clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Alex Anthopoulos discusses acquiring Chris Sale, trading Vaughn Grissom

Alex Atnhopoulos spoke to the media following Saturday’s big trade for Chris Sale.

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Atlanta Braves went into the offseason in search of help for their starting rotation and they added a significant piece Saturday acquiring veteran left-hander Chris Sale from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Vaughn Grissom. Sale was once regarded as one of the best pitchers in the majors but has struggled to stay healthy in recent seasons. He missed all of the 2020 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery and logged just 48 13 innings between 2021 and 2022. Still, it was worth the risk for Braves General Manager Alex Anthopoulos who thinks that Sale is someone that can give Atlanta an added punch in the postseason.

“Obviously we reviewed the medicals and our medical staff felt good about it. But look, his health history and I understand that’s going to be a topic,” Anthopoulos said of the deal.

“We like him when he’s out on the mound and we’ve loved the makeup and the person and what he brings to the clubhouse and we think he’s a playoff caliber starter. That’s what we were in the market for. As someone that we felt could start playoff games for us and we’ll make sure to do what we can to keep him on the mound. We’ll get to know him like we’ve done with a lot of our guys. We’ve done a good job getting guys rest between starts and so on and that’s something that we’ll just evaluate as time goes on as we get to know him.”

After battling injuries for three straight seasons, Sale returned to the Red Sox in 2023 and made 20 starts while totaling 102 23 innings. Anthopoulos said that this is the first normal offseason Sale has had in several years and the Braves believe he is in a good place heading into the 2024 season.

“He’s obviously had some IL time and so on. You can’t run from that, you realize that. But we feel like this is the first normal offseason he’ll have had in a long time,” Anthopoulos said. “At the same time, he’s coming off 100 innings pitch last year. So we’ll still be mindful of that like we do with all of our starters. We don’t put any limits on anybody, but we do take it day to day. If guys need to skip bullpens, if guys need extra days between starts.”

Anthopoulos pointed out that Charlie Morton missed time with a shoulder issue in 2020 prior to signing with the Braves. Morton hadn’t seen any time on the injured list during his Braves’ tenure until the end of last season when he was sidelined by a sprained finger.

Sale will join Morton, Max Fried and Spencer Strider as four members of the Braves’ rotation for 2024. The fifth starter spot could come down to a competition between Bryce Elder and new addition Reynaldo López. The team signed Lopez to a three-year deal this offseason. Lopez has worked primarily out of the bullpen in recent seasons, but will stretch out during the spring and could possibly work as a starter.

“We’ve got four locks for our rotation in Chris Sale, Charlie Morton, Max Fried and Spencer Strider,” Anthopoulos said. “That last spot, we’ll see how it goes. Ronaldo Lopez will be stretched out. Obviously, Bryce Elder was an All-Star last year. He did a phenomenal job. We’ve got all the other young guys as well, AJ Smith-Sharver and so on.”

“We know we’re going to need more than five starters regardless over the course of the year. We’re going to need all of them, they’re all going to make starts” Anthopoulos added. “The fact that we have depth there should allow us to build in extra days and so on, but we’ll just adjust accordingly.”

As a 10 and 5 guy, Sale had the right to reject a trade to Atlanta, but he gave his approval. Anthopoulos said that he spoke with him a few hours before the deal was announced and said that he was excited for the chance to pitch for the Braves.

“He was great. We had done so much work on the person, talked to teammates and people just absolutely rave about this guy,” Anthopoulos said. “Obviously ability and what he does on the mound is the priority, but the makeup and the clubhouse fit is not far behind. So knowing he can just come in and be himself and go about things the way he always has, I think it’s going to be a fantastic fit. He’s excited. He lives in Naples, so he’s not far from our complex. He was already asking me about when he can go and throw. He’s already thrown bullpens, and he’s ready to continue to prepare for spring. He was excited, and we’re excited to have him.”

The deal came at the expense of Grissom, who didn’t have anything left to prove in Triple A, but didn’t have a clear path to playing time in Atlanta. Anthopoulos raved about Grissom’s work ethic and make up.

“It was tough. It was one of the harder guys to move. I think so highly of him, I know everyone in our organization does,” Anthopoulos said of Grissom.

“You’re not going to find a better human being. The makeup is as good as it gets. High energy player, makes people around him better,” Anthopoulos added. “Can flat hit, tremendous bat the ball skills. We were obviously having him play a little bit in the outfield just to find more at-bats for him because he’s absolutely ready to be an everyday player at the big league level right now and this is great opportunity for him and his career.”

Grissom burst onto the scene in 2022 and helped cover for the loss of Ozzie Albies and Orlando Arcia to injury despite having just 98 plate appearances at the Double A level. He went on to post a 121 wRC+ in 41 games at the major league level. He competed to replace Dansby Swanson at shortstop during the spring in 2023, but lost the job to Orlando Arcia. He saw just 80 plate appearances at the major league level last season while posting a 78 wRC+. Grissom did tear up Triple A hitting .330/.419/.501 with a 135 wRC+ which helped show that he was ready for a major league role.

“I don’t want to speak for the Red Sox and their plans for him, but my understanding is he’ll get a great opportunity there,” Anthopoulos said. “We were in a position where we were trying to get a starter. I would have loved to have done a deal for less. I would have loved to have kept him and traded somebody else. It just wasn’t going to happen in our conversations. He’s going to be a fantastic fit there. It’s a painful one because of how highly we view him, but it’s a much better fit for his career. Again, you have to give to get. Ideally, you keep all the players you love and move the other ones, but we weren’t going to be able to get a guy like Chris Sale unless Vaughn was the guy going the other way.”

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Battery Power Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Atlanta Braves news from Battery Power