Red Sox deal Sale to Braves for INF Grissom

December 31st, 2023

BOSTON -- The Chris Sale era with the Red Sox, which included dominant performances and a wipeout slider to close out a World Series championship but also a barrage of injuries, came to an abrupt end on Saturday.

With no rumors or buzz leading up to it, the Sox sent Sale to the Braves for infield prospect Vaughn Grissom in a pre-New Year’s Day blockbuster.

Sale, a seven-time All-Star, waived his no-trade rights to make the deal possible.

“I don't want to speak for Chris,” said Red Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow. “What I'm comfortable sharing is he was quite appreciative and understanding of the position, of the opportunity to influence the longer-term outlook of this team, the chance to go to a team that's likely to compete for a World Series championship in the NL.

"I think he would probably say it was bittersweet, because the organization has meant so much to him. Those conversations are never easy, but I'm super appreciative of the way that Chris approached it.”

In return, the Red Sox will send cash along with Sale to the Braves. Sale is owed $27.5 million in 2024 and has a $20 million club option for ‘25. Boston will send $17 million to Atlanta as part of the deal, a source told's Mark Feinsand.

“Any time you trade someone like Sale who has made such a meaningful contribution to this organization and was obviously an incredibly important part of a World Series-winning team, it’s a really tough, tough decision,” said Breslow. “The fact that I wasn't the chief baseball officer here didn't diminish that in my mind at all.

"It's something that I was very mindful of and very thoughtful of, but in the end, I felt like this was a decision that was best for the Red Sox, both in the near term and the long term. So it was one that I needed to do."

In Grissom, who turns 23 next week, the Red Sox get a promising young player with a clear chance to take over the team’s vacancy at second base.

"I think part of what made this trade possible and I think part of what made Vaughn Grissom accessible is the stability and certainty of the roster that he was coming from," said Breslow. "And second base is an area of need for us. I think I've talked about the opportunity to upgrade there and we view him as someone that can play every day.”

Grissom’s path to a starting job was blocked in Atlanta by one of the most talented rosters in the Majors.

Sale came to Boston amid much fanfare in a Winter Meetings blockbuster with the White Sox in 2016. The Red Sox dealt two of their top prospects at the time -- Yoán Moncada and Michael Kopech -- to the White Sox to help complete the trade.

In Boston’s first season following the retirement of David Ortiz, Sale dominated in 2017, becoming the second pitcher in Red Sox history to strike out 300 batters in a season. He also led the Majors in innings that year with 214 1/3 pitched.

However, it was the only year Sale would prove to be durable in Boston, as 158 innings in 2018 was the most the lanky lefty would log over his final six seasons with the Red Sox.

The 2018 season is one that Sale and the Red Sox will always cherish. When Sale was healthy that season, he was a force, going 12-4 with a 2.11 ERA with 237 strikeouts.

Sale developed shoulder issues in August that limited his production down the stretch. Fortunately, the 108-win Red Sox were a wagon that season and didn’t miss a beat as Sale built himself back up with a handful of abbreviated starts heading into the postseason.

Sale got Boston’s 11-3 postseason run off to an auspicious start when he beat the Yankees at an electric Fenway Park in Game 1 of the Division Series against the Yankees.

Sale’s most memorable performance that October was in relief. To clinch Game 5 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium, Sale came in for the ninth inning and threw a series of unhittable sliders, the last of which left Manny Machado on his knees to end the Fall Classic and secure the title for Boston.

After that peak, things would never be the same again for Sale with the Red Sox. He signed a five-year, $145-million contract with the Red Sox that began in the 2020 season.

In the first four years of a deal that will expire after the ’24 season, Sale logged a total of 151 innings with 11 wins and a 3.93 ERA.

Sale struggled to stay consistent in 2019, as evidenced by a 4.40 ERA, the worst of his career to date. But there were nights of brilliance, such as when he struck out 17 in seven innings against the Rockies and his three-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts in Kansas City.

Then came the Tommy John surgery that knocked Sale out of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He returned the following August and helped an upstart Boston team clinch a trip to the postseason.

The 2022 season was the most annoying one for Sale. His arm was healthy, but he suffered a stress fracture in his right ribcage, a broken left pinkie finger and broken right wrist, the last of which he suffered in a bicycle accident. He made just two starts that season.

In 2023, Sale’s last year with the Sox, he earned a measure of redemption by being on the Opening Day roster for the first time in four years. Sale was in a month-long hot streak when he sustained a stress reaction in his left shoulder during a start against the Reds on June 1.

Sale missed more than two months, but he was able to make his final nine starts of the season.

The 34-year-old has made 343 appearances over 13 Major League seasons with the White Sox and Red Sox, going 120-80 with a 3.10 ERA. Sale finished among the top six in American League Cy Young Award voting in each season from 2012-18. 

In six seasons with the Red Sox, the left-hander was 46-30 with a 3.27 ERA. Last season, he made 20 starts and went 6-5 with a 4.30 ERA.

Grissom has played in 64 games with Atlanta, batting .287 with five home runs and a .746 OPS while making 41 starts at second base and 19 at shortstop. 

In 102 games with Triple-A Gwinnett in 2023, he batted .330 with a .419 on-base percentage, .501 slugging percentage, eight home runs and 13 stolen bases in 15 attempts, striking out only 66 times while drawing 56 walks.

“For us, I think he makes the most sense penciling him in at second base every day," said Breslow. "And at 22 years old, we still think there’s power to come. There’s really strong bat-to-ball skills, and someone whose best years are ahead of him.

"And when you combine that with six years of control and you’re able to integrate him into this exciting, emerging core that I’ve talked about, I think we have a real chance to establish the quality and consistency that we’re looking for.”

As for Boston’s starting rotation minus Sale, it is a work in progress. The Sox did agree to terms with Lucas Giolito on a two-year, $38.5 million deal that includes an opt-out after the ’24 season. Brayan Bello, the team’s best young pitcher, is another certainty in the rotation. Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck, Garrett Whitlock and Kutter Crawford are also rotation candidates, but any of those righties could also wind up in the bullpen.

Breslow said that starting pitching remains his top priority and he will continue to monitor the market.