On Thursday, the Chicago White Sox and Chris Sale agreed to a contract extension that could potentially keep the lefty on the south side through the 2019 season. At the very least, Sale will be a member of the White Sox for the next five seasons after agreeing to a 5-year, $32.5 million extension through the 2017 season. In addition, the deal includes two separate team options for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Sale, who will be 24 years old when the season starts, will see an increase of yearly salary every year of the new deal. Starting this season, Sale will earn $850,000, $3.5 million in 2014, $6 million in 2015, $9.15 million in 2016, and $12 million in 2017. If the White Sox were to exercise their club options in 2018 and 2019, Sale would make a hefty $12.5 and $13.5 million respectively. In all, the new deal could escalate to be a 7-year, $60 million extension if both options are picked up and if Sale wins a Cy Young Award.
In the end, this is a very smart deal for both parties involved. For the White Sox, they are avoiding three years of arbitration and Sale’s first year of free-agency. With the way arbitration works, if Sale continues to perform how he did in 2012, then the very worst the White Sox will be paying is market value for the next three years. The real potential bargain for the Sox will come in 2016 and beyond when Sale would become a free-agent. In 2016, Sale will be 27 years old and in the prime of his career. Based on the market for starting pitching and the fact that Sale is one of the league’s best left-handers, he could demand anywhere from $15 -$20 million a year in a 5-7 year deal.
While this deal appears to heavily favor the White Sox, there are inherent risks when signing any young pitcher to a long-term contract. The only question surrounding Sale since he was drafted out of college was durability. Many scouts were split on whether or not they thought that Sale could handle the rigors of pitching 200-plus innings every year. Sale’s lanky body type, violent delivery, and “inverted W” arm-action have led many people to believe that his elbow will not hold up. Personally, I still have my doubts about Sale’s ability to stay healthy and cringe every time that he tries to bury slider to hitters. Furthermore, the White Sox seemed to already have concerns when they shifted Sale to the closers’ role early in the 2012 season due to “elbow tenderness”. However, that only lasted about a week until he was reinserted into the starting rotation. Throughout the rest of the season, the White Sox monitored Sale’s performances and gave the lefty extra days off when necessary. With the Sox offering Sale a new contract, it appears that they are at least willing to take the risk. Given Sale’s superior talent and dominant potential, the new contract is very team friendly. The White Sox have not committed a reckless amount of money, and they should be able to absorb any money owed to Sale if he were to succumb to any severe injury.
On the other hand, this is also a great deal for Chris Sale. Although he will not be making a ton of money up front, Sale is guaranteed to make at least $32.5 million dollars and will still be able to test free-agency at the age of 30. While Sale will have already reached his potential, he should still be able to sign a very lucrative multi-year deal while he approaches the last few years of his prime. In addition, for someone that makes their living by depending on their physical health, it is always important to make as much money as you can while your body still allows you to pitch. As a young pitcher there is no way to predict your future health, and Sale would have been foolish not to accept the extension. Sale gets to spend the next 5-7 years with the organization that drafted him in the first round, and now has a chance to prove many of his doubters wrong. Hopefully for the White Sox and Chris Sale, this contract extension will prove to be a success.
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