Chris Sale getting Manny Machado to swing out of his heels and fall on one knee for the ultimate out of the 2018 World Sequence needed to be on Alex Anthopoulos’ thoughts when he traded for the seven-time All-Star starter.
That Chris Sale, the one which helped the Red Sox win their most up-to-date championship, the one which prompts waves of nausea for opposing batters, is the beginning pitcher the Braves want for October.
Atlanta’s blockbuster commerce for Sale on Saturday, which despatched former prime prospect Vaughn Grissom to Boston, is all concerning the postseason. Positive, the Braves are hopeful Sale can, on the very least, repeat his modest regular-season manufacturing from final yr. However their primary goal is to make the most of Sale’s strikeout-heavy prowess within the playoffs, when their very own starters have principally fizzled out the previous two years.
So, after the Dodgers stole this offseason by inking Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto to megadeals, the Braves responded by not-so-quietly buying the pitcher with the very best Okay/9 price (11.1) in Main League Baseball historical past. With Ohtani restricted to hitting in 2024, Atlanta simply took the crown for the very best rotation in baseball. As soon as once more, the remainder of the league needs to be nervous.
Sale joins a stacked Braves workers that options Max Fried, Spencer Strider and Charlie Morton. Add in free-agent addition Reynaldo López and 2023 All-Star Bryce Elder, and Atlanta may comfortably trot out a six-man rotation. Looming within the background are right-hander Ian Anderson, who’s on the mend from Tommy John surgical procedure, and No. 1 membership prospect AJ Smith-Shawver, who confirmed promise in 5 begins this previous yr.
All collectively, that is an enviable quantity of starting-pitching expertise that neatly enhances the Braves’ prime offense in baseball. Including not less than another starter this winter was all the time their largest space of want, and now their low-risk, doubtlessly high-reward acquisition of Sale underlines an already busy offseason with strikes designed to, in fact, not run out of arms.
Pitching depth, as we have seen, is important to going the gap within the postseason. Simply this yr, the World Sequence-winning Texas Rangers relied on their many free-agent signings and trades to bolster their rotation after Jacob deGrom, a significant FA pickup himself, went down with Tommy John in April. By late October, each Rangers playoff recreation had been began by a pitcher who wasn’t on the workforce the earlier yr. First-year Rangers Nathan Eovaldi, Jordan Montgomery, Max Scherzer and Andrew Heaney did the heavy lifting because the franchise gained its first title.
The Braves, imagine it or not, wanted reinforcements after consecutive 100-win seasons. Their beginning pitching petered out in every of the previous two playoff runs, resulting in a pair of NLDS eliminations. These are severe letdowns for a membership that gained the World Sequence in 2021 and was the winningest workforce in baseball in 2023.
In back-to-back Octobers, Fried was both coping with an ailment or rusty after weeks of absence, whereas Strider appeared overmatched by the offensively-charged Phillies lineup. On this most up-to-date NLDS efficiency, the Braves misplaced Morton to damage however hoped their historic offense would make up for his or her lack of rotational power. As an alternative, their bats went chilly for a second straight postseason, and the following early exit was not simply underwhelming however unacceptable.
Sale may not be the lights-out lefty who averaged 198 innings per yr from 2012 to 2018 for the White Sox and Crimson Sox. Tommy John Surgical procedure in 2020 and numerous accidents diminished him to a mixed 3.93 ERA throughout simply 151 innings from 2021-23. Nonetheless, this previous yr was Sale’s greatest since 2019. He recorded a 4.30 ERA, 102.2 innings and 125 strikeouts, whereas surrendering 15 house runs and 29 walks throughout 20 begins. As he enters his age-35 season, count on the Braves to fastidiously handle his utilization to maximise his effectiveness and finally protect the seven-time All-Star for October. As a bonus, or maybe a precedence, he offers Atlanta one other lefty to throw on the Dodgers and their left-handed-heavy lineup.
The Crimson Sox, in the meantime, have been overdue in transferring on from their former ace. Since Boston traded for Sale earlier than the 2017 season, he was typically unhealthy and unreliable, and he actually wasn’t coming low-cost. As a part of Boston’s new chief baseball officer Craig Breslow’s first main transfer, the Crimson Sox are reportedly masking $17 million of Sale’s $27.5 million wage in 2024. Sale is about to enter free company after 2024, however he additionally has a sexy $20 million membership choice that may enable the Braves to maintain him in tow for an additional yr.
Boston, conversely, has six years of workforce management with Grissom. The soon-to-be 23-year-old was a star prospect at shortstop however has struggled there in his big-league cameos and figures to occupy second base for the Crimson Sox. On the plate, he slashed .291/.353/.440 with 5 house runs and 18 RBIs throughout 41 video games in a glowing 2022 rookie season. However after he struggled early in 2023 as Orlando Arcia was handing over an All-Star first half, he appeared in simply 19 video games earlier than being despatched again to Triple-A (the place, it is value noting, he raked). The Braves are, little question, sorry to see Grissom go, however there was no apparent place for him in Atlanta with Arcia, Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley blocking his path within the infield. Now in Boston, Grissom will obtain common enjoying time and may develop within the majors.
The surprising Sale-for-Grissom swap is a commerce that is sensible for each side. The Braves add a beginning pitcher to bolster an intimidating rotation that after once more places the membership within the dialog for prime World Sequence contenders. The important thing for Atlanta can be determining learn how to maintain Sale wholesome, however even then, they did not threat as a lot on him as, say, the Rangers did with deGrom’s five-year, $185 million contract. And the Crimson Sox, at some point after signing right-hander Lucas Giolito, internet their second baseman of the long run, all whereas liberating up payroll and eliminating a rotational headache.
The outlook for 2024 has considerably improved for the powerhouse Braves and the rebuilding Crimson Sox, as this win-win commerce heats up a lukewarm scorching range simply earlier than 2023 involves an in depth. It must also function a reminder to the superteam Dodgers: The Nationwide League, a lot much less the World Sequence, will nonetheless be determined subsequent fall, not this winter.
Deesha Thosar is an MLB author for FOX Sports activities. She beforehand coated the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Every day Information. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Lengthy Island and now lives in Queens. Comply with her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.
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