What can Chris Sale Boston bring to the trade market? Image: Getty Images
Boston ace Chris Sale is expected to be 34 in 2023. He has a career 3.03 ERA and is the all-time leader in strikeouts per nine innings and strikeout-to-walk ratio. From 2013 to 2018, Sale never finished worse than fifth in the AL Cy Young vote. Also, he’s only pitched 48.1 innings since the start of 2020 — he’s the victim of several nasty injuries that have kept him off the field for most of the past three seasons. Tommy John’s surgery cost him all of 2020 and most of 2021. Sale started 2022 in the IL with a rib stress fracture and after returning for a brief stint, Sale missed the rest of the season with a broken pinky finger from a comebacker and later a broken wrist from a bike accident.
In Sales’ limited time on the mound over the past three years, he’s shown signs of returning to form, at 5-2 and a 3.17 ERA, but it’s been very limited exposure, plus other underlying ones Statistics such as his 3.54 FIP, 1.303 WHIP, and a reduced strike rate have also been a cause for concern. Still, Sale’s potential can’t be underestimated, and as the Red Sox appear to be heading into a rebuild, they’ve allowed stars like Xander Bogaerts, JD Martinez and Nathan Eovaldi to walk away on a free hand. Although the Red Sox have recouped some of those losses with the additions of Kenley Jansen, former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida, it’s clear the team isn’t aiming to compete in 2022 the same way they did it has for the past few years, and with that, the trading bloc is perhaps the best way to move Boston forward. Boston’s chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said so after the Bogaerts team lost to the Padres, telling The Athletic, “I actually think the trade market could be a really good way to give our club more impact.” first name on the chopping block could very well be Sale.
Heyman reminds us that Sale has a full no-trade clause. So if the Red Sox want to send Sale away, it would have to go to a team that approves of Sale, which in all likelihood would be a contender.
But would a rival team be willing to risk prospects for an aging pitcher unable to stay healthy? Probably a lot. Given the injuries Sale has been sustaining lately, it’s easy to assume he won’t suffer from similar ailments in the future. A comebacker who broke his little finger? That’s a coincidence. A bike accident? Next time he’ll probably wear a wrist guard. It reminds me of when people thought of Keenan Allen as an injury-prone receiver after he tore a kidney in 2015. Yes, he tore his ACL the following year, but the unfortunate timing of his suffering those injuries back-to-back convinced several NFL fans that Allen wasn’t a long-term asset. Well, he only missed three games over the course of the next five seasons.
Sale could very well be in a similar boat. Sure, he’s a decade older than Allen, but with the best age for pitchers steadily rising, Sale probably has a few good years left. For a team in win-now mode, Sale – who has two years left on his contract – could be a risky proposition with plenty of upside potential and if it doesn’t work out he’ll be gone in two seasons.
That makes the San Diego Padres the first team that makes a lot of sense. With the Dodgers losing several key plays this offseason, there’s never been a hotter iron worth hitting on in NL West. They have expressed a desire to go all-in for a World Series with newcomers Xander Bogaerts and Juan Soto and have expressed a desire to improve their starting rotation. Though they were reportedly more interested in swapping or signing young guns for long-term deals, Sale is a potential short-term fix for a rotation that currently only features one leftist – Blake Snell.
The Cardinals and Astros are two other teams that could opt for Sale. With the loss of Verlander, the Astros will definitely be looking for a prime arm to bolster their title defense. Meanwhile, the Cardinals, who have a wealth of trading chips that a rebuild team like the Red Sox would be interested in, and who just signed their next franchise backstop in Willson Contreras, may be interested in creating their next great battery duo .
A high-end southpaw is hard to find these days, and Sale has the potential to instantly transform any team’s rotation into one of the best in the league. However, since its no-trade clause complicates matters, trading partners are likely limited to big-market competitors. Certainly a team will be poised to beat Sale and I’d bet that barring another unfortunate injury, that team will be pleasantly surprised.