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What Should We Expect from Chris Sale in 2024?



One of the biggest moves of the ‘23-’24 offseason was the trade that sent seven-time all-star Chris Sale to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for a once-touted prospect, Vaughn Grissom. This move set the baseball media ablaze. Relative to offseasons in recent years, this year has been extremely slow, with many of the major free agents either taking forever to sign, or involving players that come from overseas. Chris Sale once had the reputation of being one of the most dominant pitchers in the game, however, the Sox made the call to part ways with Sale after his reputation became that of a player with severe injury risk. Since September of 2019, Sale has dealt with five major injuries, many of which saw him end up on the 60-day injured list. With his trade to the Braves ahead of the 2024 season, Chris Sale will be expected to contribute to this ever-competitive team in hopes of making another trip to the World Series. He also has a chance to earn his reputation back and escape the nasty grip of the injury bug. 

While the Braves and their front office are certainly aware of the type of pitcher Chris Sale was in his prime, this was not the only factor they looked at when they decided to trade for the 34-year-old. For a deeper dive into Sale’s dominant seasons of the past, check out this article written by yours truly. Purely taking a look at Sales 2023 percentiles, they reveal an aging pitcher who was able to recapture some of the parts of his game that helped him succeed. In a sample size of 102.2 innings pitched, Sale impressed by landing in the 92nd percentile for Chase %, the 85th in expected batting average against, and the 88th in strikeout percentage. Another impressive mark was his 74th percentile ranking in expected ERA. This, combined with his 85th in xBA, points to Sale’s success in 2023 not being lucky. This non-luck is further backed up by looking at his actual expected ERA numbers. While Sale put up a 4.30 ERA, his xERA was just 3.71. Sale even managed to collect a 105 ERA+, 5% above the league average. If the Braves are able to get Sale in the high threes for his earned run average on the season and keep him healthy for around 150 innings, his impressive strikeout ability will be able to truly shine. His strikeout percentage finished at 29.4%, trending upwards after putting up 28.4% and 20% in 2021 and 2022 respectively. 

On the monetary side of things, the Chris Sale trade appears to be yet another calculated move by the Braves organization. Before being traded, Chris Sale had a $20 million option looming overhead. This was something that, undoubtedly, rubbed the Braves the wrong way. Instead of keeping this option in place, Sale and the team agreed to a two-year, $38 million contract extension. There was also $10 million in deferred money that this new extension wiped clean. Instead, Sale will make $16 million in 2024 and $22 million in 2025. This extension shows the faith that the Braves have in Sale’s ability to pitch. They know how special of an athlete he was, and they seemingly have full confidence he can return to some form of that special pitcher baseball fans got to know years ago. Another interesting detail is the fact the Red Sox sent $17 million to Atlanta in the trade, which covers Sales 2024 salary and leaves $1 million to spare. Once again, the Braves have made another smart, precise move with the goal of contending in mind. 

Chris Sale joins a rotation of Spencer Strider, Max Fried, Charlie Morton, and Bryce Elder. A good mix of veteran presence and electric young arms in Strider and Fried could be the answers the Braves need in order to make it deeper into October. This team has been outmatched by the Phillies since winning the World Series in 2021, but perhaps the addition of Sale could be the final piece they need to get back to the Fall Classic. 

All of the numbers point towards Sale having a resurgent year in 2024. The lefty will play in his 14th season as a big leaguer. The fact that the Braves were willing to commit the money and time that they did for someone as seasoned as Sale shows how much trust they have in this player. For the second time in the last two seasons, Chris Sale will have a shot at redemption in the eyes of baseball fans. This change-of-scenery story could be extremely worth taking note of as the Braves dynasty looks forward to competing in the 2024 MLB season with their new, high-ceiling veteran ready to prove himself. 


Fangraphs

Savant


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