The Red Sox announced Tuesday that lefty Chris Sale suffered a broken right wrist “during a bicycle accident on Saturday, August 6.” The injury required surgery, which will end Sale’s 2022 season. He is expected to be ready for the start of Spring Training.
It’s the latest setback in a growing slew of injuries for Sale, who has made just 11 starts while playing under the five-year, $145MM contract extension he signed back in March 2019. (The contract began with the 2020 season despite being signed. 2019, since Sale was already under contract for the ’19 season.) Since putting pen to paper on that contract, Sale has missed time with elbow inflammation that ultimately culminated in Tommy John surgery, plus a stress reaction in his ribcage and a fractured. pinkie finger dropped on a returner earlier this summer. Overall, he threw just 48 1/3 innings in the regular season through the first three years of the contract (plus another nine frames in the 2021 postseason).
Sane Sale is, of course, one of the sport’s most dominant talents. From 2012-18, Sale made seven consecutive All-Star Games and never finished lower than sixth in American League Cy Young voting. Along the way, he pitched to a collective 2.91 ERA in 1388 innings, averaging 30 starts and 198 frames per regular season (plus another 25 postseason innings with Boston). Sales came in relief and punched out Justin Turnerfuture teammate Enrique Hernandez and Manny Machado to close out Boston’s 2018 World Series victory over the Dodgers, capping the franchise’s fourth championship since the “curse-breaking” 2004 season.
It’s been mostly downhill for Sale since then, as he’s battled random injuries and taken some well-deserved backlash for being caught on film destroying a clubhouse television after getting an early hook during a Triple-A rehab game earlier this summer. This latest injury will end Sale’s 2022 campaign after just 5 2/3 innings.
Sale will turn 34 next March, so there’s still a good chance he can return to form and serve as a foundation piece for the Sox going forward. He averaged 94.9 mph with his heater during this year’s tiny sample of 5 2/3 frames — right in line with (actually slightly better than) his average fastball during that aforementioned seven-year reign between Chicago and Boston.
Given the recent rash of injuries, the Sox certainly won’t bank 30-plus starts out of Sale, but at the same time, his contract leaves them little choice but to hope for the best. With Nathan Eovaldi, Rich Hill and Michael Wacha all set to hit free agency at season’s end, Sale and righty Nick Pivetta are the only Sox starters who can be penciled into next year’s group. Leftist James Paxton could possibly be in that mix too; his contract has a pair of $13MM club options for the 2023-24 seasons that must be exercised at the same time at season’s end. The team almost certainly won’t pick up their end of the deal — Paxton still has to pitch in 2022 — but Paxton also has a $4MM play option for next season in the event those club options are declined. Suffice it to say, rotation stability will be a point of emphasis for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom this winter.