Vaughn Grissom News


Vaughn Grissom News

Braves and Red Sox Complete Chris Sale Trade Involving Vaughn Grissom

The Braves and Red Sox have finalized a significant trade, with left-hander Chris Sale moving to Atlanta in exchange for infield prospect Vaughn Grissom, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. As part of the deal, the Red Sox will contribute $17 million to cover a portion of Sale’s $27.5 million salary for the 2024 season, as reported by the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. Sale, who had a full no-trade clause, waived it to facilitate the transaction.

This unexpected trade concludes Sale’s eventful seven-year stint in Boston, including six seasons on the field and missing the entire 2020 campaign. Acquired in a blockbuster deal with the White Sox in December 2016, Sale made a significant impact in his initial two seasons at Fenway, earning two top-four finishes in AL Cy Young Award voting and contributing to Boston's 2018 World Series triumph.

In 2019, as the final year of Sale’s previous contract, the Red Sox took a proactive approach to secure their ace, entering into a five-year, $145 million extension spanning the 2020-2024 seasons, inclusive of a $20 million club option for 2025. Unfortunately, this extension has proven to be a significant setback, with Sale encountering injury challenges, beginning late in the 2018 season. He was sidelined in August 2019 due to elbow inflammation and underwent a PRP injection. However, this elbow issue foreshadowed the subsequent Tommy John surgery, resulting in Sale missing the entirety of the 2020 season and a significant portion of the 2021 campaign.

Sale's unfortunate streak of injuries persisted over the last two seasons, with a range of issues including a stress reaction in his ribs, a fractured finger, a broken wrist (sustained in a bicycle accident), and a stress reaction in his shoulder blade. Between 2021 and 2022, Sale managed to pitch only 48 1/3 innings but showed signs of recovery by logging 102 2/3 innings in the subsequent season.

In the 2023 season, Sale demonstrated resilience with a fastball velocity of 93.9 mph, slightly surpassing his career average. His strikeout, walk, and hard-hit ball rates all exceeded the league average. While it remains uncertain if the left-hander can fully regain his past elite form, his performance in 2023 suggests that, entering his age-35 season, Sale still possesses considerable skill, provided he can maintain his health.

The Braves are banking on Sale's performance, expecting him to slot in as the third or potentially fourth starter behind Max Fried, Spencer Strider, and Charlie Morton in the team’s rotation. President of baseball operations, Alex Anthopoulos, anticipates Sale's upside to strengthen the pitching staff. The Braves also have a wealth of younger arms, including AJ Smith-Shawver, Dylan Dodd, Huascar Ynoa, Darius Vines, and top prospect Hurston Waldrep, along with versatile pitcher Reynaldo Lopez, providing additional depth should Sale or any other rotation member require time on the injured list.

True to Anthopoulos's style, this trade was a surprise move, even though the Braves were known to be in the market for pitching help. The team had previously pursued Aaron Nola, who ultimately re-signed with the Phillies. The rumor mill also connected the Braves to various free agent and trade targets, including Tyler Glasnow, Dylan Cease, Sonny Gray, and Seth Lugo.

Due to the $10 million deferred money per season in Sale’s extension with the Red Sox, his actual salary cost for the Braves in 2024 is a mere $500,000. Even without the deferral, a one-year, $10.5 million deal for Sale as a free agent would have been reasonable or even a slight bargain given his impressive track record. While it could be argued that the Braves might have explored the free-agent market for a pitcher at a similar price instead of trading away a promising young player like Grissom, it's fair to note that a rotation upgrade of Sale's caliber might not have been available at the $10.5 million price tag. Alternatively, pursuing other trade candidates like Cease, Corbin Burnes, Shane Bieber, or others might have incurred a higher cost for Atlanta, potentially exceeding the value of Grissom.

The significance of Sale’s $20 million club option for 2025 should not be overlooked. If Sale performs well, the Braves might consider exercising this option. This $20 million figure aligns with Morton's earnings this season, and considering Morton's contemplation of retirement in recent years, Sale could potentially step in as Atlanta’s veteran rotation arm if Morton decides to retire next winter. Notably, Sale’s $20 million club option is a vesting option that becomes guaranteed if he finishes the year healthy and lands in the top 10 in NL Cy Young Award voting.

Anthopoulos and team chairman Terry McGuirk weren’t kidding last November when they said that the Braves planned to keep increasing payroll. The Braves’ $203 million Opening Day payroll from 2023 was already a club record, and Roster Resource now projects a payroll just shy of $241 million for the 2024 squad. After topping the luxury tax barrier for the first time in 2023, the Braves’ estimated $280 million tax number now soars over the third penalty tier of $277 million, so they’ll face increasingly hefty overages as second-time payors. Passing the third tier means that Atlanta’s top pick in the 2024 draft will now drop 10 spots, and they’ll face the standard tax penalties related to qualified free agents and the international bonus pool.

This doesn’t appear to be much of a deterrent for an Atlanta club that has been swimming in extra revenues since the opening of Truist Park and its neighboring ballpark village project known as The Battery. The Braves have used this money to lock up several members of its roster on contract extensions, and this young core has already delivered the 2021 World Series championships and six straight NL East crowns.

The outlook hasn’t been as rosy at Fenway Park, as the Red Sox have been very inconsistent since that 2018 title. Following consecutive last-place finishes in the AL East, Craig Breslow replaced Chaim Bloom as the team’s chief baseball officer, and Breslow now has his first true blockbuster trade as a front office executive.

Starting pitching has been a known need for the Red Sox all winter, and Boston just signed Lucas Giolito yesterday to help address the rotation mix. While moving Sale diminishes the number of available arms, the trade does free up some money to help make other moves, and the Sox simply might’ve wanted a more reliable starting pitching option than the injury-plagued Sale. Plus, adding six years of team control over a promising player like Grissom is a nice return for the Sox at the cost of $17 million.

Grissom immediately addresses Boston’s need for second base help. Selected in the 11th round of the 2019 draft by Atlanta, Grissom has consistently performed well against minor league pitching during his four seasons in the Braves’ farm system, earning consideration for a big league call-up. In 2022, Grissom posted an impressive .291/.353/.440 slash line over 156 plate appearances, but his production dipped to a more modest .659 OPS in just 80 plate appearances last season. Despite being given an opportunity at the everyday shortstop role, Grissom fell behind Orlando Arcia on the depth chart, leading him to spend most of the season at Triple-A as the Braves aimed to provide him with regular playing time.

While Grissom has primarily played as a shortstop in the minor leagues, there have been questions about his long-term viability at the position. The presence of Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley in the Braves' infield made it challenging for Grissom to secure a spot at second base or third base. As a potential candidate to fill the left field vacancy, Grissom even gained experience as an outfielder. However, the acquisition of Jarred Kelenic from the Mariners appeared to close that door.

In Boston, there are no apparent positional obstacles for Grissom, and he could very well be slotted in as their Opening Day second baseman. His right-handed hitting style aligns with Breslow’s preferences, and Grissom's defensive skills are expected to transition well to the less demanding second base position. With Grissom in the mix, players like Enmanuel Valdez, Pablo Reyes, or Rob Refsnyder may find themselves in backup roles or potentially as trade assets. Additionally, Ceddanne Rafaela now appears more likely to be utilized as an outfielder, and there's even the possibility that he could become a trade candidate himself.

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