By: Scott RossPublished: August 10, 2022

Chris Sale Is Done for the Season

The Boston Red Sox' one-time ace and proud signer of the dumbest contract in franchise history has officially descended into the ranks of the injury prone, having fallen off his bike last week and breaking his wrist, this at a time when he was already on the injured list with a broke pinkie that was struck during his second start of the season by a screaming comebacker. He underwent surgery on Monday, thus officially quashing any hopes that he might pitch again this year. The one saving grace is that the flame-throwing lefty broke his right wrist.

By the close of the 2018 season, Sale had established himself as a surefire Hall-of-Famer and Boston sports hero, as he gamely dragged his ailing body out to the mound to record the final three outs of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, thereby securing the team's fourth title in 15 years.

But the 2018 season had been a bumpy ride, as shoulder inflammation limited him to just 27 starts in the regular season and 15 and third innings in the playoffs. The following spring, knowing full well that he wasn't healthy and that he was still under contract for another year, the Sox went ahead and gave him a $145-million/5-year extension.

Since then:

  • August 2019: inflammation in his elbow.
  • February 2020: pneumonia
  • March 2020: Tommy John surgery
  • January 2021: COVID
  • September 2021: COVID
  • February 2022: stress fracture in his rib
  • July 2022: pinkie broken by ground ball
  • August 2022: wrist broken in biking accident

Obviously, one can't fault Sale or the Red Sox for those last two injuries, shit happens, the world's a scary place, and whenever you sign a guy to a big contract, you prepare for a certain level of risk, like comebackers and bike injuries. But the Sox went in knowing they were buying damaged goods and now their damaged goods are damaged-er.

With Monday's surgery, the Sox can close the books on the first three years of Sale's contract, and the books are not pretty. In return for $90 million (not accounting for the 2020 salary reduction due to COVID) Sale has given the Sox 48 and a third innings, during which time he's gone 5-2 with a 4.09 ERA, 57 strikeouts and been worth 1.0 Wins Above Replacement. To be fair, he's actually pitched remarkably well when he has pitched, especially given that he's yet to be healthy enough at any one time to find his groove.

Sale turns 34 next March, just around the time the 2023 season is due to start, an age at which even healthy great pitchers are well into their decline phase. Is it possible he regains the form that saw him finish in the top six in Cy Young balloting every season from 2012 to 2018, a time during he was third among Major League pitchers with 39.0 WAR? Sure, but it seems highly unlikely.

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