Chris Sale is one of the best pitchers in baseball. Will he demand to be paid like one?
That's a question of importance for the Boston Red Sox, who risk losing Sale to unrestricted free agency after this season if they don't sign him to a contract extension.
The good news for Boston? Sale seems open to sticking around.
"I think we’re both mutually invested in this,” Sale told The Boston Globe's Alex Speier on Tuesday about a potential contract extension. “We’ve both said on both sides that it’s a possibility, for sure."
Sale has been on team-friendly deals throughout his career; he signed a five-year, $32.5 million contract with the Chicago White Sox back in 2015 that paid him $12.5 million last season, an absolute bargain by elite pitchers' standards.
(For reference, 28 starting pitchers -- including guys like Danny Duffy and Alex Cobb -- earned more in 2018 than Sale, who had the third-lowest ERA in baseball.)
This offseason essentially is Sale's last chance to earn a massive payday, however (he'll turn 30 later this month) and the Red Sox may not be able to give it to him. Rick Porcello, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez highlight a lengthy list of pending free agents in 2020, meaning Boston has some tough decisions to make if Sale is intent on maximizing his earnings.
The veteran pitcher admitted he's weighing his options as his seventh MLB season draws near.
"We have a couple different scenarios,” Sale said of his contract talks with the Red Sox. “If it works, awesome. If not, I’m still doing the same things. I’ve got a job to do, and that’s all I’m focused on. If it happens, great. If not, great.
"Obviously, this go-round is a little different than the last one with the contract situation. The wheels could fall off tomorrow and I can just take it to the house. There’s no worst-case scenario for me, knock on wood."
Sale's durability is another factor to consider: He threw just 158 innings in 2018, his lowest total since he became a starter in 2012, and will be carefully monitored in 2019. With one World Series ring on his mantle and the chance for another this season, Sale could prioritize winning and a stable situation over the lure of a bigger payday.
Not that he's thinking too much about the decision.
"Just because I’m in a different area of my life doesn’t mean I have to change my values or my focus," Sale added. "What I’ve done my entire career has been just baseball — play baseball. That’s it."
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