White Sox Looking to Lock Up Chris Sale

From the esteemed Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago:

White Sox pitcher Chris Sale confirmed Tuesday his representatives have had discussions with the club about a contract extension.


“We’ve been kind of back and forth but nothing too crazy right now,” Sale said Tuesday when asked about extension talks.

Think of the headline potential. “Sale Extended: Now Through 2018!” That is SEO gold right there.

Anyway, the White Sox are certainly not shy about signing their young pitchers to long-term contracts. Mark Buehrle signed a multi-year deal in lieu of free agency once upon a time, and more recently guys like Gavin Floyd and John Danks accepted many millions rather than explore the wonders of the open market as soon as possible. Signing the soon-to-be 24-year-old Sale long-term wouldn’t be the most surprising move given the franchise’s recent history.

As you surely know, Sale was magnificent in 2012, his first season as a big league starter. The southpaw pitched to a 3.05 ERA (3.27 FIP) in a career-high 192 innings, during which he struck out 192 batters and walked only 46 unintentionally. He also got a good amount of ground balls (44.9%) as well. Sale’s velocity did trend downward as the season progressed (unsurprisingly) but not in a scary way. It’s not like he started throwing in the mid-to-high-80s or something come September. At 6.2 RA9-Wins, it was the best season by a ChiSox hurler since Buehrle back in 2005 (6.3).

Unlike Danks last year, who was one season away from free agency, Sale is under Chicago’s control for a few more years. He’ll earn $600,000 this season, his final as a pre-arbitration-eligible player. The White Sox will then control him through 2016 as an arbitration-eligible player, albeit at much higher salaries (that will still be below market value). There is no urgency to get a deal done and the team’s motivation would be cost certainty through those arbitration years — Sale’s salary could jump in a hurry if he continues to rattle off Cy Young-caliber seasons — and possibly buying out some free agent years.

Contract extensions for pitchers with between two and three years of service time aren’t at all uncommon, but Sale is a unique case. He spent a year and change as a dominant full-time reliever before making the jump into the rotation last summer. That in and of itself isn’t all that unique, but becoming such a high-caliber starter this quickly is. Sale is a rare breed in that regard. With some help from the MLBTR Extension Tracker, here are some comparable pitchers who recently signed extensions after 2+ years in the show.

Sale Trevor Cahill Clay Buchholz Yovani Gallardo Jon Lester
Platform Year RA9-Wins 6.2 5.2 6.2 3.9 6.8
Platform Year WAR 4.9 2.3 3.8 2.7 5.1
Career RA9-Wins 9.5 7.1 8.4 7.4 9.4
Career WAR 7.1 2.9 6.8 5.5 6.9
Years ? 5 4 5 5
Dollars ? $30.5M $29.945M $30.1M $30M
Option Years? ? 2 2 1 1

Buchholz’s contract is the only one of those four that did not take effect immediately — he signed the deal in April 2011 but it didn’t kick in until 2012. Factoring in his 2011 salary, it’s basically a five-year contract worth $30.495 million. Right in line with the others in terms of dollars and years.

Those four pitchers give us a pretty strong group of comparables, though I have to note the Gallardo and Lester contracts are already three and four years old, respectively. The Collective Bargaining Agreement has changed since then and teams have lots more money to spend these days, so there is inflation to consider. Based on our comparable pitchers though, $30 million or so spread across the next half-decade is a pretty damn good reference point for Sale’s contract talks with the White Sox.

A five-year contract that takes effect immediately would buy out Sale’s final pre-arbitration year, all three years of arbitration-eligibility, and one free agent year. That would take him through his age 28 season, meaning the southpaw would still be in line for a huge free agent contract if he maintains this kind of performance (or even slips a little) and stays reasonably healthy. His representatives at Jet Sports Management probably love the the idea of getting $30-something million right now while still having a shot at a big free agent contract before their client’s 30th birthday.

As with any multi-year pact, the club has to be completely honest with itself as far as its long-term assessment of the player. I may think Sale’s funky and somewhat violent delivery makes him an injury waiting to happen and you may think he’s ready to be a 200-inning workhorse, but it doesn’t matter what we think. It matters what the team thinks. The fact that the White Sox have already started some preliminary talks with Sale about a new deal indicates they believe he can be a starter for at least the next several years, at least on some level. If they decide to pass on more serious negotiations, it might be a sign they are wary about his long-term outlook.

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Mike writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues and baseball in general at CBS Sports.

18 Responses to “White Sox Looking to Lock Up Chris Sale”

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  1. MikeS says:

    It makes sense. Many people feel he is an injury risk – including maybe the White Sox who briefly moved him to the bullpen last year. They get to pay a really good pitcher like a below average free agent reliever and Sale gets $30M even if he blows out his elbow this June. That amount won’t cripple the team, even if he does not produce and it will make the player rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

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  2. Sean says:

    Report on RW that Sale and White Sox have agreed to an extension.

    ” Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago reports that the White Sox and Chris Sale have agreed to a contract extension.
    Sale is guaranteed $35 million over the first three years while the contract includes a pair of club options which could bring the total to $60 million”

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    • Sean says:


      “Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago reports that the White Sox and Chris Sale have agreed to a contract extension.
      Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com reports that he’ll get $32.5 million guaranteed over the next five seasons. The deal also includes a pair of club options for 2018 and 2019 which could bring the max value of the deal to $60 million. The extension buys out all three of his arbitration seasons and potentially his first three years of free agency, so it has a chance to be an excellent bargain if he health cooperates.”

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  3. Buford says:

    2018–12.5M (team option/1M buyout)
    2019–13.5M (team option/1M buyout)

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  4. Paul says:

    Why are mechanics that are violent or funky more likely to injury? What evidence is there? From what I’ve seen, there has been a small amount of studies and the only mostly agreeable notion is higher degrees of scap loading increases elbow stress. While I don’t have any slow motion high definition video of Sale at an acceptable angle, he may not have higher scap loading at the time of front foot landing. Additionally, he has stayed pretty healthy the past three years, although I am not aware of whether Sale was healthy during his freshman and sophomore years in college. Overall, I don’t think mechanics can be diagnosed by the naked eye.

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    • thomas says:

      Well scouts are trained to look closely at deliveries. Scouts can diagnose delivery by looking at deliveries. Just like they can predict future power by looking at a swing.

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      • Paul says:

        I respectfully disagree. Many scouts and evaluators claim to know a lot about predicting injuries, but they don’t have evidence to back it up other than the delivery looks “bad.” The few studies I’ve seen run by ASMI only see scap loading as the only conclusive aggrivator of elbow vulgus stress.

        Personally, I think people can present their views but should note their views are only conjecture. Legitimate injury analysis of mechanics needs professionals trained in biokinetics and hi-tech machinery.

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        • Antonio bananas says:

          I thought scapular loading was only bad if it was combined with an elbow higher than the shoulder. Or if the arm arc took took long (often seen with red flags like the “M”). Maddux pretty clearly loaded, but his elbow was lower and he didn’t have any huge swooping motions to cause his arm to drag.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I think scouts look at deliveries and think “smooth”, “deceptive”, “herky jerky”, “repeatable”, etc.

        I think exercise physiologists and those that look into the kinetics of motion look for risk of injury.

        I doubt many scouts can describe the intricate parts of mechanics.

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    • ozzie says:

      “I may think Sale’s funky and somewhat violent delivery makes him an injury waiting to happen”

      Sloppy comment indeed…

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    • TKDC says:

      He clearly says this is his opinion. People are allowed to have opinions. You don’t have to back up an opinion with a peer-reviewed study.

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      • Mike Axisa says:

        It’s not even my opinion. I was just pointing out that I could think one thing, you could think another, and neither matters because the team will do what they feel is best.

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        • Paul says:

          I wasn’t trying to criticize your comments personally, but I can see how that came off as such. I agree that people can have opinions on the subject and you didn’t even state what your opinion is. I was only trying to state that people who state their opinions as facts on injury potentiality of deliveries mostly don’t have the expertise to scientifically answer it. The article was well written; I was just trying to add a general statement that I didn’t mean to sound abrasive.

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        • Mike Axisa says:

          I know, I was just saying in general.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      From what I’ve seen, there has been a small amount of studies and the only mostly agreeable notion is higher degrees of scap loading increases elbow stress.

      More importantly it’s the position/degree of the forearm during scap loading, specifically at the point of foot strike.

      If the forearm is vertical (perpindicular to ground) while scap loading occurs (shoulder blades pinched together for those unfamiliar with the term), the risk is low … meaning there’s limited amount the joint rotates after this.

      If the forearm is parallel to the ground (elbow point to 1B for RHP, elbow pointing to 3B for LHP) then there is a higher risk associated due to more stress and more rotation (in less time) for the joint. This motion is referred to as “cocking the gun” and while it does have some correlation to higher stress, perhaps leading to injury it is also correlated to higher velocity. So, there’s risk and reward.

      IMO, mechanically speaking the aspects that cause stress and lead to injuries are those that lead to poor timing throughout the chain that cause one joint to overcompensate for the others.

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