By Connor McKnight-
GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS) Chris Sale’s contract extension with the White Sox had been talked about for a while. First-year GM Rick Hahn likely knew he wanted the lefty in the fold long term well before last season when he saw Sale throw 192 innings with a 3.05 ERA in just his first season as a starter.
As spring training began, so did contract talks. As always happens, there came a point where the two sides weren’t matching up monetarily. Usually, there’s a mediator that steps in and helps bridge the gap. Not this time.
Instead, Chris Sale called Rick Hahn.
“We were already going back and forth with some proposals and at that point, frankly, we were already a little bit at loggerheads in terms of structure,” Hahn told 670 The Score Monday. “There was a disconnect. He wanted to sit down with me and just sort of express his point of view on why they were asking what they were asking for and try to better understand why we needed the structure we ultimately ended up with.”
The structure Hahn refers to is in Sale’s current deal. He’ll make $850,000 in 2013 with the number escalating to $3.5, $6, $9.15 and eventually $12.5 milllion in the following seasons. All that, plus options for the 2018 and 2019 campaigns.
The logic is simple and it’s been explained before. It buys out Sale’s arbitration years and keeps things relatively cheap for the Sox should Sale pitch to his potential.
“There have been very few players over the last 13 years I’ve been here that I’ve talked with that have been as informed and passionate about what they wanted and why,” Hahn said. “[Sale was] appreciative of what we were trying to do regardless of if there was a deal.”
In essence, Sale did his homework. He and his team had prepped what he wanted—what he though he was worth—and fought for it. What’s more, he went to his GM to clear the air.
There was a desire, on Sale’s part, to not have to walk the hallways of Camelback Ranch while dragging a cloud behind him.
For his part, Sale is focused. You can tell by the way he ripped through the minor leagues in just one season. You can tell by how he called a rough outing in Glendale last spring “unacceptable.” You can really tell by how he tore into Kenny Williams last season about wanting to rejoin the rotation after being sent to the bullpen over some health concerns.
Williams is quoted as saying Sale very nearly, “crossed a line.”
Sale seems focused with his contract, too.
“At one point he said, ‘Yes, I want as much money as I possibly can get,’ as anyone would,” Hahn said. ‘“But it’s not about the money, it’s about the competition. I want to be paid the most because I want to be viewed as the best.’
“He just had such a great perspective about who he was, what motivated him and who he wanted to be,” Hahn concluded.
Sale’s contract does raise concerns. While it’s easy to point and say he’s the White Sox Opening Day starter (something manager Robin Ventura has yet to officially do), scary terms like “inverted-W,” “scapular loading,” and “thin frame” get tossed around easily.
There’s risk with giving money to any pitcher, however. At the very least, Hahn knows that with Sale, he’s got a guy who’s focused on the job at hand.
Follow Connor on Twitter at @McKnight670.