing Vaughn Grissom to the Red Sox for Sale last week would have made the deal happen. The Sox also gave Sale an extra $17MM to cover the rest of his deal, which is a five-year, $145MM extension that he signed with the Red Sox in 2019. Sale was supposed to make $27.5 million in 2024 as part of that deal, but $10 million of that was put off until 15 years from now. The Sox were going to pay him $17 million, so Atlanta was only going to pay him $500 million.You could also join a $20 million club in 2025.
Sale will make $16 million a year under this new deal, which is pretty close to the amount of money he was supposed to make in 2024 without any delayed pay. Rather than having to wait to get that $10 million payment, he will now have $22 million set aside for the 2025 season. That gives him a little extra peace of mind in case he gets sick again this year. Sale threw less than 50 innings between 2020 and 2022, mostly because he had surgery on his Tommy John, but also because he was sick with other things. He threw 102 2/3 frames last year, but he couldn’t play for over two months because of a stress reaction in his shoulder blade. If Sale had any more health problems, the club might have been hesitant to pick up the 2025 option, but he has now set a big pay for next year.
Atlanta is showing faith in the player, who will soon be 35 years old. It would have been easy for them to hire Sale for 2024 and then quit if things didn’t go well. If he did well for his new team, they could have kept him. But they have now agreed to play for Sale for at least two years, and the club option has been pushed back to 2026. As was already said, Sale hasn’t been fully healthy for the past four years and had some problems before that. Because of shoulder and elbow problems, he only played 150 innings in 2018 and 2019, so the last time he was fully fit was in 2017.
Sale had a 2.90 ERA in the 2017 season and was one of the best pitchers in the league at the time. With a 4.30 at the end of the season, he wasn’t quite as good last year. On the other hand, the strikeout rate was 29.4% and the walk rate was 6.8%, both of which were very good.
Even though he had a pretty good comeback season, betting on a pitcher who has been hurt so much is definitely risky, especially since he will be 35 and 36 years old next year. But going forward, the club doesn’t know how many players will be rotated. Max Fried is about to begin his last year of club control, and Charlie Morton will also be a free agent in one year. It’s possible that Morton won’t be back in 2025. He has thought about retiring before, and he will be 40 years old this season.
Prior to this deal, Sale might have left too, based on how the club option turned out. Since he’s signed until 2025, it’s planned to play next year with Spencer Strider in the mix. Still, the club will need to add more players to the mix. However, Bryce Elder, AJ Smith-Shawver, and Hurston Waldrep are all local players who may have improved by then.
You should also think about the competitive balance tax. The current CBA says that when a player is traded, his CBT hit is recalculated to take into account the remaining terms of the deal. Before this deal, Sale was going to take a $27.5 million CBT hit, and the Sox were going to pay $17 million of that. But that amount will now go down to $19MM, leaving Atlanta with only $2MM this year and $19MM next year. Roster Resource says that the club’s CBT was $276 million as of today. That’s very close to the third tax level of $277 million, which is a big line to cross. If a club goes over the third barrier, their top pick in the next draft is moved back 10 spots, and their tax rate goes up. It will give the club a little more room to make more moves, either now or during the season, if Sale’s CBT hit goes down.
In the end, the deal is good for both sides. With a little more luxury tax room, Atlanta should have a better chance of getting players in 2025 and maybe even 2026. Sale, on the other hand, locks in some future earnings to protect against health problems that might come up again.