The Atlanta Braves entered the offseason in hopes of solidifying their rotation after an injury-plagued 2023 season for ace Max Fried and key 2022 contributor Kyle Wright, among others. The Braves are hoping Fried returns to full health after he was limited to just 14 starts in 2023 due to various injuries. Spencer Strider is looking to build off of a strong 2023 and Charlie Morton is back for his age-40 season. To help shore things up, Alex Anthopoulos went and acquired veteran left-hander Chris Sale from the Boston Red Sox and then signed him to a two-year extension.
Sale was once among the best pitchers in the game, but has been beset by all sorts of injuries, including but not limited to Tommy John Surgery, dating back to 2019. He appeared in just 11 games between 2020 and 2022, but logged 102 2⁄3 innings in 2023 and said that this has been his first normal offseason in a while. While injuries have been an issue for Sale, he’s pitched well when healthy. The Braves will have to focus on his health and keeping him upright, but feel that he can be a difference maker in the postseason, provided he’s healthy enough to pitch in October.
“I think that’s a huge signing for us. Any pitcher that wants the ball for the last out of the World Series when you’re not even a bullpen guy, I want you on my team,” Travis d’Arnaud said when asked about Sale. “For the young guys, just to see how he goes about everything every day and how he takes good starts, how he takes bad starts, how he does in between every five days. It’s gonna be big for all the young guys to see how someone at that caliber goes about his business.”
Sale is known to be a fierce competitor who wants to win every time he takes the field. That is something that the Braves are hoping rubs off on the rest of the roster.
“I think the main thing about Chris is that he’s just very competitive,” Sean Murphy said. “He wants to win more than anything. He’s just willing to go out there every single day to post and make sure his job gets done at any cost.”
Strider discussed the need for a change in mindset for himself and his teammates during his media session at Braves Fest. He believes that adding Sale helps that along.
“It’s more than instrumental,” Strider said of adding Sale’s personality to the clubhouse. “I just think that the validation that he will bring [is] in his behavior. It’s one thing if I do something, but this is Chris Sale. I mean, everything he’s achieved. The experience he has. His actions are gonna be the first thing everybody sees and I know that they’re gonna be out of a desire to win.”
Strider added that he believes Sale can be a tremendous influence on many of Atlanta’s young pitchers.
“I think, if anything, it just proves that that’s the right course. This is a guy that’s had extreme success. He’s won a championship and there’s no level of comfort,” Strider said. “It’s greatness, and that’s difficult. It’s not gonna feel good all the time. It’s not gonna be easy all the time. It’s a long-term project. You gotta validate and justify the desire to be great every day, and I think that’s exactly who he is.”
Fried echoed Strider’s sentiments about Sale and is excited to try and learn from him.
“You talk about pitchers over the last ten-plus years, he’s been at the top. He’s got a countless number of top Cy Young votes, All-Stars, World Series,” Fried said. “This guy is a competitor. He means business and he definitely has an edge to him that you can see on the other side. Even the brief little conversations we’ve had right now, he brings a presence that’s intoxicating and you gravitate towards it. I’m ready to get to know him a little bit more and be able to see him on my side and watch him take the ball every fifth day.”