Is Chris Sale the exception? John Henry thinks so as sides mull a long-term extension

John Tomase
February 18, 2019 - 3:20 pm

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- John Henry believes Chris Sale is different, which is why he's not going to let a sore shoulder stop him from pursuing a long-term extension with the Red Sox ace.

Hours after chairman Tom Werner told Mut & Callahan that Sale and the Red Sox have started discussions on a contract extension, Henry explained why his trepidation about pitchers in their 30s doesn't apply to Sale, even though the left-hander effectively missed the final two months last year.

"I think Chris falls out of the norm because he's just such a great, not just a great pitcher but a great part of the team as we saw in the World Series," Henry said. "He had quite an impact just being on the bench in the World Series. So he's a special player. We would love to be able to sign him. I think he would like to as well. But there are the realities of the market place and budgets and this is his opportunity to be a free agent, potentially, which we'd like to avoid, but I think he would as well. So something could happen."

Free agency has not unfolded as the players would've hoped, with twin superstars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado still unsigned as full-squad workouts begin at camps across Florida and Arizona. Might that influence a player like Sale into signing an extension now rather than testing an uncertain market?

"A lot has been said about the free agent market, but it is a free agent market," Henry said. "It's a free market. And a free market doesn't always do what you want it to do. If there are issues, and I'm sure there are some legitimate issues because moneys that were going into free agency now tend to go into different areas simply because WAR is so expensive, I think, and it's a function of how expensive free agent WAR is. It's up 50 percent probably in the last four years. So, you've got that going on.

"But if the players are unhappy with this, the they should engage. Our commissioner was a labor lawyer for a couple of decades and it's important for the union to engage. I'm on the negotiating committee and was during the last CBA. It's important for the union to engage first-hand on what they would like to change. And this has been a series of negotiations that have led to the kind of market that we have today."

Sale has had issues with stamina throughout his career, though he typically hasn't missed extended periods of time, like he did last season. Henry doesn't worry about his health, though.

"He's healthy," Henry said. "He had minor issues. They were able to take their time and give him some rest at one point, but he hasn't had any significant shoulder issues – significant."

Is Chris Sale actually different? If the Red Sox sign him to a long-term deal, they'll be the ones to find out.