Braves rework Sale’s contract, agree to $38 million, 2-year deal with ’26 club option

ATLANTA (AP) — Chris Sale will admit he didn’t live up to his end of a big-money deal with the Boston Red Sox.

Now, with a reworked contract and feeling better than he has in years, the injury-plagued pitcher is hoping to earn his hefty paycheck from the Atlanta Braves.

The club announced Thursday that Sale agreed to a $38 million, two-year deal after being acquired last weekend from the Red Sox.

The contract, which also includes an $18 million club option for 2026, supersedes his previous deal that called for a $27.5 million salary this year, with $10 million of that deferred until 2039.

In essence, the seven-time All Star gets an additional $10.5 million in guaranteed money without having to wait for a deferred payment, in exchange for committing to at least two seasons with the Braves rather than one.

The 34-year-old Sale will make $16 million this season and $22 million in 2025.

“They put their faith and trust in me,” he said. “This allows me to be more comfortable knowing I’m going to be here a couple of years and can get settled in.”

As part of the trade that sent infield prospect Vaughn Grissom to Boston, the Red Sox agreed to send $17 million to the Braves in two equal installments this season — meaning the pitcher’s entire salary plus an extra $1 million is covered for 2024.

Still, Atlanta is taking on a major risk given Sale’s injury-filled career. He has made just 31 starts over the last four seasons in Boston, including 20 this past year when he went 6-5 with a 4.30 ERA in 102 2/3 innings.

“It was nothing short of a disaster the last few years there,” Sale conceded. “I’m not going to shy away from it.”

He feels completely healthy now, allowing him to go through a normal offseason. He’s been throwing bullpen sessions since November, and lives close enough to the Braves spring training facility in North Port, Florida, that he’ll be working out there a couple of times a week leading up to the start of spring training next month.

“All systems are go,” Sale said. “I’m very excited for that.”

The Braves were encouraged enough by his numbers over the final two months of last season to deal away one of their top prospects, believing Sale can be the final piece in a rotation that was short on depth last year.

Atlanta won an MLB-leading 104 games and its sixth straight NL East title, but lost to Philadelphia in the Division Series.

Sale joins a group that includes 2023 All-Stars Spencer Strider and Bryce Elder, longtime ace Max Fried and 40-year-old Charlie Morton. Top prospects AJ Smith-Shawver and Hurston Waldrep could also be in the starting mix, as well as free-agent signee Reynaldo López if the Braves decide to use him as a starter.

“I’m excited to join this staff,” Sale said. “We can feed off each other and compete for another division title and hopefully a World Series championship.”

After returning from his latest stint on the injured list on Aug. 11, Sale had a 3.92 ERA over his last nine starts for the Red Sox, surrendering two earned runs or fewer in six of those appearances. He allowed 32 hits and struck out 54 over that span.

Sale wasn’t expecting a trade, but he decided the move to Atlanta was best for him and the Red Sox. He waived his right to veto a deal as a 10-year veteran who had been with the club for five years.

“This was an opportunity to put myself in a situation that would help myself and a situation that would help them too,” he said. “I felt I owed them something too, since the last few years did not live up to what I wanted it to be.”

Sale was acquired by Boston from the Chicago White Sox in December 2016. He went on the injured list nine times with the Red Sox, mostly due to shoulder and elbow ailments. He had Tommy John surgery on March 30, 2020, and didn’t return to a big league mound until Aug. 14, 2021.

Sale has seven straight seasons with double-figure wins, with each of those campaign including a selection to the All-Star team and a top-six finish in the AL Cy Young balloting.

But since going 12-4 with 2.11 ERA for Boston’s World-Series winning team in 2018, Sale is just 17-18 with a 4.16 ERA in 56 starts.

The $160 million, six-year contract Sale signed with Boston included a $20 million team option for 2025 that called for $5 million to be deferred until 2040.

“The best days of my life were there and the worst days of my life were there,” Sale said of his Red Sox tenure. “I’ll be forever grateful to them. I made a commitment to them and didn’t hold up my end of the bargain. But they always had my back.”