Red Sox chairman Tom Werner said today that the club has had contract extension talks with ace Chris Sale. Sale said last week that he hasn’t heard anything about an extension, so either those talks are new, they’re so preliminary that they haven’t registered with Sale or else there is some sort of miscommunication. Either way, Werner saying this today suggests that, yeah, the Sox at least want to lock up Sale.
Th Sox exercised their 2019 option for Chris Sale right after the season ended. He’ll make $13.5 million in 2019 and will be eligible for free agency after this campaign. One used to say things like “and he’ll be highly sought-after on the market!” but that was before the last two years killed the top end of the free agent market, so I suppose we’ll see.
As it stands, Sale continues to be one of the best pitchers in the game. He posted a 2.11 ERA and 237/34 K/BB ratio over 158 innings in 2018. His health and stamina issues late in the year were notable, but he closed out the World Series-clinching victory last October and is reportedly in good health to start 2019.
The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.
Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.
Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.
Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.