Braves acquire Chris Sale, money from Red Sox for Vaughn Grissom

The Atlanta Braves acquired left-hander Chris Sale from the Boston Red Sox for infielder Vaughn Grissom on Saturday, bolstering their rotation with the seven-time All-Star they hope to round out a World Series-caliber roster.

Sale waived his no-trade clause to complete the deal, which followed months of efforts by the Braves to add a starting pitcher to a rotation that already included Spencer Strider, Max Fried and Charlie Morton. Although Grissom was part of potential trades this winter, including offers for Chicago White Sox right fielder Dylann Seaz, he proved to be what was needed to get Sale, who will go to Atlanta along with $17 million to offset his $27.5 million salary in 2024, according to sources.

Sale, 34, is coming off his best season since 2019, posting a 4.30 ERA in 102⅔ innings with 125 strikeouts, 29 walks and 15 home runs allowed. From 2020 to 2022, Sale threw just 48⅓ innings. Tommy John surgery sidelined him in 2020 and most of 2021, and a rib injury delayed his 2022 debut by months, only for the player who broke his left calf to return in his first start and finished his season.

Sale’s stuff, while not as dynamic as his breakout peak, remains well above average, and Atlanta will slot him into a rotation that ranks among the best in baseball. The Braves began the offseason as World Series favorites, but the Los Angeles Dodgers overtook Atlanta after signing two-time star Shohei Ohtani and right fielder Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Sale, who is 120-80 with a 3.10 ERA and the highest strikeout rate for a starting pitcher — 11.1 per nine innings against just 2.1 walks per nine — is one of the best pitchers of his generation and is set to hit free agency after 2024

The Braves, stocked with All-Stars at seven of nine offensive positions and coming off a brutal division series sweep after a 104-win regular season, have been the most active team in baseball this winter. President of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos made nine trades this winter and moved tens of millions of dollars, all in an effort to improve his team in the middle of a rare window.

No team has negotiated long-term contracts as well as the Braves. Among those retained: reigning National League MVP Ronald Acuna Jr. (through 2028), third baseman Austin Riley (2033), first baseman Matt Olson (2030), second baseman Ozzie Albies (2027), center shortstop Michael Harris II (2032), catcher Sean Murphy (2029) and Strider (2029), who finished fourth in Cy Young voting that year.

Because Grissom has no clear path to getting regular at-bats — he’s also played in the outfield, but the Jared Kelenich trade gave Atlanta a left fielder — he’s become indispensable. Grissom, who turns 23 this week, made his big league debut in 2022 after just 22 games above Class A. He looked like a big leaguer through his first 26 games, hitting .347/.398/.558. while filling in for the injured Albis. After Dansby Swanson left for the Chicago Cubs in free agency, Grissom entered 2023 hoping to replace him at the shortstop position. Orlando Arcia won the job in spring training, and Grissom spent most of the season in Triple-A, where he hit .330/.419/.501 playing mostly shortstop. In limited big league time, he hit .280/.313/.347, but struggled defensively at shortstop.

Grissom could fill the open Red Sox second base job, which has been the subject of discontent among Boston’s increasingly agitated fan base. After a winter in which they spent just $1 million, new Red Sox general manager Craig Breslow made his first big signing, giving right-hander Lucas Giolito a two-year, $38.5 million contract that includes an opt-out after the first season.

Boston immediately turned the other way, moving Sale seven years after acquiring him in a blockbuster trade that sent top prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech to the White Sox, where Sale spent his first seven major league seasons. Sale arrived in 2017 as Boston’s ace, finishing second in American League Cy Young voting, and in 2018 he closed out the team’s World Series victory against the Dodgers. Over the past four seasons, with Sale missing significant time, the Red Sox have finished last in the AL East three times.

The Braves, who won the 2021 World Series, will enter 2024 with perhaps their best team under Anthopoulos. In addition to Strider, Fried, Sale and Morton, there are a number of worthy contenders for the fifth rotation spot. After watching the injuries from Texas’ time en route to the World Series title, the Braves’ starting depth is enviable. That includes their only free agent signing this winter — right-hander Reynaldo Lopez, who is guaranteed $30 million over three years — plus 2023 All-Star Bryce Elder, top prospect AJ Smith-Shaver, World Series hero Ian Anderson and , perhaps later in the season, 2023 first-round pick Hurston Waldrep.

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