The defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox have locked up one of their core players long term.

The Red Sox and ace left-hander Chris Sale have agreed to a five-year contract extension that will cover the 2020-24 seasons. The team made the announcement on Saturday. Ken Rosenthal reports on the details:

Sale was due to become a free agent after 2019, and the going rate for elite players these days is $30 million per year. His extension is right at that level. Sale is scheduled to make $15 million this season, the final club option year of the five-year, $32.5 million extension he signed with the White Sox in March 2013. That deal will pay him $59 million total across seven years.

Cot's Baseball Contracts has Boston's projected 2019 Opening Day payroll at $237.6 million for luxury tax purposes. They are again well over the initial $206 million luxury tax threshold as well as the second $226 million threshold, and they are closing in on the final $246 million threshold. As a repeat luxury tax offender, these are Boston's luxury tax rates in 2019:

  • 30 percent on every dollar between $206 million and $226 million
  • 42 percent on every dollar between $226 million and $246 million
  • 75 percent on every dollar above $246 million, plus 2020 first-round draft pick moves back 10 spots

Because Sale's extension begins next season, his 2019 luxury tax number will remain $15 million in 2019, then jump to $29 million (the average annual value of the extension) from 2020-24. If the extension started right away and covered 2019-23, Sale's 2019 luxury tax number would've jumped to $29 million, and the Red Sox don't want that. They would've gotten slammed with luxury tax this year.

MLB: World Series-Los Angeles Dodgers at Boston Red Sox
Chris Sale is foregoing free agency to sign a long-term deal with the Red Sox. USATSI

Sale, who will turn 30 next week, has been one of the game's top starters the past seven seasons, throwing nearly 1,400 innings with a 2.91 ERA and 10.9 K/9. He finished in the top six of the Cy Young Award voting all seven of those seasons and four times finished in the top four of the voting, including last season. Sale has been a bona fide ace, through and through.

Shoulder trouble limited to Sale to 17 innings the final two months of last season, and he didn't look much like himself in the postseason. Shoulder issues are always worrisome, but the Red Sox know Sale and his medicals better than anyone, and they would not commit nine figures to a pitcher if they were worried about his health. They're confident the shoulder is a non-issue.

The Red Sox have several other core players approaching free agency. Xander Bogaerts and Rick Porcello will become a free agents following 2019, plus Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. will become free agents after 2020. Also, J.D. Martinez can opt out of his contract following 2019 and 2020. The Red Sox are letting Craig Kimbrel walk as a free agent and might have to let others go as well in order to afford their key players.

Sale is the 17th player to sign an extension this spring and the fifth to sign an extension worth $100 million or more. He joins Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Aaron Hicks, Miles Mikolas and Ryan Pressly as would-be 2019-20 free agents who instead opted to sign a long-term deal in recent weeks.