Atlanta Braves Trade for Chris Sale

by Corey Pieper
Atlanta Braves Trade for Chris Sale

On Saturday, a Chris Sale and Vaughn Grissom trade was completed between the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves.

It continues what has been a busy offseason for the Atlanta Braves. The Braves have acquired outfielder Jarred Kelenic, first baseman Evan White, pitcher Marco Gonzales, catcher Max Stassi, infielder David Fletcher, first baseman Matt Carpenter, and now starting pitcher Chris Sale all this offseason via trade. The Braves have already moved on from some of those acquisitions. Sale is going nowhere though as he is the diamond of this Braves offseason so far.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox have picked up their offseason plans in the past few weeks. First, the team acquired outfielder Tyler O'Neil from the St. Louis Cardinals for two minor league pitchers. Yesterday, the team signed starting pitcher Lucas Giolito to a free-agent contract. Then, today they continued their offseason by acquiring Vaughn Grissom to be a starting middle infielder. It was at Fenway Park where Grissom first left his mark a few seasons ago.

Atlanta Braves Trade for Chris Sale

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Vaughn Grissom's Impact with the Boston Red Sox

Grissom showed that he could handle big-league pitching. In the 2022 season, the Braves had enough injuries that they were forced to call up the then 21-year-old Grissom in the middle of a playoff chase. He delivered with five home runs, five stolen bases, and a .291 average. Expectations were understandably sky-high for Grissom going into the 2023 season.

Unfortunately, those expectations never came to fruition as he couldn't find playing time in the superb Braves lineup. Grissom was drafted as a shortstop but has also played some second and third base in the minor leagues. Everyone knew a healthy Braves lineup would have Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley anchoring second and third base respectively. But shortstop seemed available for Grissom to play most of the time. Orlando Arcia had other plans with his 2023.

Arcia was always known for his defensive prowess. But last season he set career highs in runs, home runs, and RBI while also maintaining his best batting average since 2017.  It led to him being the starting shortstop for the 2023 National League All-Star team.

Arcia's season limited Grissom to just 75 big-league at-bats in 2023.

Grissom was blocked again going into the 2024 season. There was talk of him learning to play left field. Then, the Braves traded for Jarred Kelenic. In a Fantasy Six Pack article, I theorized that Kelenic and Grissom would platoon. Now, both should have full-time roles with their teams.

I expect Grissom to be the opening-day starting second baseman for the Red Sox. It will be interesting to see where he bats in the lineup. I think he'll likely bat in the bottom third of the lineup at least early in the season. However, the Red Sox have a good enough offense to accumulate counting stats from anywhere.

Projections aren't out yet that account for Grissom's new playing time opportunity. Grissom has all the skill set to have a 15 home run, 15 stolen base season with a 280 plus average with around 120 combined runs and RBI.

Chris Sale's Impact with the Atlanta Braves

Going into his age-35 season, Chris Sale finds himself in a whole new environment. This will be the first time he has ever played for a National League team. He also won't be asked to be the ace of a team for the first time in a decade.

Atlanta's ace will still be Spencer Strider, the only pitcher in baseball to win 20 games in 2023. Then, you have to expect Max Fried will get the opportunity to start game two. Fried dealt with a variety of injuries in 2023, including a couple of left forearm strains, but when he pitched he was still fantastic. Chris Sale and Charlie Morton will be the veteran presences in the middle of the rotation.

Sale has struggled recently to stay healthy. Last season, it was pain and inflammation in his throwing shoulder that limited him. He only pitched 5 innings during the 2022 season. That season was marred by a rib cage injury suffered in training, and a broken wrist while riding his bike. Before that, he missed all of the 2020 shortened season and all but 42 innings in the 2021 season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery.

Last season, he was able to pitch 102 innings. The last season he had over 100 innings was 2019. Before 2019, he had actually been an innings eater with 7 straight seasons over 150 innings. Even in the limited innings last season, he was still able to strike out 125 batters which has always been one of his greatest assets for Fantasy Baseball. However, it came with a mediocre 4.30 ERA. Amazingly, that is only the second time in his entire career that he has had an ERA over 3.50.

Steamer projections are optimistic for Sale's health in 2023. The innings pitched projection is for 141 innings. His ERA is projected to be 3.96. That would be higher than his career norms, but lower than what we saw last season. I also would think that a sub-4 ERA with the Atlanta offense backing him would lead to double-digit wins for the first time since 2018.

Final Thoughts on Trade

The NFBC ADP now includes 171 drafts meaning that the sample is getting more reliable all the time.

Vaughn Grissom has a current ADP of 542. That means that even in a 15-team league he is going outside of the first 30 rounds. That will change substantially now that he has more guaranteed playing time. As I scrolled up higher into the ADP to determine where I would consider Grissom, I found myself drawn to Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India just after pick 200.

India missed some time last season with plantar fasciitis. When he was healthy, he had 78 runs scored, 17 home runs, 61 RBI, 14 stolen bases, and a 244 average. I think that Grissom could put together a similar season with a better average. Expect to see his ADP climb to around pick 200 where I will be willing to pay that price.

Chris Sale's current ADP is 181 which is 48th among starting pitchers. I think that number should stay in that same vicinity. Picking him will depend on what type of starting rotation you have already drafted.

If you went "safe" with options such as Philadelphia Phillies' Aaron Nola, San Francisco Giants' Logan Webb, and Toronto Blue Jays Chris Bassitt, I think Sale is a perfect upside pick with his strikeout potential. However, if I have a volatile rotation of Los Angeles Dodgers Tyler Glasnow, current free agent Blake Snell, and Kansas City Royals Cole Ragans, I'm probably looking elsewhere for stability. Roster construction is vital in the middle rounds of Fantasy Baseball drafts.

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