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

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves reworked the contract for newcomer Chris Sale, announcing Thursday a new $38 million, two-year deal with the left-handed pitcher acquired last weekend from the Boston 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.

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

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

Atlanta won 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 mix for starts.

After returning from his latest stint on the injured list on Aug. 11, Sale had a 3.92 ERA over 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 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.

“The last few years he’s obviously had some IL time,” Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. “You can’t run from that.”

Sale has seven straight seasons with double-figure wins, with each of those campaigns 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 a 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.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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