The Braves and Red Sox got together on a major trade earlier today where Boston swapped left-hander Chris Sale and cash considerations to Atlanta in exchange for infielder Vaughn Grissom. In the aftermath of the deal’s announcement, Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos and Red Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow both spoke to reporters about the deal and what’s next for their organization as 2023 comes to a close.
Anthopoulos spoke glowingly of Sale in the aftermath of the deal, describing him to reporters (including Justin Toscano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) as a “playoff-caliber starter” while noting that adding such a pitcher to the club’s rotation was a major goal for the Braves this offseason. With right-hander Kyle Wright having undergone shoulder surgery and been shipped to Kansas City earlier this offseason, the club had little certainty behind its front-of-the-rotation duo of Spencer Strider and Max Fried.
Veteran righty Charlie Morton figured to slot into the #3 spot in the rotation, but posted the highest full-season walk rate of his career in 2023 and celebrated his 40th birthday last month. Meanwhile, youngster Bryce Elder started the season strong but faded down the stretch with a 5.49 ERA across his final 15 starts. The addition of Sale, a seven-time All Star who posted a 3.16 ERA across his final 15 starts last season, adds an arm with potentially elite upside to the club’s mix while also bolstering the club’s overall pitching depth to help make up for the departure of Wright. As noted by The Athletic’s David O’Brien, Anthopoulos made clear that Sale is “locked” into the club’s rotation for 2024 alongside Fried, Strider, and Morton.
Of course, it can’t be ignored that Sale has managed just 31 starts over the past four years due to injuries, including Tommy John surgery. Anthopoulos acknowledged the injury concerns that come with adding the veteran lefty, but noted that “anyone you acquire, there’s risk” while also adding that “it was a shot we wanted to take” thanks in part to Anthopoulos’s strong belief in Sale’s ability and makeup.
“We think he’s an absolute perfect fit with our group,” Anthoupolos said, “We’ll get to know him and we’ll do everything we can to put him in the best position to stay healthy and have success.”
When discussing the club’s plans for the remainder of the offseason, Anthopolous remained vague, noting that the offseason has no set end point and that moves continue to happen even into Spring Training. He went on to note that the club will “keep an open mind” for the remainder of the offseason. It wouldn’t be a shock if the club was done with the heavy-lifting of its offseason at this point, as they’ve already bolstered the pitching staff with Reynaldo Lopez and traded for a starting left fielder in Jarred Kelenic in addition to the acquisition of Sale.
On the other end of the trade, Breslow called moving on from Sale “a really tough, tough decision” when speaking to reporters (including Alex Speier of the Boston Globe), particularly considering Sale’s legacy as a key piece of the club’s 2018 World Series team. At the same time, Breslow lauded Grissom for his “really strong right-handed bat” while also noting that he figures to remain under club control for the next six seasons.
“I’ve talked long about the exciting emerging core of players around whom we want to build,” Breslow said, “…we certainly count Vaughn in that group.”
Though Breslow noted that Grissom has the versatility to play all over the field, he made clear that he views the 22-year-old as the club’s everyday second baseman. That would seemingly leave veteran infielder Trevor Story poised to return to shortstop on a full-time basis. Story struggled in 43 games last season after returning from UCL surgery over the summer, but prior to that injury had a long track record as a quality, two-way shortstop that earned him a six-year, $140MM deal with the Red Sox prior to the 2022 season.
One curious aspect of the deal from Boston’s perspective is that the club has made adding to its starting rotation an explicit goal throughout the offseason, and parting ways with Sale, who in spite of his recent injuries arguably remained their highest-ceiling starter, creates an even bigger hole in their starting five. Breslow emphasized (as relayed by Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe) that the club still plans to add to its rotation even after yesterday’s signing of Lucas Giolito, and that the club views both free agency and the trade market as potential avenues for a deal. Speier relays that Breslow noted the importance of the club being willing to part with prospects in order to acquire “quality, controllable starting pitching.”
The club has recently been linked to a reunion with left-hander James Paxton while also frequently being connected to top remaining rotation arms such as Jordan Montgomery and Shota Imanaga. Of course, there are plenty of other players still available who could represent an upgrade for the club’s rotation including Marcus Stroman and Yariel Rodriguez in free agency or Dylan Cease and Shane Bieber on the trade market. A trade would likely become an even more attractive route for adding to the rotation if the club’s reported pursuit of outfielder Teoscar Hernandez winds up successful, as it would add an everyday bat to the outfield mix and make the likes of Wilyer Abreu and Ceddanne Rafaela easier to part with in trade.