Sale ready to 'be like a kid again' after extension
Multi-year deal allows left-hander to concentrate solely on pitching
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Ask Chris Sale the worst part of baseball for him personally, and he points to the business side of the game.
After agreeing to a five-year, $32.5 million extension with the White Sox, announced by the team on Thursday, Sale won't think about the business side for quite some time.
"That's probably the thing that makes me feel the best about it," an upbeat and relieved Sale said Friday morning. "I can just kind of be like a kid again. All I have to do is play and prepare myself. There's a lot to be said for that, too.
"I don't think I could have been in a better situation. Being able to play in the city of Chicago, with this team, with the organization, with the coaching staff, with the players in the clubhouse, I'm very fortunate and very thankful for the opportunity I've been given."
Sale, who turns 24 on March 30, spoke for the first time about the new deal Friday morning outside of the White Sox clubhouse at Camelback Ranch. His praise was widespread, starting with White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and general manager Rick Hahn.
He spoke with the poise and conviction of a seasoned pro, even though he's beginning just his second year as a featured part of the starting rotation and his third full season in the Majors. The talks between the White Sox and Sale's camp covered about two weeks, and Sale admitted to being relieved that they had been finalized.
"Just everything going in the last couple of weeks, I really haven't been myself," Sale said. "It just kind of took over my mind a little bit. I tried to do everything I could to stay focused and not let it run my life or anything."
"It's nice when somebody gets rewarded," said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper of Sale. "We are making a huge investment in Chris, and he's making a huge investment in us. So, it's mutually beneficial. Him and his family, certainly that's great. For us, it's great that it's out of the way and now we can just continue to get people out."
Terms of the new contract call for Sale to earn $850,000 in 2013, $3.5 million in 2014, $6.0 million in 2015, $9.15 million in 2016 and $12 million in 2017. The White Sox hold options for 2018 at $12.5 million and for 2019 at $13.5 million.
If either option is declined, Sale will receive a $1 million buyout. If the full contract plays out, Sale potentially could earn $57.5 million over seven years. There's an escalator clause that would raise the 2019 option from $13.5 million to $16 million, bringing the overall total to $60 million, if Sale wins a Cy Young Award.
Reliever Matt Thornton and his family and Sale and his wife and 2 1/2-year-old son live in the same building in Chicago, so they often traveled to and from the airport. There would be times during those trips where Sale would ask Thornton about the inner workings of multi-year deals as well as the financial security provided for his loved ones.
Thornton knows that Sale is excited about the new deal, and rightfully so. In watching Sale produce a 17-8 record, 3.05 ERA and 192 strikeouts over 192 innings last year, finishing sixth in the American League Cy Young balloting, Thornton also realizes that Sale eventually could be deserving of more: especially when he reaches his first free-agent season in 2017.
"Really, it's part of the game of locking someone down when you don't have to," Thornton said. "He's going to come as a discount for the team, but he's going to be one of the premier pitchers of the game for a long time to come.
"People forget he's only 23. He's still learning and getting better. He has the drive and desire to be better. You are always happy for a guy in the game that gets security like that."
According to Sale, he was very well educated on this entire extension scenario and not only for what he was getting but also for what he was giving up. He did a lot of thinking about the process and actually watched a YouTube video during that period about a kid from Detroit who was going through some really tough times.
One comment resonated especially true for Sale, in that the young man wasn't going to worry about what happened to him in the past or what he didn't have.
"I'm here to worry about what I do have," Sale said. "It's a blessing for myself and for my family. I'll be able to lay my head down just fine every night knowing what I just did.
"My dad sat me down, I was talking on the phone and he goes, 'Honestly, take a step back and look at it. What other team would you rather play for? What owner would you rather play for? Coaching staff would you rather play for?' I got everything I want right here."
When Sale debuted on Aug. 6, 2010, in Baltimore, he didn't retire either of the two hitters he faced. That day still held great meaning for him, coming only two months after he was the 13th pick in the First-Year Player Draft.
This contract extension meant even more.
"Getting here means they wanted me, but now they want to keep me," Sale said. "It means they want me to stay around. It means the world to me.
"It's so crazy. The last couple of weeks I've been kind of going back and thinking about what it was like growing up, where I came from, just a kid from Lakeland, Fla., not really thinking anything too much, going to a smaller college and getting drafted. You never think about it until it's here, and it came and it still blows my mind."