The lanky left-hander agreed to a five-year, $32.5 million extension with the White Sox on Thursday. Under terms of the contract, Sale, who turns 24 on March 30, will receive $850,000 in 2013, $3.5 million in '14, $6 million in '15, $9.15 million in '16 and $12 million in '17. The White Sox hold options for '18 at $12.5 million and for '19 at $13.5 million.
If either option is declined, Sale will receive a $1 million buyout. If the full contract plays out, Sale potentially could earn $57.5 million over seven years. There's an escalator clause that would raise the 2019 option from $13.5 million to $16 million, bringing the overall total to $60 million, if Sale wins a Cy Young Award.
This new deal replaces the $600,000 Sale was scheduled to earn this season, while also buying out his three arbitration years and his first free-agent season.
"It's nice to be able to, on the one hand, reward Chris for not only his accomplishments on the field, but how hard he works off the field to prepare himself and to achieve at the high level he did last year," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn of the extension that had been discussed for the past two weeks. "As important to us is the ability to control -- we feel -- one of the premier young starters in the American League potentially for the next seven years.
"We've made no secret in the past we want to keep premium players in a White Sox uniform as long as possible. We feel like we've taken a step toward doing that today with Chris, and having him here potentially through his age-30 season."
Sale posted a 17-8 record with a 3.05 ERA over 30 games (29 starts) last season, fanning 192 over 192 innings. He was 11-3 following White Sox losses, and 9-3 with a 2.30 ERA at home.
Despite Sale featuring a funky delivery and being labeled at times as too thin (6-foot-6, 180 pounds) to hold up over the course of time, Hahn, director of conditioning Allen Thomas, pitching coach Don Cooper and the left-hander talked recently to MLB.com about having no worries concerning his long-term durability. Hahn expressed that same sentiment Thursday while standing in the back of the HoHoKam Park pressbox during the White Sox game against the Cubs, with one general caveat.
"I don't think there's a single thing I have no worries about. Certainly a pitcher, regardless of their mechanics, there's a risk involved," Hahn said. "There's concern for a potential breakdown. 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 potential downside of him walking out the door in four years, or the risk of doing a multi-year deal that has the downside of potential injury and us being out a few bucks along the way but what we feel is the more important reward, and that's keeping him here long term.
"Based on the potential compensation going forward, certainly if Chris continues to perform at the level he did last year, it has the potential to turn out to be a very fine deal for the club," Hahn said. "Even if he for whatever reason takes a step back and continues to be a fine starter in the American League, it should provide a nice value to the club."
Locking up Sale for the next five years means the White Sox have Jake Peavy, John Danks, Jose Quintana and Sale in place through the 2014 season. They also have Sale, Quintana and Danks, who agreed to a five-year, $65 million extension prior to the 2012 campaign, through 2016.
Although the news was not official as of Thursday morning, Sale's teammates liked the idea of having this talented, committed hurler in place long term.
"I'm not a GM. I don't try to do what GMs do, but if I were, he would be my top priority to get locked up," said Danks of Sale. "I don't know the whole situation, what's going on, but it's exciting for him, and I think it's a great move for the team. If last year is any indication, Chris is going to be contending for Cy Youngs for a while."
"You have a guy who is talented at what he does, and the biggest component is that you just know by the person he is, he's going to come in and work hard and he wants it," said White Sox captain Paul Konerko of Sale. "Those two things exist, and it's only a good deal for the team."
Don't expect financial security to change Sale. Sale expects to win every time out and doesn't take failure lightly. It's why his mind Thursday morning remained on the team, despite the new windfall.
"My main focus is what we've got going on here," said Sale, who will speak Friday morning about the new deal. "Any of that kind of stuff, I'm not paying attention to it right now.
"I've got one goal and that's playing baseball and doing everything I can to prepare myself for the season. That's what I do day in and day out, and all that other stuff will figure itself out."