It's well documented at this point that Atlanta has two legitimate areas they could reasonably improve. Even considering the Braves' dominant season, thus far, it's fair to say they still have some "needs". The backend of the starting rotation could use some help, and the bullpen could certainly take on some more dominant arms despite their good underlying stats on the year. What if i told you one move could potentially fill both of those roles in October by acquiring one player?
To preface the rest of this article, I am working under the assumption that Sale's rehab continues to go well over the next week and is promising for a return before the playoffs. PLEASE keep that in mind.
Reasons why they should make the move
Alright, so you need some more convincing. Assuming health, the worst case scenario for this deal has Sale in the Braves bullpen. In his career, Sale has made 80 regular season appearances as a reliever in 95 innings of work and has posted 2.55 ERA with 112 strikeouts. He also famously struck out the side in 2018 to clinch the World Series for the Red Sox, something that would certainly be welcomed for Atlanta this year. Those stats alone give you an elite reliever and possibly make the deal worth it.
Sale also was really trending as a starter. If he is able to build back up before the playoffs, as expected, then you would be adding Max Fried and Chris Sale to your rotation down the stretch. Not a bad idea huh? I would encourage everyone to ignore his overall stats on the year and focus on the last month or two before his most recent injury. Before the scapula injury, Sale went 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 36 innings over his final six starts. That even includes the clunker of a game he left because of the injury as well. Needless to say he was showing signs of his dominant Chris Sale self as a starting pitcher, whom could also really help the Braves down the stretch. You could also let him provide depth as a starter over the final two months of the season then transition to alternate roles in October if he isn't as sharp as hoped for.
Still not sold? What if i told you Sale's contract goes through next year as well? Oh, and it's "only" for $27 million. Yes, I said only. Besides the fact that the Braves are printing money at the Battery, a chance to add an elite reliever or starter for your stretch run in 2023 and an elite starter in 2024, is a chance that is absolutely worth taking. Not to mention the added value of his club option in 2025 that is "only" worth $20 million. The potential for someone of his caliber to return to form for Atlanta at a fairly reasonable and controllable price (considering the market for players of that caliber), could be a huge difference maker for multiple years in Atlanta.
My last gasp at convincing you on the pro side of this argument pertains to the Braves actually needing him as opposed to him being "nice to have". There is a fairly likely scenario where Charlie Morton retires and leaves Atlanta with a giant, veteran sized hole in their starting rotation in 2024. Insert Chris Sale for roughly the same salary and you don't lose a beat, in theory, next year. Ok, now to tell you why all of the arguments you are screaming at me can still be spun into a positive....maybe.
Reasons why they *shouldn't* make the move
First and foremost, why would the Red Sox trade him? They need pitching for their stretch run and Sale's potential speaks for itself. Not so fast (Lee Corso voice)! You may or may not know but the man running operations for Boston is Chaim Bloom. He comes from the Tampa Bay Rays organization where they live and die by getting the most value out of players. The mighty Red Sox haven't spent a lot under his reign by their standard, despite what you may assume (see Mookie Betts and JD Martinez).
It is completely reasonable that Bloom, with his Tampa mindset, sees Sale's contract as a hindrance to his ability to build a better roster with $30+ million locked up over the next two years for one inconsistent player. Bloom wasn't around when Sale signed the extension in Boston, and frankly hasn't seen much of Sale since he took the job. Combine the potential savings and freedom for Bloom with a hypothetical cheap and controllable starter like the Braves possess, and you could convince yourself that the move makes sense!
"But the Red Sox are in the hunt!" ....Yes Boston is only two games out of the wild card as of July 24th. On the flip side, they are also tied for last in their division and are one of the most injured teams in all of baseball. Nearly all of their opening day rotation is hurt and even when healthy, aren't exactly elite. It isn't outrageous to look at Boston's roster, and their underwhelming peripheral stats on both sides of the ball, and think they may want to compete this year but under the veil of worrying more about building for the future. I won't go into detail on their roster here, but take a look at it and let me know if you think that team can win a World Series. Hopefully my opinion is well implied here.
Lastly, and perhaps the hardest point to argue, Chris Sale gets injured...a lot. Since being traded to Boston in 2017, Sale has only made 106 appearances and has gone over a 140 innings in three of those seasons. That isn't exactly ideal. But what if I framed it in a way that is juxtaposed to one of our favorite starting pitchers in Atlanta?
Max Fried made his major league debut in 2017 which happens to be the same year Sale was acquired by the Red Sox. In that same timeframe he made just 130 appearances with a similar number of only three seasons with at least 140 innings. Not to mention he's only thrown 26 innings in 2023 to date, which happens to be almost half of Sale's output. These stats are admittedly cherry-picked, but I think you see my point. We don't hesitate to laud Fried for his pitching and would welcome an (expensive) long term extension to him with open arms, yet Sale would be risky because of his health. It's something to think about at the very least.
I understand this deal isn't likely but I wanted to present a fun option for some of the trade deadline sickos like myself, that aren't being written about in the thousands of other places that suggest trade moves. It is admittedly thinking way outside of the box, but who saw the likes of Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario, or Jorge Soler coming on the way they did. Maybe crazy thinking like that is exactly what the Braves need to replicate that magical 2021 season.