White Sox left-hander Chris Sale a relieved starter
BY CHRIS DE LUCA email@example.com March 8, 2013 4:44PM
Updated: April 10, 2013 6:12AM
GLENDALE, Ariz. — White Sox teammates Jake Peavy and Adam Dunn talk trash in a way that can only be done between a multimillionaire pitcher and a multimillionaire slugger.
“Dunn likes to call us the kickers of the game,” Peavy said Friday. “I’ll say, ‘The kickers? We’re the quarterbacks, my friend.’ ’’
Baseball’s pay scale doesn’t necessarily back up Peavy’s argument, but pitchers are expecting a major economic shift in riches if Tigers ace Justin Verlander secures the $200 million contract he’s seeking as a free agent next offseason.
The Sox have protected themselves if pitchers’ salaries skyrocket to record levels next winter by locking up emerging ace and likely Opening Day starter Chris Sale.
Sale, who turns 24 on March 30, spoke publicly Friday for the first time since his five-year, $32.5 million extension was announced. The All-Star left-hander admitted the relatively short negotiations were taking a toll.
“Definitely a big relief on my end,” said Sale, who went 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA in 2012. “Just everything going on the last couple of weeks, I really haven’t been myself. 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.”
General manager Rick Hahn said the talks started about two weeks ago, and both sides set March 15 as a deadline. That would give Sale two weeks before the opener to deal with the excitement over a new contract or the disappointment of failing to reach a deal.
Hahn knows young pitchers in Chicago who have experienced early arm trouble have a history of not holding up their end of the bargain on long-term contracts. But he sees too much upside with Sale.
“There is risk on our side,” Hahn said. “There is risk when you sign any player, and there’s heightened risk when you sign a pitcher.
“We bear the risk of a multiyear deal that has the risk of potentially being out a few bucks along the way if there’s an injury, but we have the much greater reward of keeping a young premier starter in our uniform for the next seven years. We chose that risk with the greater reward.”
The Sox were basing their negotiations on the five-year, $35 million deal the Giants reached last April with lefty Madison Bumgarner.
Executives know these contracts will look like bargains if Verlander throws the scale out of whack next winter.
Sale, who would have been arbitration-eligible in 2014, got a raise from $600,000 to $850,000 this season. The deal escalates to $3.5 million in 2014, $6 million in 2015, $9.15 million in 2016 and $12 million in 2017. The Sox also hold options for 2018 ($12.5 million) and 2019 ($13.5 million).
“Is that a big contract? In today’s world, I just don’t think so,” said Peavy, 31, who was paid $17 million last season. “You have John Danks and myself and Gavin [Floyd] making more money than him. Obviously, he’s going to be our guy and the ace of this staff.”
The key for Sale this season is not trying to live up to the contract immediately.
“That’s the biggest part, trying to stay myself, stay the course,” Sale said. “I don’t feel like I need to try to do anything different than I have in the past, and I don’t think I will. I’ve got too many great people surrounding me, family and friends and this clubhouse. These guys are going to keep me in check and staying down the road I need to stay on.”
NOTES: With a major rain storm headed toward Glendale, Jake Peavy pitched a simulated game Friday morning, throwing about 60 pitches.
“I feel good, I feel healthy,” Peavy said.
“My stuff is coming. It’s still not anywhere close to where it should be or is going to be, but it’s coming.”
◆ The Sox’ game against the visiting Padres was called after three innings with the Sox leading 4-1.