Chris Sale
What does Chris Sale’s contract extension mean for the Red Sox moving forward? It certainly brings a lot more clarity to the future #Dirtywater (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Chris Sale is the ace of the Boston Red Sox. That means he is also the ace of the 108 reigning champions. Sale was scheduled to hit free agency following this season but the skinny lefty had no interest in such thing. Sale agreed to a 5-year extension worth $145 million. It also includes an opt-out after the third year. Locking up Sale was important but what does it really mean for the Red Sox moving forward?

Impending free agents?

Xander Bogaerts, Steve Pearce, Rick Porcello, Mitch Moreland, Eduardo Nunez, and Brock Holt all hit free agency after this season. Signing Sale to an extension keeps his name off this list. The Red Sox are going to clear a lot of payroll if all of these guys do not re-sign. However, Boston already has a payroll this year of $240 million. I’m sure ownership would love to reset the tax.

Porcello will earn $21 million in the final year of his deal. He’s the most likely candidate to walk unless he takes a reduced salary in 2020. The first base duo of Moreland and Pearce can also be replaced with cheaper options. Highly rated prospect, Michael Chavis has shown he’s ready to contribute at the big league level now. They have cheaper options that can fill those spots to free some payroll. Maybe Rafael Devers slides over to first. Sam Travis could be the long term fix at first. Bobby Dalbec has real power. Tzu-Wei Lin can fill in for Holt. The Red Sox have options but don’t be surprised if they let a majority of those players walk.

The one they will try to keep is Xander Bogaerts. The only issue is you never know with Scott Boras clients. That man is the devil. It’s hard to find slugging middle infielders with plus defense. Boston should have the financial resources to re-sign Bogaerts as long as the price doesn’t become outrageous.

The real X-Factor in the free agent class is JD Martinez. He has the option to opt out of his $23 million salary for 2020. He may have the option to do so but I’m starting to think that he won’t. The issue for JD is if he opts out, the Red Sox will just use the Qualifying offer. That means a team will have to part with draft picks and International Bonus money to sign him. Does a team really want to do that and hand a long term offer for a 32-year-old DH? With the way some free agents have struggled to find landing spots, I really don’t see Martinez opting out even if he has a strong year.

Beyond that, Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are the future free agents the Red Sox will prioritize to keep. Boston’s ownership with John Henry has done everything possible to put a winning team on the field. It’s hard to see those two going anywhere.

Getting back to Sale, that gives the Red Sox 4 out of 5 returning starters for the 2020 season. Eduardo Rodriguez will become a free agent after that season. Still, a top 3 of Chris Sale, David Price, and Nathan Eovaldi has shown it’s more than good enough to win a title. Keeping Sale ensures that the Red Sox will have it’s ace for the foreseeable future and allows the team to keep building it’s prospect base so they don’t have to trade for another ace.

This extension should work out well for the Red Sox. They do, however, have to watch his innings. Sale has broken down during the 2nd half of the season two years in a row. Alex Cora and his staff just have to be mindful of his innings during the year to keep him fresh for postseason play.

Boston fans have plenty to be happy about because Sale has been nothing but magnificent during his tenure in Boston. His 2.56 ERA and WHIP of .924 show just how good he’s been in a Red Sox uniform. Given the break on his slider, Sale should age well over the course of this new contract. The Red Sox lefty really embodies what Boston really is and his leadership was paramount in the Red Sox winning the title in 2018. The Red Sox aren’t done winning.