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Yard Sale

Chris Sale has been traded to the Atlanta Braves. Here’s a look back at his time with the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox acquired SP Chris Sale in a trade with the Chicago White Sox in 2016. His time in Boston has ended as the result of a trade sending him to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for 2B Vaughn Grissom. The 2016 Sox swap sent four Red Sox prospects to Chicago to attain Sale. Sale’s value in 2023 was one prospect, along with the Sox agreeing to pay $17 million of his $27.5 million salary for the 2024 season. Sale’s value has dropped because his time in Boston featured the good, the bad, and the injuries as well. He will always be remembered in Boston for his role in the historic 2018 season with a franchise record 108 regular season wins, an AL East title, and the World Series as well.

The Good

In his first two seasons in Boston, Sale was everything that the team could hope for. The games Sale started were must-watch television. He was an All-Star in 2017 and 2018, finishing 2nd and 4th in Cy Young voting. In 2017 Sale became the first Sox pitcher not named SP Pedro Martinez to record over 300 strikeouts in a season.  Speaking of Pedro, Sale also tied him for the most consecutive starts (8) with at least ten strikeouts. 2018 was another strong season, briefly interrupted by a visit to the Injury List (IL), which would become Sale’s home away from home in later years.

The postseason had more mixed results for Sale, but the good included a win against the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS.  A win against the Yankees is always a sweet one, and even more so in the postseason. Sale had a no decision in the ALCS against the Houston Astros and then started the first game of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The main thing Sale will be remembered for is ending the Series in Game 5 with three strikeouts. The last one was against 3B Manny Machado, who was disliked by many in Boston for his time with the Baltimore Orioles.

2019 did feature a few moments of greatness from Sale. He threw two immaculate innings and struck out a career best 17 in a game against the Colorado Rockies. An immaculate inning is no small feat since it is when a pitcher strikes out three batters in the inning, on three pitches apiece. A rare bright spot in the later Sale years was him throwing his 3rd immaculate inning against the Minnesota Twins in August 2021. These glimmers of the young Sale became few and far between.

The Bad

This article is shaping up to be like something in chronological order. That was not the purpose, but rather a reflection of how Sale’s time in Boston went. Like most movie series, Sale started strong, then fell off in the later editions. 2019 was a good year for Sale’s bank account but less so for his career. The Sox and Sale agreed to an extension that would kick in for the 2020 season, but neither side ended up getting much out of it.  2019 was the first season that Sale did not make the All-Star Game since 2011. 2011 was also Sale’s second season in the league.

The Sox as a team underperformed in 2019, so it was not only Sale’s fault that they missed the playoffs the year after one of the most dominant seasons in Red Sox history. Sale missed the entire shortened 2020 season and the majority of the 2021 season because of something to be elaborated on later. When Sale did return from injuries, he never consistently matched the dominance of his All-Star run. His first healthy start of 2023 featured giving up 7 runs to the Orioles. This began a season of 102.2 innings and a 4.30 ERA, a far cry from his glory days.

The Injuries

Some of the injuries that Sale sustained are common for starting pitchers. Being a pitcher that is 6’6″ and 183 pounds only made these injuries more likely to occur. Tommy John surgery in March 2020 was the costliest one in terms of time missed. There were red flags of an issue in 2019 when Sale ended the season on the IL with elbow inflammation.

Some of the injuries to Sale, though, were flat out odd. Potentially, they were a sign of the Curse of the Betts at work against the Sox. The first occurred in July 2022 when a line drive from OF Aaron Hicks broke his finger. That was unlucky enough, but more was in store for him. Sale broke his wrist after crashing on his bicycle in August, which ended his season. The Braves better hope there are safer bike paths in Atlanta for Sale. Maybe a set of training wheels could help or wrapping him in bubble wrap except when he is pitching.

Sale had a good run in Boston and reflected the Dave Dombrowski years well. He was a valuable part of a win-now juggernaut team in 2018, but then was extended with the joy of 2018 fresh in everyone’s heads. I wish him the best in Atlanta, and hope he gets the chance to start again in Fenway on June 4 or 5 when the Braves come to Boston.

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