MESA, Ariz. — The last time the White Sox gave a long-term contract to one of their young pitchers, they got three victories for $8 million.
But that was just the first year of John Danks’ five-year, $65 million deal, so it still could prove to be of value for the next four.
Nonetheless, Sox general manager Rick Hahn still believes the potential reward outweighs the risk, so on Thursday he and starter Chris Sale agreed to a five-year contract that could reach seven years and $60 million with options.
So does Sale’s unusual whiplash delivery give Hahn extra concern?
“I don’t think there’s a single thing I have no worries about,” Hahn said Thursday from Hohokam Stadium, where the Sox were playing the Cubs. “Certainly a pitcher, regardless of their mechanics, there’s a risk involved. There’s concern for a potential breakdown.
“(But) we are confident in Chris’ durability and very optimistic about his future. Frankly, what this came down to was bearing one of two risks: The risk of going year-to-year, which would lead to the potential downside of him walking out the door in four years; or the risk of doing a multiyear deal that has the downside of potential injury and us being out a few bucks along the way. We feel the more important reward is keeping him here long term.”
Of course, with Sale set to turn 24 at the end of the month and still years from potential free agency, the Sox got contract protection they didn’t get with Danks, who was 26 and already had 918 major league innings when he signed prior to last season.
Sale’s contract is guaranteed for the first five years at $32.5 million, which could be a large bargain if Sale keeps delivering as he did in 2012, when he was 17-8 and was named an All-Star, finishing sixth in AL Cy Young Award voting.
The Sox then protected themselves with options years for 2018 and 2019 worth $26 million total. They can decline either of them for $1 million.
“We’ve made no secret in the past we want to keep premium players in a White Sox uniform as long as possible,” Hahn said. “We feel like we’ve taken a step toward doing that with Chris and having him here potentially through his age-30 season.”